Essential Guide for DIY Water Damage Cleanup

Natural disasters like floods can wreak havoc on your property, damaging your home or business and requiring extensive repairs. In fact, floods cause more fatalities annually than tornadoes, hurricanes and lightning combined. If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of dealing with water damage, there are some essential steps to follow to ensure your safety and minimize the extent of the damage.

The first and most important step is to prioritize safety. Do not enter the affected area until it has been cleared by government officials. When you do enter the area, take essential supplies like emergency kits and cash with you. If possible, contact your insurance provider and a water damage restoration contractor.

Once you have confirmed that it is safe to enter the affected area, you can start assessing the damage. Be extremely cautious as the risk of slips and falls is high, and also avoid coming into contact with electrical equipment, gas lines, and appliances as they could cause electrical shocks or even explosions. Additionally, wet items can be extremely heavy, so take care not to overdo it and hurt yourself.

In conclusion, dealing with water damage can be overwhelming, but following these essential tips will help keep you and your property safe while minimizing the damage. Remember, safety is always the top priority when dealing with any natural disaster.

The Catastrophic Effects of Water

Water is a life-giving element, but it can also wreak havoc and leave behind a trail of destruction. Whether it’s your home or business, it’s important to understand how water can affect various items and structures:

  • Wallboard and Drywall: These porous materials act like sponges and can become brittle in the event of a flood. Even after they dry out, they may remain contaminated and require replacement.
  • Plaster: While it may not need to be replaced, plaster takes a long time to dry. If it’s severely cracked or warped, it will need to be replaced.
  • Insulation: Foam sheets of insulation can simply be hosed off and dried, but fiberglass batts that have become muddy should be disposed of. Cellulose insulation, made of blown-in treated paper, will need to be removed and replaced.
  • Solid Wood: Furniture and other solid wood items may warp and crack following a flood, but they can usually be salvaged if they’re dried out completely.
  • Particle Board and Laminated Wood: These materials may separate and weaken after being exposed to water and will typically need to be replaced.
  • Wood Studs and Framing: These sturdy pillars are usually safe to keep if they dry out completely. They must be disinfected, but replacement is rarely necessary. Since they are often located away from human contact, the risk of harm from any remaining contamination is minimal.
  • Floor Coverings: Most carpets and laminated coverings will need to be discarded following a flood, particularly those with soaked foam rubber backing. A professional cleaner may be able to salvage small rugs and valuable carpets, which should be removed from the affected area immediately.
  • Pipes and Electrical Wiring: Floods can cause pipes to float or break and strip electrical wiring. Unless you’re familiar with the process, it’s recommended to work with a contractor if you notice damage to these items.
  • Appliances: Floods can short out appliances and cause them to leak harmful and explosive gases into the air. Before use, they must be cleaned and inspected by a professional.
  • HVAC: Heater and air conditioner units can sustain damage to their internal electrical systems and douse pilot lights. They can also become muddy, requiring professional cleaning. Additionally, venting systems can flood and become contaminated, requiring disassembly and careful hosing off to prevent contamination from being blown through the air.

Safety Measures to Take After a Flood

Recovering from a flood can be a daunting task, and it’s important to prioritize your safety and that of your family. Here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind before beginning the cleanup proces

Assess the Safety of the Propert

The first step is to ensure that the property is safe for you and your family to return to.

  • DO be cautious of any rodents, snakes, or insects that may have entered with floodwaters.
  • DO check for gas smells and look for damaged power and gas lines, foundation cracks, and exterior damage.
  • DO inspect for broken pilings, shifted stairs, slanted floors, and walls.
  • DO turn off water and power (unless it requires standing in water).
  • DON’T enter your home or business if there is significant structural damage.
  • DON’T walk on sagging floors or floors above sagging ceilings.
  • DON’T use electrical appliances or turn on ceiling fans and lights if the ceilings are wet.

Starting the Cleanup Process

Before beginning the daunting task of cleaning up after a disaster, it is crucial to prioritize your actions. Take these important steps to ensure your safety and prevent further damag:

  • DO first check if your tap water is safe to drink and use for cleaning purpose.
  • DO flush your toilet to check for any obstructions caused by debris and mud.
  • DO be on the lookout for unstable cabinets and objects that may fall over.
  • DO temporarily patch up any holes in the walls or roof using plastic wrap. If possible, repair damaged floors and roof sections with 4X4s, ensuring your safety is not compromised.
  • DO remove any debris that may have accumulated in your home or around it.
  • DO remove any water trapped in walls or hidden corners.
  • DO improve ventilation in your home by opening all the doors and windows.
  • DO use necessary equipment such as wet vacs, shop vacs, fans, dehumidifiers, and desiccants to help dry out the affected areas.
  • DON’T drain flooded basements too quickly, as it can cause a rapid change in pressure leading to foundation collapse.
  • DON’T attempt any structural or electrical work by yourself.
  • DON’T connect generators to your home’s power system; instead, plug in fans and other appliances directly.
  • DON’T use generators, grills, camp stoves or charcoal inside homes or enclosed areas.
  • DON’T use household vacuums to remove water and mud.
  • DON’T let garbage pile up, as it could worsen the contamination and attract pests.
  • DON’T let standing water accumulate as it could become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Taking these steps will not only make your home safer to clean up but also make the entire process more efficient. Be sure to take precautions and prioritize your safety above all else.

Restoring Your Home After Water Damage

After addressing the major issues, it’s time to tackle the water damage cleanup and flood restoration process. Here’s what you should keep in mind:

  • DO wear protective gear, including boots, rubber gloves, and appropriate clothing.
  • DO wash your hands regularly with soap and water to avoid infections.
  • DO remove any wall coverings as they may harbor mold and are often beyond repair.
  • DO get rid of drywall, finished ceilings, and most insulation that’s been in contact with floodwater.
  • DO discard permeable items such as padded furniture and foam rubber.
  • DO throw away all exposed food, beverages, and medicine, including canned goods.
  • DO disinfect dishes and other items with hot water and soap, but throw out all soft plastics.
  • DO clean hard surfaces with hot water, soap, or detergent.
  • DO wipe down wooden items and take them elsewhere to dry out, if possible.
  • DO preserve valuable items such as books, documents, and photographs in re-sealable bags and freeze them for cleaning later.
  • DO place aluminum foil or wooden blocks between wet floors and the legs of furniture that can’t be moved.
  • DO document the damage by taking photos or videos and keep a list of the damages.
  • DO keep a piece of damaged floor and wall coverings to show your insurance assessor.
  • DO consult your mortgage holder before cashing insurance checks, particularly if the damage is extensive.


It may be tempting to try and fix a small water leak yourself, but it’s important to know when to call in the professionals. Water damage restoration companies have the necessary tools, knowledge, and expertise to not only fix the leak but also help restore your home to its former, drier glory.