How to Clean a Flooded Basement

If you live in an area prone to frequent storms, or you live near a river, creek, or even the ocean, then you will need to be educated on the process required to clean a flooded basement. It may be jarring to walk down into your basement and see it full of water, but with the right tools and a bit of time, you can salvage the space and protect your precious belongings. Let’s talk about how to make the process as easy as possible.

What Materials to Use

With luck, you will never experience a flooded basement, but if you live in an area prone to a potential flood, then you will want to have these tools on hand so you can remedy the situation swiftly.

  • Dry Vac
  • Sump Pump
  • Towels
  • Garden hose
  • Shovel
  • Dehumidifier
  • Standing fan
  • Protective gear (gloves, rubber boots)

How to Stay Safe

The problem with floodwater is that you never really know what will come in with the tide. In some cases, sewage water could be part of the mix, and if you touch or swallow it, you could see harmful side effects.

That’s why, before you get into the water the first time, you need to wear the proper gear, which includes gloves, rubber boots, and potentially even a face mask so you don’t breath in any dangerous toxins. 

Also, if you have any appliances or electronics that are plugged in, do not try to clean or move those objects until the water has been drained from the basement. In fact, before you even venture into the basement, turn off the power to that entire area. 

Remove The Damaged Items

Before you even begin to remove the water, you need to think fast and grab any personal and valuable items before they start to sustain major water damage. Not only will you protect what you love, but with fewer items sitting in the water, the basement will be easier to clean.

Pay special attention to items that are made out of wood, composite, and laminate because it only takes a bit of water to start to warp these materials and begin falling apart. You need to get your valuables out of there quickly, so get help from your friends or throw as much as you can into large garbage bags and bring it all to a dry place.

Remove the Flood Water and Dirt

After you have removed as many physical items as possible, you need to immediately get to work sucking the water out of the basement, because the longer you leave it, the more damage will occur. The tool you use to move the water will depend on the depth of the floodwater.

Wet Vacuum

For a flood of only a couple of inches or water build-up in a smaller basement, use a wet vacuum to do the job. A good wet vac will have strong suction that will pull the water up quickly. If you live in an area prone to floods, then find a wet vac with a 3-5 gallon tank.

Sump Pump

If you have a large basement or many inches to several feet of water, then you will need to turn to a submersible sump pump. If you are not familiar with this tool, a sump pump is a submersible device that is installed in the basement. 

The primary purpose of the sump pump is to protect your house when the soil around your house becomes overly saturated with water, but when your basement is flooded, you can connect a garden hose to the pump and drive the water away from your house or into your storm drain.

As a note, make sure the outside perimeter of your house isn’t soaked in water or else you will be defeating the purpose. If you have an electrical cord attached to the pump, make sure to hang it high over a ceiling beam or railing so it does not fall into the water.

Dirt Removal

In many cases, flood water comes from a nearby river, and if it does, the water will probably also bring plenty of dirt and mud into your basement as well. Once you have the water out, you will want to remove the dirt as quickly as possible before it hardens and becomes almost impossible to move. You can use a square-head shovel to create leverage to get dirt off of walls and the basement floor. 

You can use a hose to spray your furniture and other belongings that have dirt caked on them. Then use the wet/vac to make them good as new.

Drying The Basement

Once you have the vast amount of water out of the basement, you need to dry up any moisture that remains so you can prevent mold and limit any further damage to your belongings. 

Start by opening all doors and windows to allow as much air flow through the space as possible. If the day is stagnant or air flow is minimum, consider also placing any fans you have in the area to help with the process. For the aftermath of serious floods, you might also consider renting an industrial blower from a hardware store.

In order to ensure that every nook and cranny is dried, use at least one dehumidifier to remove any leftover moisture. When you get to this step, ensure that all windows and doors are closed for maximum efficiency. Move the dehumidifier around the basement as needed and be sure to empty the holding container frequently so there is room for new moisture.

Protect Against Mold

Floodwaters are rarely pure water. Instead, they are full of contaminants and it doesn’t take long for this dirty water to create mold within your walls, floor, and furniture. 

Once you clean out all of the water, use a shop vac to clean up all of the dirt that is left over. Mold is a vicious problem and it can grow exponentially in under 72 hours. If the water that flooded your basement contains sewage or groundwater, that timetable can go down to 24 hours. In either case, time is of the essence. 

To fight off the mold, dip a rag or sponge into a mixture of warm water and mild detergent and wash off the walls and your belongings. Make sure to dry off everything you cleaned with paper towels afterward. 

Preventing Water Damage In The Future

While we have discussed several ways to reduce water damage, the best case scenario is to avoid a water incident in the first place.

For starters, have a professional contractor come to your home to ensure that all cracks and openings in the floors, walls, windows and foundation are properly repaired or sealed. On the exterior of your home, ensure that all gutters and downspouts are clear of clutter so they can easily direct water at least six feet from the foundation of your home. 

Finally, make sure to have your insurance company involved, both to protect your belongings and to assist if your home is damaged as a result of the flood. If water damage does occur, be sure to take plenty of photos and document all issues so you can file a proper claim.

In the end, while we cannot prevent all incidents 100% of the time, by taking the proper precautions and knowing what to do in the case of an emergency, you can mediate potential damage and keep a clean and orderly basement.

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