If you and your home were caught in Hurricane Sandy’s path, you may be facing a long road to recovery. Flooding, power outages and damage are plaguing millions of people on the East Coast, and the aftermath will persist indefinitely.
The good news: There are things you can do to start cleaning up. The American Cleaning Institute has gathered together a number of tips to help get the process going.
When your home floods, two of the issues you should be concerned with are mold growth and food contamination. Call your insurance agent as soon as you can — within 24 hours is best. Your insurance broker should be able to recommend a contractor. If you can dry your home and furnishings within 48 hours, mold is less likely to grow.
If your home has suffered severe water damage, contact outside specialists. Floodwater can carry silt, raw sewage, oil or chemical wastes that can cause bacterial, viral and/or parasitic diseases. Check with local authorities to determine how to get rid of items that have been contaminated by sewage or that have been wet for an extended period of time.
Check out this chart from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which explains how to respond to water damage within 24 to 48 hours. These guidelines are designed to help you take action before mold begins growing.
Any food that came in direct contact with water should be thrown out, including unopened food in glass containers, such as mayonnaise and salad dressing, and canned foods. (Canned goods can develop rust, and paper labels on glass and cans can attract bacteria and other contaminants in floodwater.) Throw out containers with cork-lined or waxed cardboard tops, pop-tops, peel-off tops or paraffin seals; food in cardboard boxes; flexible containers, including cloth, paper, foil and cellophane; canned goods; staples stored in canisters; and any unopened containers.
Any counters, pantry shelves, refrigerators, stoves, dishes and glassware that have come in contact with water should be thoroughly washed with warm water and soap, rinsed and disinfected. To disinfect, use a solution of ¾ cup of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Keep the surfaces wet for two minutes, then rinse with clean water. Wood and plastic items should be discarded.
Wet textiles breed mold and mildew. Clean clothes and other fabrics as soon as possible. Prewash first, using cool water (high water temperatures may set stains) and powdered laundry detergent, which are good for clay and ground-in dirt.
To remove protein stains — such as sewage, grass or blood — add an enzyme pre-soak product to the pre-wash. Heavy soils, such as oil-based stains, should be treated with a pre-wash stain remover. Wash the items using a powdered laundry detergent and the hottest water that's safe for the fabric. If they have come in contact with sewage, add a disinfectant to the wash.
For more tips, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guide to “Flood Water After a Disaster or Emergency.”