Flood waters and sewer overflows can contain bacteria, fecal material, viruses and other organisms that may cause disease. After flood waters and/or sewer overflows are gone, follow the information below to protect your health and prevent disease. Click here to read After The Flood, a best practices guide on flood safety.
Carpets and Rugs
Carpets and rugs that cannot be thoroughly dried and cleaned should be discarded and replaced. If the damaged area is small, you may be able to save the carpet by cleaning the area with a mild detergent. There also are professional home cleaning services that may be able to clean your carpets.
Floors, Drapes and Furniture
Floors and hard surfaces should be cleaned with a bleach and water solution made of no more than one cup of bleach per one gallon of water, or use a household disinfectant. A professional cleaner may be able to clean furniture and drapes.
Pump out standing water and remove all debris. Wait to pump until flood waters have receded below basement level. Allow debris to drain before disposal. Strain away all liquids from trash. After straining trash, wrap in newspaper and store in tight-lid garbage cans until pick up. Paneling and wallboard must be immediately cleaned and dried thoroughly. If the damage is severe, they should be removed and replaced.
Food and Water Safety
Use only bottled or disinfected water for drinking, cooking, tooth brushing and bathing until you are sure the water supply is safe. Discard food exposed to contaminated waters. If refrigerators or freezers have taken in water, discard food stored there. If no water entered these appliances, but power was lost long enough for foods to thaw, discard all partially thawed foods unless prepared immediately. Discard milk, cheeses and other foods prone to spoilage. Completely thawed meats and vegetables should be discarded without question. Discard all bulging or leaking canned food and any food stored in jars. Undented, intact cans can be cleaned with a bleach solution before use.
This fact sheet was supported in part by funds from the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act trust fund through a cooperative agreement with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Floodwater can be dangerous and can cause illness. You cannot always see what is in floodwater and the dangers and diseases it can contain.
|Floodwater can contain:||Exposure to floodwater can cause:||After coming into contact with floodwater, you should:|
|Downed power lines||Infections||Wash with soap and clean water as soon as possible. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based wipes.|
|Human and animal waste||Rashes||Take care of wounds and seek medical attention if needed.|
|Household, medical, and industrial hazardous waste (chemical, biological, and radiological)||Gastrointestinal illness||Wash clothes in hot water and detergent before re-wearing.|
|Physical objects such as trees, vehicles, and debris||Tetanus||Avoid exposure to floodwater if you have an open wound.|
If you receive a puncture wound or a wound contaminated with feces, soil, or saliva, have a health care professional determine whether a tetanus booster is necessary based on individual records.
Floodwater may contain sewage, and eating or drinking anything contaminated by floodwater can cause diarrheal disease (such as E. coli or Salmonella infection). To protect yourself and your family:
Do not bathe in water that may be contaminated with sewage or toxic chemicals.