Clean-up for Home or Business after a Disaster - Minnesota Dept. of Health

Clean-up for Home or Business after a Disaster

Protective Equipment

Wear an N-95 respirator, rubber boots, rubber gloves and eye goggles to clean. If you have allergies, wear a dust mask. Consult your physician if you have questions about your health.

Take Pictures of Damage

Take pictures of your home or the building and contents before you start cleaning. Pictures help with insurance claims.

What to Throw Away

Take out and throw away porous items that soak up water. Wallboard, wallpaper, insulation, carpeting, seat cushions, mattresses and pressed wood furniture can grow mold that can make you sick.

When in doubt, throw it out!

Scrub All Hard Surfaces

First, scrub hard, “nonporous” and "semi-porous" surfaces like concrete, countertops and appliances with soap and safe water.

Rinse well with safe water

  • Scrub and rinse with safe water before using a bleach mix
  • Do not mix bleach with soap or other products

Dry Out the Building

  • Open doors and windows
  • Use fans and dehumidifiers to dry the building
  • Paint and install drywall only when all is dry

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Water in or on walls and other surfaces

Release any water or mud trapped in wall, ceiling or floor cavities. Open, clean, decontaminate and thoroughly dry cavities in walls, ceilings, and floors

Walls must dry from the inside out

Remove moisture and debris from all surfaces and get surface materials dry within 24-48 hours after flooding, or as soon as you are allowed into the building.

  • Remove all interior wall finishing materials (e.g., wallpaper, wallboard, paneling) and insulation
  • Throw out any wet insulation
  • Discard other materials that cannot be cleaned and dried
  • Do not paint, or replace ceiling, wall tile or flooring until all enclosed spaces are completely dry, to avoid the growth of mold

Use fuel powered tools safely.

Always use these types of tools outdoors – never inside

  • Gasoline engines used to pump water or to make power; or
  • Grills that use natural gas or charcoal.

Use these tools far away from enclosed spaces, garages, open windows or doors, or air intakes. They make gases that can cause illness or death.

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Simple, basic hygiene – handwashing – is the single most important thing you can do to protect your health when you clean up after a disaster.

Wash your hands thoroughly and do it often!

After you touch any surfaces or objects that may have been in contact with debris or other contaminated material, wash your hands.

Wash your hands before you work with food, before eating or drinking, after using the bathroom, or after touching your skin, face or hair.

How to wash your hands

  • Wet your hands
  • Apply soap
  • Rub your hands for 10 to 15 seconds
  • Rub soapy hands together for 20 seconds
  • Rinse your hands
  • Dry your hands
  • Keep hands clean

The entire process must last at least 20 seconds.

What if there is no running water?

Transport and store clean water in clean plastic containers.

Use a beverage cooler equipped with a spigot filled with safe water for handwashing.

What if the water is contaminated?

If the water might not be safe, boil or use bleach as described in EPA’s instructions for Emergency Disinfection of Drinking Water.

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How do I get my home clean?

  • Thoroughly remove moisture to avoid the growth of mold.
  • Use outside air to dry your home.
  • Open windows and doors or use exhaust fans.
  • Use a room dehumidifier, if available, and empty it often.

Cleaning up mold

  • Dry wet materials.
  • Throw away porous materials (ex. carpet, drywall, insulation, paper) that are growing mold.
  • Scrub non-porous materials (ex. plastic, solid wood, concrete, metal) with a stiff brush, hot water and a household detergent
  • Rinse the newly cleaned materials with clean water
  • Dry the area out completely. Fans and dehumidifiers can help with this process.

Be Careful with Asbestos

Dry asbestos fiber can enter your lungs when you breathe. It can cause cancer. Wet asbestos is less likely to be in the air.

If the building has asbestos in it:

  • Look for an asbestos label
  • Call an MDH licensed asbestos abatement contractor to take it away safely
  • Call the MPCA (651-296-6300) to find out where to take it safely

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Salvaging Household Items

If you have wet carpeting

  • Pull up waterlogged carpet immediately, to prevent any further floor damage.
  • Carpet pads cannot be saved - they must be removed and discarded
  • Attempt to save carpets or throw rugs only if they would be very expensive to replace
  • Clean and dry your floors (and sub-flooring) thoroughly before re-carpeting

If you have wet floors or woodwork

  • Remove any moisture or debris
  • Scrub floors and woodwork within 48 hours, using a stiff brush, water, detergent and disinfectant
  • Allow all wood to dry thoroughly

If you have wet furniture

  • Discard upholstered furniture if it has been exposed to water or contaminated material
  • Clean, rinse and disinfect wood furniture
  • Place wood furniture outside in a shady area so it will dry slowly

Fuel Oil Contamination

An oil spill is a potential fire hazard - Stay Away!

Food Safety

Discard items in soft packaging or screw-top glass bottles that may have touched floodwater, or been in contact with contaminated material. Commercially canned goods in metal cans or rigid plastic can sometimes be saved.

Additional Resources

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Updated Friday, 12-Aug-2022 08:40:01 CDT