6 steps for cleaning up after a basement flood

Storms and downpours can quickly flood your basement and create a real mess. Wading through soggy boxes of books, soaking carpeting, floating dog food bowls and sopping sofas, you might feel paralyzed as to what to do.

But don’t delay. Experts say you should act quickly to mop up water and repair damage caused by clogged drains, faulty sump pumps or backed-up gutters. Mold can start to grow within 24 to 48 hours. And you’ll want to retrieve damp possessions and dry them out as soon as possible.

For safety reasons, call your power company, an electrician or a professional flood cleanup company if you have a large amount of standing water in your basement. You may have to disconnect the service before walking into the water. Don’t touch anything electrical.

[How water damages a flooded house — and what can be saved]

Here are six tips for dealing with water in your basement.

1. Photograph the aftermath

Whether you are planning to file an insurance claim or not, quickly get out your phone and take photos and video of the flooded area, both inside and outside, before you start cleaning up. According to FEMA, if you do file a claim, this information could help the adjuster assess your payment. After you have photographed everything, begin tossing items that could attract mold, such as clothing, bedding or pillows, cardboard, paper bags and any perishable food.

Get water out as soon as possible. A few inches of standing water can usually be removed with a wet vac. If you don’t have a wet vac, buy, borrow or rent one. Major water damage may need a professional such as ServPro or ServiceMaster. If your damage is minor, you can use towels to wipe the water up, but they should immediately be washed and dried to prevent mold from growing.

Use dehumidifiers and fans to move air around, discouraging the growth of mold and mildew. Keep dehumidifiers at least six to eight inches away from walls for the best air circulation. Clean and wash their filters once every week or so to help the fan operate efficiently. Run your air conditioning constantly. Throw away any wet boxes.

Vinyl tile, linoleum and other hard surfaces can be scrubbed with a solution of no more than one cup of chlorine bleach to one gallon of water. During this process, wear rubber gloves and protective eyewear and keep the room ventilated.

5. Examine and clear gutters, downspouts and drains

Put on your rubber gloves and check basement steps and drains. Get rid of any leaves, twigs and mud. Remove the drain screen and give it a good cleaning and, if necessary, use a plunger or plumber’s snake to clear the drain. Muck out gutters and downspouts around the house.

6. Put important papers in the freezer

If valuable documents or cherished papers have been dampened, you might try quickly putting them in the freezer. This may stop mildew growth and deterioration until you can attend to them later. Resolve not to store anything of value in the basement and to use concrete blocks to keep possessions and appliances off the floor. Plastic storage bins are far better than cardboard boxes for basement use.

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