Following Floods, Safe Cleanup Begins in Region 8

DONIPHAN & POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KAIT) -- The flooding across Region 8 has destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses, leaving folks to dry out, pick up the pieces and continue with their lives.  But before the rebuilding process can begin, the cleanup has to start.  Starting over will likely start with throwing it out.

"It was grab what you could and get out was that fast," said Chad Thompson as he floated a cooler full of dry clothing and a cell phone while walking through flood waters.

With more than 10 inches of rainfall in Ripley County, the Current River is running through many homes in Doniphan.

"We went back to see what could be salvaged and there will be some things but a lot of it's pretty bad," remarked Thompson.

"We were able to get some clothes for my son," said lifelong Doniphan resident Mindy Lowery.

As the storm waters recede and the cleanup begins there are a few tips to keep in mind, first make sure the electricity and gas are turned off to the home before even reentering.

"You want to sanitize everything," said Butler County University of Missouri Extension Specialist Phyllis Flanigan, "You want to wash everything down with soap and water and then follow with bleach water again wear a mask, wear rubber gloves, it's going to be very toxic."

Appliances and most furniture will likely have to be thrown out although mattresses can be professionally sterilized.

"You can keep canned goods that have been commercially canned if you sanitize them. You can do that if you put them in boiling water for two minutes or you can put them in a solution and it's like one tablespoon of unscented bleach in a gallon of water and soak it for about 15 minutes and that will sanitize it, but let it air dry for about an hour," said Flanigan.

Baby bottles and storage containers should be thrown away, along with any plastic cookware or utensils.

"Hopefully the pictures of my kids basically is all I want to save but I'm pretty sure that they are gone so just whatever clothes or whatever we can get out of there is really what we need," said Lowery.

For more information about flooding cleanup log onto the University of Missouri Extension Center webpage at:

Tips on cleaning a flood damaged home include:

  • Check for structural damage to see if it is safe to enter the building. Watch for electrical shorts and live wires. Electrical safety is most important in floods. Make sure that electrical service is DISCONNECTED and CANNOT be turned on before entering any structure.
  • Turn off any outside gas lines at the tank or meter, and let the building air out for several minutes to remove gas fumes. See that everyone is out of danger of new flood crests, falling buildings, fire or other hazards.
  • Contact your insurance agent immediately. Give your name, address and a phone number where you can be reached. Take pictures of the damage before beginning clean up.
  • ParentLink offers parents and others with resources to help children cope: 1-800-552-8522
  • Have an electrician check for ground faults and other unsafe conditions and equipment before reconnecting systems. Equipment and wiring that appears to be safe soon after flooding may fail prematurely and cause a fire or shock hazard.
  • Replacement is often the best option. Circuit breakers that have been submerged should be replaced.
  • Until your local water utility or county health department declares your water source safe, purify all water, not only for drinking and cooking, but also for washing any part of the body.
  • Food: Discard all foods, including garden produce, that have come in contact with flood waters. Only foods sealed in airtight metal cans that are not bulging or damaged and have been properly sanitized can be saved.
  • Carpets and rugs may be cleaned best by professionals. To clean them yourself, pull up water-logged carpets, rugs and pads and dry outside on a clean, flat surface, such as a concrete driveway. If the rug is placed face down, stains will wick to the back instead of to the face yarns.
  • When floor coverings are removed, allow subflooring to dry thoroughly (it may take several months). Check for warping before installing new flooring. Clean and dry wood floors thoroughly (may take several weeks or months) before replacing boards and attempting repairs. If submerged subfloor is wood, floor covering probably should be removed so subflooring can be replaced. If floor has not been soaked, loose tiles may be recemented after floor is thoroughly dry.
  • If subflooring is concrete, removing floor covering will hasten drying of slab. Removal may not be necessary if it would ruin an otherwise unharmed material. If water has seeped under loose sections of sheet flooring, remove entire sheet.
  • Take furniture outdoors to clean. Hose or brush off mud. All parts (drawers, doors, etc.) should be removed. Remove or cut hole in back to push out stuck drawers and doors. Dry furniture slowly out of direct sunlight. (hot sunlight will warp furniture.) It may take several weeks to several months to dry.
  • As flood waters recede, use a disinfectant to clean walls and woodwork from top to bottom. A 3-gallon garden sprayer works well. One cup of household chlorine bleach per gallon of water can be used as a disinfectant. Scrub with a brush to help remove mud and silt. Rinse with clean water. Dry thoroughly. If utilities are on, use heater, fan or air conditioner to speed drying.
  • Submerged appliances must be cleaned and dried before starting. With electricity or fuel turned off, unplug and open as much as possible to rinse or wipe clean and let dry. Appliance repair person should check before reconnecting. Most motorized appliances can be saved.
  • Remove and discard wet insulation. Treat interior wall studs and plates with disinfectant to prevent growth of decay-causing organisms. Provide ventilation by opening windows and doors and using fans. Leave walls open for up to four weeks or until they have thoroughly dried. Delay permanent repairs until buildings are thoroughly dry (may be several weeks). If an air conditioner is available, use it to remove moisture. In homes that are not air-conditioned, open as many windows as possible. Use fans to circulate air.
  • Turn on electric lights in closets, and leave doors open to dry. Let lights stay on as long as dampness or high humidity is present to help dry and prevent mildew growth.
  • Brush off mold and mildew growth outdoors to prevent scattering of spores in the house. Run a vacuum cleaner attachment over the area to draw out more of the mold. Discard vacuum bag immediately.
  • Wipe mildew-stained area with cloth dampened with diluted alcohol: 1 cup rubbing (denatured) alcohol to 1 cup of water and dry thoroughly.