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Cleaning Up After a Flood

Always remember that floodwater affecting your property may have been contaminated with sewage.  Although any bugs (germs) in floodwater will (may) have been very diluted and present a low risk you should always:

  • Wear protective clothing – waterproof boots, apron and gloves – while cleaning up.  Cover any open cuts with waterproof plasters.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water after being in contact with floodwater or items that have been contaminated and always wash your hands before eating or preparing food.

Returning Home:

It is recommended that you only fully reoccupy your home once it has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected and allowed to dry out.  Remember your power supplies may have been affected.  Turn off the power and get advice from your supplier(s) before use.

General Cleaning:

  • Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces, including walls, appliances, floors, furniture, etc. with a solution made up with hot water and an ordinary detergent based household cleaning agent.

  • Wash all soft fabric items (bedding, linen, clothing, soft furnishings, children’s toys) in a hot water wash (or recommended temperature on detergent manufacturer’s instructions).  Items that cannot be put in a washing machine should be dry-cleaned.

  • Remove and discard items which are damaged beyond repair.

  • After cleaning, allow to dry thoroughly, which will also help to destroy any germs left behind.  Use fans, air conditioners, heaters and dehumidifiers, if available, to help the drying process but bear in mind the advice below under “heating and ventilation”.

  • Wash all clothes worn during clean up activities in hot water and detergent and wash them separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens.


  • Discard any food which has been in contact with sewage or floodwater.  Don’t be tempted to try and salvage damaged food, including tins which may have been contaminated.
    Ensure all surfaces where food will be stored or prepared have been cleaned with potable hot water and detergent and sanitized, including shelves in your refrigerator.

  • All pots, cutlery and cooking utensils should be thoroughly washed and sanitized with a food-safe disinfectant, ideally in a dishwasher if available, before using.

  • Wash your hands before and after preparing food.


  • Follow the Health Unit's advice regarding the safety of the water supply.  If there is any possibility the water supply has been affected, you will be advised to boil water before drinking,

  • If you notice a change in water quality, like discolouration or a change in taste or smell, contact the Health Unit.

  • Ensure water taps are cleaned and sanitized and run water through them thoroughly before using them for the first time.

  • If your water is a private supply, it is very important to check that it has not been affected by floodwater.  If the supply has been covered with floodwater or changes colour or taste, boil or otherwise treat the water before drinking.


  • Keep children and pets out of affected areas until clean up has been completed.

  • Wash children’s hands frequently – and always before meals.

  • Wash flood water-contaminated toys with potable hot water and detergent.

  • Sanitize toys where appropriate.  (e.g. one teaspoon/L or tablespoon/4L – 1 Gallon)

Gardens and Play Areas:

  • Do not let children or pets play on affected grassed or paved areas until they have been cleaned.

  • Remove any sewage waste from affected areas and after the grass has grown and been cut once, there should be no further risk.

  • Sunlight and soil will help destroy harmful bacteria and outdoor areas will be safe to use within a week or so after flooding.

Heating and Ventilation:

  • It is important to ensure your home is properly heated and ventilated to assist the drying process.  However, remember that gas or diesel generators, dehumidifiers, pressure washers and patio-type gas heaters should never be used indoors without adequate ventilation.

  • The exhaust gases contain carbon monoxide which can quickly build up to poisonous levels without proper ventilation.  Also be aware of the increased fire risk and take extra care when using such items.

Chemical Hazards:

  • Be aware that flood waters may have moved or soaked into containers or chemicals, solvents and other industrial items from their normal storage place.

  • In general avoid contact with water and materials which may have been chemically contaminated.  If it becomes necessary to handle this material, wear rubber gloves, boots and a disposable apron.

  • Avoid enclosed areas than may be chemically contaminated, such as garages and cellars where hazardous fumes may build up.  Ensure such confined areas are adequately ventilated and are not accessible to children and animals.

For more information, contact the Health Unit toll-free at 1-866-888-4577 and speak with a Public Health Inspector.


Additional Resources:

Cleaning After a Flood

Cleaning and Removing Mould