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Cleaning up after the flood

Advice on electricity and gas

You'll need to turn off any electricity until a qualified electrician or utility company has checked all switches, sockets and appliances. Once all safety checks have been made, make sure that you use a circuit breaker with any electrical equipment that you may use in, or to clean and repair the property.

If you're unsure about how to find an appropriately qualified electrician you may find this guidance useful.

You'll also need to turn off the gas supply to appliances that have been flooded or where vents and flues may have been affected. If your heating system or electrical wiring has been damaged by flooding, the Action Surrey energy advice service can offer advice on finding local contractors to carry out repairs.

If in any doubt, contact your utility company.

What to clean

  • Clean all hard surfaces (eg walls, floors) with hot water and detergent.
  • Clean and disinfect work surfaces, plates, pans, cutlery, chopping boards etc. before using them with food. If you have a working dishwasher, this is a more efficient way to clean and sanitise smaller items. Discard wooden chopping boards and wooden spoons if contaminated by floodwater.
  • Wash soft items (eg clothing, bedding and children's toys) on a 60°C cycle with detergent. If you suspect problems with your drainage system, it is recommended that a launderette be used for washing large quantities of clothes and linens until your waste-water system has been checked.
  • Wash clothes used for cleaning on a separate cycle from your other clothes.

How to clean safely

Before you start to clean your home, it's important that you contact your insurer. They will arrange for a loss adjuster and other specialists to visit your home and assess the damage. They will also project-manage a lot of the clean-up so speak to them before acting on anything.

Find out what they can do and take photos of contents and any water damage.

If you have to clean, consider the following:

  • Wear protective clothes, boots and rubber gloves.
  • If cleaning causes water to splash from scrubbing, hosing or pressure-washing, wear a standard face mask, as sold in DIY stores. Goggles offer added protection and can be reused after thorough washing.
  • Use a brush, soapy water and heavy duty cleaner, then rinse.
  • Floodwater may be contaminated so disinfect all areas affected after cleaning.
  • Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with antiseptic after cleaning up. Keep any open sores or cuts clean and use waterproof plasters. Disinfecting also kills most mildew and moulds.

Before you can properly move into your home you need to make sure all standing water has been removed, particularly from the under floor area.

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service can pump out standing water but will charge for non-emergencies. If you can do it yourself, use a pump (which you can hire or buy at a DIY shop) or use buckets followed by a wet/dry vacuum.

You will also need to shovel out mud (which may be contaminated) then hose out or use a garden sprayer. It's also important to remove flood damaged carpets from your property, but keep a sample for your insurance company. They will want to see this as part of your claim.

See our sandbag page for advice on handling, storing and disposing of sandbags.

Drying out your property

  • Ensure good ventilation if using portable indoor heating appliances to dry out indoor spaces. Keep windows and doors open on dry days but be careful to ensure your home is still secure.
  • Do not use petrol or diesel generators or other similar fuel-driven equipment indoors: the exhaust gases contain carbon monoxide, which can kill.
  • Industrial heaters, fans and dehumidifiers can also help dry out your home – you should be able to get these from your insurance company if you are insured.
  • If you have gas or oil central heating and it has been checked by an engineer, turn it on. Keep the thermostat between 20°C to 22°C for steady drying.
  • If you have air bricks to any under floor spaces, ensure that these are unblocked to give cross ventilation to these areas. As floorboards and walls continue to dry out, any loose material and dust resulting from this should be vacuumed up on a regular basis.
  • When you can, remove dirty water and silt from the property including the space under the ground floor if you have wooden floors. This space may need pumping out.
  • Mould should disappear as your home dries out but if it persists, contact a specialist cleaner. Bare in mind that drying out your home can take several weeks or even months.

Waste collection

Visit your local borough council's website for information about waste collections during severe weather conditions:

Community Recycling Centres

Surrey's Community Recycling Centres (CRC) will be accepting materials from residents affected by the floods in vans and trailers for free during this clean up period. This includes flood damaged floorboards, timber and fence panels.

Details of centre locations and opening times are on the Community recycling centre web pages.

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