This hurricane season has been brutal throughout the Caribbean and right here in the United States. And it’s not over yet. There are still three or four weeks during which a tropical depression off the coast of Africa could turn into a snarling sheet of wind and rain bent on destroying your home, if you live on the Eastern Seaboard or anywhere along the Gulf of Mexico. Not only that, but along with record drought has come record rainfall in many parts of the United States, causing flash flooding in places where it has never occurred before. One way or another, you need to know what to do in case your house is flooded.
Your own health comes first
When working on a flood damaged area, whether your own home or someone else’s, make sure you put on sturdy rubber gloves and rubber boots. Don’t get the cheapest kind available, wear something that won’t turn into Swiss cheese after only an hour. If you suspect mold of any kind, also wear a mask. Open up as many doors and windows as possible to ventilate the house. Keep your hands clean with soap and water. And remember that bleach and ammonia don’t mix — the fumes can knock you out or injure your lungs. Wear thick shoes so an exposed nail or shard of glass won’t cut your feet. Make doubly sure the electricity is off and that there are no are wires dangling into puddles or wet carpeting.
Use phosphate-free cleaners
According to Elliott Greenberg, CEO of industrial plumbing supply TouchFreeConcepts, “Mold and mildew, not to mention fungus, consume phosphates like it was a steak dinner. You don’t want to encourage them.
Be aggressive with mold
Mold is easy to please — if the humidity stays at sixty percent or more over a period of forty eight hours, mold spores will germinate in and around even an inch or two of water. Your first line of defense if you have electricity is to get dehumidifiers and fans going night and day to suck out all the moisture as quickly as you can from possible mold breeding grounds, like floors, walls, ceilings, even furniture! One cup bleach per gallon of water is the right solution to use. Anything stronger could damage your house or leave unsightly stains you’ll never be able to remove or even paint over. Rubbing alcohol is also acceptable, one part to seven parts water, and if you can’t run out to the store for some then open up that bottle of vodka you were saving for New Year’s Eve — it works just as well.
Be ruthless with drywall
Any room with standing water will need to have the baseboard entirely removed, and then remove any contaminated drywall — remember that it comes in four foot sheets, so you may be able to save the higher panels if the water never got that high.
Watch out for sewage
If there has been general flooding, your local sewer system has probably backed up and/or is slow to function. You’ll know if you have that problem — the smell will tell you immediately. Use a strong solution of bleach — once cup to a gallon of water.
Discard all plastic and wooden utensils, even if you think the water never got to them — there’s no way to guarantee their sanitary condition in a flooded house. You can give your metal utensils a good scrubbing and cleaning to get rid of all contaminants. And don’t think that baking soda is going to take care of your fridge — you’ll want to throw out any food items left longer than 24 hours, and then wash down the inside with ammonia water — one cup to two gallons of water.