Cleaning and Repairing Your Home

Recovering from flood damage to your home is often not simple or easy. It can even be dangerous. But there are steps you can take to keep yourself safe. There also are steps that can help you limit the damage and get started more quickly on the road to recovery.

On this page:

Mold Prevention

Mold is a health hazard, and it can start forming quickly. It is especially dangerous for people with allergies to molds or with asthma. People with a weakened immune system, such as people receiving treatment for cancer, are also at higher risk. However, the amount of mold that can form after a flood can be dangerous to anyone.

Take these steps to prevent mold from forming:

  • Remove standing water and wet materials. Use a wet vacuum to remove water from floors, carpets, and hard surfaces. It is important to dry your home quickly to prevent mold from forming.
  • Throw away items that can’t be cleaned and dried within 48 hours. There are some special steps you can take, however, to save family treasures.
  • Quickly dry or freeze the objects you can save, such as photos and important papers. Freezing deactivates mold.
  • When electricity is safe to use, use fans and dehumidifiers to remove moisture. Try to position the fans to blow air out doors or windows.
  • If mold has started to grow, do not use fans. Fans can spread the mold spores.
  • Open kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanity doors. Also remove drawers, wipe them clean, and stack them to dry.
  • Open all doors and windows when you are working. This includes interior doors to spaces such as bedrooms, bathrooms, and closets. You want to let air flow to all areas. When you leave home, keep as many of your doors and windows open as can safely be done.
  • Have your home heating and air-conditioning systems checked and cleaned before you turn them on. This should be done by a maintenance or service professional who is experienced in mold cleanup. If the system was flooded with water, turning on the mold-contaminated HVAC will spread mold throughout the house.

Mold Removal

You may see or smell mold on clothing, drywall, furniture, cardboard boxes, or books. It may also be hidden under or behind items like carpets, cushions, or walls. Mold is a fungus with a musty, earthy smell, but sometimes can smell worse. You may also notice it by its color, like green, brown, yellow, or black.

If you find mold, here are some tips for cleaning it up:

  • Clean mold with water and a detergent. You also can use a mixture that contains 1 cup of bleach for every 1 gallon of water.
  • Never mix bleach with ammonia or other household cleaners. The mixture can create toxic vapors.
  • Use a stiff brush on rough surface materials such as concrete.
  • After cleaning, dry the item right away.
  • If there is too much mold for you to clean up on your own, hire a professional. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using a professional who is certified by the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA), the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), or the American Council for Accredited Certification (ACAC).
  • Fix any leaks in roofs, walls, or plumbing as soon as you can. If the leaks aren’t fixed, moisture will cause the mold to come back.

Additional Home Cleaning Tips

  • Clean and disinfect everything that came in contact with floodwater. Floodwater is dirty and contains bacteria and parasites that can make you very sick.
  • Don’t forget to clean toys. You can make a good cleaning fluid by mixing 1 cup of bleach in 5 gallons of water. But you’ll probably have to throw out any stuffed animals that have been contaminated.

Personal Safety

  • Never use bleach in a closed space. Open windows and doors first.
  • Wear personal protective equipment to protect your eyes, nose, mouth, and skin. Make sure your hands, arms, feet, and legs are covered. Use goggles that will protect your eyes from dust and small particles. Also wear plastic or rubber gloves.
  • Wear filtering masks. This helps protect you from inhaling harmful fumes while cleaning up. The mask should be rated as at least N95. This rating indicates the level of protection the mask provides from airborne particles. If you are working a lot around mold, you will need a half-face or full-face respirator.
  • Wear sturdy shoes and waterproof boots.
  • If you have cuts on your hands or other body parts, protect them from contact with water or debris. If the cuts do come in contact with floodwater, wash them with soap and water and apply an antibiotic ointment to prevent an infection.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand-cleaning gel with alcohol in it.
  • Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water and detergent. Do not wash them with uncontaminated clothes.


If you have flood insurance, it will help you pay for damage and repairs. You’ll want that help as soon as possible. To get that process started:

  • Take photos of floodwater and damaged items. You will want to document the damage and cause of damage for your insurance company or for federal disaster assistance.
  • Call your insurance agent and file a claim.

It is likely you will need some professional help for repairs. If you do, be careful about deciding who to hire.

  • Make sure the company or person you hire is fully licensed. Also make sure they have liability insurance and workers’ compensation.
  • Use a local contractor, if possible.
  • Ask the contractor for three references. These are former customers who had work done.
  • Call your local Better Business Bureau to see if there have been complaints about the contractor’s work.
  • Don’t hire anyone who won’t put their work agreement in writing. You always want a signed contract for the repair job.
  • Never pay for work in full in advance. Pay half at most. Pay the rest when the work is completed to your satisfaction.

Read Next:

Salvaging Family Treasures

You may own photos, personal documents, artwork, or other family treasures that you cannot replace. Here's how you may be able to save them if they have been damaged by a flood.