How to Clean Up After a Basement Flood: Do-It-Yourself Tips

If you have live in a low-lying area, it’s likely that you’ll experience a basement flood. I’m not talking about major flooding where people are evacuated- that’s a different situation entirely. I’m talking about having standing water in your basement after a heavy rain or major thaw.

Act quickly. If you are at risk for basement flooding, check your basement often during periods of heavy rain or major thaws. The sooner you catch it, the less likely you’ll be to suffer extensive damage.

Check the flooded area for live electricity. (Don’t stand in the water while you’re doing this!) You should have a pretty good idea of what’s running in your basement. If anything electrical is on, shut off the fuse to that part of the house. Never stand in water and touch anything that has a live electrical current running through it.

Find where the water’s coming in. It should be fairly obvious where the water’s coming in. If there’s any way that you can catch the water, or deflect it into a drainage channel, do that before you start cleaning up.

Pick up items that could be water damaged. If there was anything on the floor that’s wet, pick it up, dry it off (with a towel) and bring it to a dry place. Do this before you clean the water up as it will give you less to work around. This includes area rugs and throw rugs, which can usually be salvaged by hanging them to dry. (Wall-to-wall carpeting is a different story- it’s wait-and-see on that.)

Remove the water. If you have a wet-dry shop vac, suck up the standing water with that, remembering to empty the bin in the vacuum cleaner frequently. A pump, like the kind used to drain a pool, works well also. If you have a pump, pump the water down a sink, not back into your yard. If you don’t have a wet/dry vacuum or a pump; sweep the water into a dustpan, empty the dustpan into a bucket, and then pour the bucketfuls of water down the drain.

Mop. After you’ve removed the standing water, use a mop to soak up any residual water. Keep wringing it out in a bucket until you’re not really getting any more water. (Your basement floor will still be wet.)

Run fans. Concrete is porous, so even after you have all the water off the floor, the floor is retaining a lot more water than you might think. Run fans- box fans are best- for at least 24 hours after you’ve cleaned up. The floor should be dry by then. If it’s not, continue to run the fans until the floor is dry.

Spray Lysol. Since the main concern after a flood is mildew, and Lysol kills mildew, spray the floor and walls (generously) with Lysol. You should do this as soon as you have the water cleaned up, and you may want to do it again the next day.

Wipe down anything that’s come in contact with the water. This would include your washer and dryer, and any furniture that’s too large to move to a dry part of the house. Wipe it dry with a towel, and spray it with Lysol for good measure.

Last tip: If the rain or thaw continues, be diligent about checking the basement. If the weather becomes hot and dry, open your basement windows to let it air out.

If you experience a minor flood, you should be able to do the clean-up yourself. If the flood is more serious, do what you can, take pictures for the insurance company, and call a professional service in to finish the job.

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