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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Disinfecting Flooded Rooms with Bleach

By Dr. Laundry October 5, 2010

My basement flooded due to rain, with sewers over-flowing from outside and creek over-flow as well. The basement was flooded almost to the ceiling. What do I use to washing everything down with so it will be disinfected?

A. Hopefully you have been able to make some progress cleaning your basement. Below is information on disinfecting your basement with Clorox® Regular-Bleach, but first I want to remind you how to work safely with bleach to solve such a severe problem. Because you have such a large area to clean, it is important you wear protective clothing and eyewear. A long sleeved shirt and pants that you can disinfect with bleach when you are finished are fine, and you can get some goggles at your local hardware store. You should also wear gloves, and be sure your basement is well ventilated while you are working.

It is critical that your basement be allowed to thoroughly dry, and you may need a de-humidifier to accomplish that. Also, note that these instructions are for non-porous walls. If your basement is finished with sheetrock, you will need to remove the wallboard down to the studs to determine if the floodwaters seeped into the walls, and if necessary treat the area with the bleach solution to prevent future mold and mildew growth. More than one treatment may be desirable to complete the process, and remember that it is critical that everything be rinsed and allowed to dry thoroughly (use a de-humidifier if necessary). Finally, all other items in the basement should be treated with the disinfecting solution per above (check for bleachability on any items/areas of concern), or disposed of. Good luck, and please contact me if you have any more questions or to let me know how it goes.