Safety and first aid

Recovering after the flood – clean-up information for householders

Before you start
  • Use protective clothing including rubber boots and waterproof gloves. To protect your eyes use a facemask or goggles if you are scrubbing, hosing or pressure-washing.
  • Cover any open cuts, scratches, grazes and wounds with waterproof dressings (bandages).
  • Be careful with any electrical or gas equipment or lines. Do not switch on electrical or gas equipment until it has been checked by a licensed electrician or gas fitter.
  • Keep children and pets away from the flooded building until it has been cleaned and made safe.
  • Remember to wash your hands thoroughly after each clean-up session and always before eating or making food.
  • Take your time. Do not overdo it when cleaning up. You will be under enough stress and strain from the flooding – your health is critical. Take frequent breaks. Stay warm when it is cold and be careful not to overheat when it is hot.
  • Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids.
  • As you clean up, take photographs or make a list as you go for your insurance claim.
General clean-up advice
  • Wash mud, dirt and debris from your house with a hose, starting at the highest point and work down to ground level.
  • Where possible, remove all wet items such as floor coverings, rugs, mats, furniture, bedding, linen and clothing. If floor coverings are removed, thoroughly clean and dry the floor underneath before new material is laid.
  • Be alert to snakes, spiders and rats that may have taken refuge in your home.
  • Begin drying out the house as soon as floodwaters recede (drop) by:
    • opening doors and windows during dry days
    • using fans (note the warning below)
    • draining water away from under the house to increase airflow
    • checking for trapped water and mud in wall or floor cavities.
  • Each area affected by floodwater within the house needs to be cleaned, including refrigerators and cupboards (these should be emptied first).

Mould or mildew may develop if items are not completely dried. Mould or mildew may be removed with a solution of 70 per cent vinegar and 30 per cent water.

However, the strength of the product may ruin some household items. Wear a mask when working with heavy mould.

Warning

Do not use petrol or diesel-powered equipment, such as generators or pumps, in enclosed spaces. Fumes from such equipment can be a health hazard.

Keep extension cords out of water.

How to clean and what to clean

Hard surfaces

These include floors, walls, benches, sinks, cutlery and crockery.

Thoroughly clean with hot soapy water and disinfect by wiping or spraying surfaces with a chlorine bleach solution (see instructions below) or a product labelled as a disinfectant. Once disinfected, allow to dry.

Linen, blankets and clothing

These should be washed in hot water (if care instructions allow) or dry-cleaned.

Mattresses

Inner spring mattresses are difficult to treat and may need to be thrown away.

Foam rubber mattresses may be thoroughly washed with a garden hose. A detergent solution should then be squeezed through the mattress before it is allowed to dry.

Furniture

Other types of mattresses, pillows or furniture, such as lounge chairs, may be air dried in the sun then sprayed thoroughly with a disinfectant solution. Consult a local furniture renovating company if you are unsure about their condition.

Food

Throw away any food in your freezer or fridge, any boxed foods, fresh vegetables and fruit. Tins and bottles may still be used providing they are not damaged and they are sealed. Thoroughly clean with hot soapy water and disinfect by wiping or spraying surfaces with a chlorine bleach solution before opening.

Medicines, cosmetics and toiletries

If there is any water damage to the packaging throw it away. Speak to your chemist if you are not sure.

Children's toys

Soft toys or moulded toys with air injection holes should be thrown away. Solid toys can be washed and then disinfected.

How to make disinfectant

To make up a 10 L bucket (standard size) of disinfectant, fill the bucket with water and then add only 1 of the following:

  • 50 ml (around a quarter of a cup) of household bleach
  • 8 to 16 ml (dessert spoon) of liquid pool chlorine.

Where do I put the rubbish?

Floods may disrupt waste collection services. Contact your local council to find out how services in your area have been affected and where to take the rubbish.

Wastewater disposal

If your house is connected to a septic tank you should arrange to have it pumped out by a licensed contractor.

Contact your local government environmental health officer for more information. If you are connected to sewer please contact the service provider in your area.

More information

Phone the Environmental Health Directorate Water Unit on 9388 4999.

Remember

  • Use protective clothing, such as rubber boots and, waterproof gloves. To protect your eyes, use a facemask or goggles if you are scrubbing, hosing or pressure-washing.
  • Remember to wash your hands thoroughly after each clean-up session and always before eating or making food.

Acknowledgements
Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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