How to Clean a Flooded Basement


Seldom does a basement flood, but you have to put your best foot forward to drain and clean the surface properly when it does. A basement can flood for many reasons including, a damaged sump pump, a broken storm sewer backup, a faulty water heater, and even a burst washer’s hose. Despite the cause of a flooding basement, you have to take some steps as a homeowner to clean up the flood’s mess.

Once the flooding water has been removed from your basement, your carpets, wall, ceiling, personal property, and flooring can be damaged. This creates an unhealthy environment that encourages the breeding of molds and bacteria. It also leads to rotting of wood. Therefore, you have to complete both phases of the flood restoration process, which begins with removing the floodwater from your basement and cleaning up the mess caused by floods that incorporates the drying process.

What is the First Step When Fixing a Flooded Basement?

Before you start fixing a broken basement, you have to turn off your basement’s power supply. If you are not familiar with your basement’s electrical connection to the point of not knowing how to turn off its power supply, contact a qualified electrician to help you turn off the power. Apart from the risk of electrocution, there might be the risk of leaking gas, raw sewage, or structural damage resulting from a flooded basement. Disconnect gas supply to your basement too.

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You need to find the source of flooding water. If the water results from natural disasters like stormwater or heavy rain, wait for the natural disaster to end before you begin fixing your basement. However, if the flooding water resulted from a burst in the water pipe, you need to seal the leak immediately you notice flooding in your basement. If you do not know your basement flooding cause, reach out to a qualified plumber for help. Some of the professionals that you can call include a waterproof basement company, a disaster restoration technician, and a plumber.

How do You Clean up after Basement Flood

After switching off the electrical power supply to your basement and turning off the gas supply to the basement, you need to get into your basement and start the cleaning process. Follow these steps to clean the basement well.

Remove the water by pumping it out

Even though there are many water removal companies in your locality, these companies may not get to your home if the flooding problem is widespread in your neighborhood. The situation worsens if the removal service cannot access your home for a couple of days. To save the situation, you can pool your resources and pump the water out by yourself to remove the flooding water in the shortest time possible. If you do not have the right tools, you can rent it from a local construction store.

If the flooding depth is not more than one inch and does not occupy a large space, you can use a dry/wet vacuum to remove the water. These types of vacuum work like your standard vacuum by sucking all the water into its tank. This tank has a maximum water holding capacity of five gallons. Therefore, you will have to drain the water from the tank a couple of times, so you need to use it on a flood that is not too big.

In the case of large and moderate floods, you can use a sump pump or submersible pump.

If the basement flooding resulted from external reasons such as snow or heavy rains, you would have to wait for the outside water to recede away from the house before doing any of this water removal process.

Additionally, you need to be cautious while carrying out the water removal process. Do not pump water out of the flooded basement too fast. If the flood was caused by recent snow or rain, there is a likelihood that the soil outside your basement has very high water pressure, and the floodwater within your basement is balancing the pressure. Therefore, when you remove the flood water too fast might cause your walls to crumble or crack at the very least.

You may have to use an extension sump together with your sump pump. Therefore, ensure that the electrical connection between the two is far from water. To be safe, you need to wrap the cord on a beam, railing, or on a heavy object to ensure the connection remains dry.

Fix a garden hose (view on Amazon) to your pump and set it far away from your home. Preferably, set it on a place where water may flow into a sewer or drain. In case the flooding water is shallow, you should put on rubber boot, lift the pump and walk it to the lowest point in your basement. Nonetheless, if the floodwater is very deep to safely walk on it, you need to tie a rope tightly around the pump and lower it slowly into its right position.

After you ensure that the pump is in its rightful position and ready to pump the water out, plug your extension cord into a generator or an outlet. If your pump is slow, you may connect another one to fasten the process and meet your water removal goals.

Given that you are discouraged from pumping the water out of the basement very fast, you need to pump out less than three feet of the water or a third of the flooding water, depending on the severity of the flooding. After removing the water, label the new level reached on the wall and let it sit overnight.

When you check the level again and realize that it has risen, you should not remove the water immediately. Mark your new level and observe it. Do not complete pumping the water out of your basement until you are sure that the flooding has ceased. However, if the water level is sustained overnight, you can proceed with the process of pumping it out. Use the same process you employed before. Pump out three feet or one-third of water from the basement. Mark the new level, and let the water sit overnight. Repeat this process over and over until all the flooding water in the basement is removed completely. In case small pools of water are left by the sump pump, you need to use a dry/wet vacuum to remove it.

Inspect your basement walls as you remove the water. Examine the wall for cracks or any other structural faults. If there are any imperfections on the wall as you remove the water from your basement, stop the water removal process immediately. There might be a shift in your basement’s foundation that is caused by water outside the walls that has not fully drained. The water might be exerting a lot of pressure on your walls.

Clean and Sanitize the Basement

After removing the flooding water from your basement, you start the cleaning and sanitizing process. This is where the hard work is in this whole process.

The cleaning and sanitizing process should happen immediately; the water removal stops to prevent mildew and mold growth. If the flooding in your basement resulted from leaking back up sewage, you would have to sanitize the entire area and get rid of all items that you cannot restore because raw sewage has a lot of bacteria, which pose a lot of health risks to your family. How do you go about the cleaning and sanitizing process?

Take Precautions

Flooding water may introduce various health risks to your basement, such as bacteria. Therefore, you need to protect yourself before you begin working in your basement. You should protect yourself by putting on protective clothing such as gloves, rubber boots, and overalls. If the flood water was mixed with sewage water, put on protective glasses and a facemask. These two face gears will protect your eyes from pathogens and filter the air you breathe, respectively. You also need to stay away from electrical sockets and equipment until you are sure the basement has completely dried. Sometimes, the electricity outlets still pose the risk of shock even if you have turned it off.

Clear Dirt from the Basement

After taking all the necessary precautionary measures, you need to remove the dirt brought into the basement by the flood. Use a shovel to remove debris before it dries up. Hose off the dirt that has stuck on your furnishings and walls. Rinse every item several to get rid of all the dirt if necessary. You have to get rid of all the dirt before it dries. Dirt that has dried up is much hard to remove because it will harden.

Get Rid of Damaged Items

Sort out your furnishings and other items. Save those that you can and discard damaged items. If the flood was contaminated by raw sewage, you might have to discard more items. Here is a list of some items and furnishings that you should discard.

  • Walls and ceilings that have absorbed flooding water or that are soaked in this water.
  • Carpet and flooring have been destroyed by floodwater.
  • Canned vegetables, herbs, good or all types of food that were affected by the flood water
  • Insulation materials
  • Particleboard furniture, box springs, mattresses and all the other types of less expensive items
  • Items like furniture coverings, stuffed toys, cushions, pillows, and paper goods, because they cannot be sanitized completely.

Salvage Items

Salvage items that were not extensively damaged by the floodwater. Some of the items that can be salvaged include:

  • Valuable items with no apparent signs of contamination
  • Clothes
  • Furniture not extensively damaged by the flood water by cleaning using water and antibacterial soap. Then dry. You can also steam clean the furniture.

Disinfect and Sanitize

After cleaning your basement, you need to sanitize and disinfect it properly. Use cleaning materials and bleach to sanitize the basement and all the salvaged items. Ensure to open all the ventilation systems and openings in your basement to release harmful fumes from the bleach and other cleaners.

You can use chlorine bleach to sanitize the basement well. Mix the bleach with water in the ratio of 1 cup of chlorine per gallon of water. Clean internal cavities of the basement using a mixture of chlorine bleach, water, and non-ammonia detergent, preferably dish detergent.

You need to kill all molds using chlorine bleach and dry the wall cavities completely before closing them.

Dry the Basement

The final step in the flood water removal process is drying the basement. You have to ensure that the basement has dried completely to discourage the growth of molds. Dry the floor, walls, and all other items in the basement. Open all windows and other openings to allow the free flow of air into the basement. Use industrial blowers (view on Amazon) to aerate the basement. If you have a basement heater and it was not affected by the floods, turn it to the highest settings. Keep the windows open when the heater is on.

One the basement is completely dry, turn on your dehumidifier to control humidity levels in the basement.

This is the simple process of cleaning a flooded basement and restoring it to its former state.


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