Monday, March 31, 2008
10:31 AM

Cleaning carpets and floors following a flood 

By Marsha Alexander, University of Missouri Extension Housing and Environmental Design Specialist, alexanderm@missouri.edu

 (BLUE SPRINGS, MO July 13, 2007) Cleaning water-soaked carpeting and flooring is a difficult task in itself, but following a flood, contamination by mud, silt and sewage can increase the problem. Hiring professional cleaners to work on carpets and floors is best, but this may not be possible. Regardless, begin cleanup as soon as possible. Often flooded carpeting will be too damaged to salvage. The recommendation is to discard all padding following a flood. 

To clean carpets and rugs yourself, pull them up and dry on a clean, flat surface, such as a concrete driveway. If the rug can be salvaged, place it face down so stains will wick to the back instead of to the face yarns. Hose off and if badly soiled, apply a low-sudsing, disinfectant carpet cleaning product deep into soiled spots and rinse well. To discourage mildew and odors, rinse with a solution of two tablespoons of chlorine bleach per gallon of water (if the carpet is wool, do not add bleach). Dry the carpet and the floor thoroughly before replacing carpeting. If the carpet is reinstalled wet, it may mildew. Use fans, wet-vacs and dehumidifiers to speed the drying process. Take care to avoid electrical shock. 

Sections of subfloors that separate must be replaced to avoid buckling. When floor coverings are removed, allow subfloors to dry thoroughly, even though it may take several weeks or months. For wood floors, remove a board every few feet to reduce buckling caused by swelling. Ask a carpenter for tips on removing tongue-and-groove boards. Clean and dry the floor thoroughly before replacing the boards and attempting repairs. 

For tile and sheet-vinyl floors, if the submerged subfloor is wood, the floor covering most likely should be removed and the subflooring replaced. If the floor has not been soaked, re-cement loose tiles after the floor is thoroughly dry. If the subflooring is concrete, removing floor coverings will hasten drying of the slab. If water has seeped under loose sections of sheet flooring, remove the entire sheet. Contact a reputable dealer to find out what solvent and technique will loosen the adhesive with the least damage to the floor. Ease of removal depends on the type of material and adhesive used. 

For more information on flood cleanup, contact your local University of Missouri Extension Center or visit the website extension.missouri.edu/cemp/flood.html

For more information:
Marsha Alexander
Housing and Environmental Design Specialist
University of Missouri Extension
2700 E. 18th St., Suite 240
Kansas City, MO 64127
Ph. (816) 482-5850
Fax (816) 482-5880

University Outreach and Extension David Reinbott, reinbottd@missouri.edu
Agriculture Business Specialist
Last modified: March 31, 2008