How to Clean Up Water Damage to Your Home

How to Clean Up Water Damage to Your Home

Pearl PhotoPix /

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on LawnStarter.

As a homeowner, it is inevitable that you will have to contend with water damage of any kind.

Leaking toilets, aging water heaters, and frozen pipes are common occurrences in an aging home, so knowing how to fix water damage when it occurs is important.

safety first

Concerned HomeownerBearPhotos /

After stopping the initial flood of water in your home, it’s time to begin water damage restoration.

First and foremost, it is important to ensure a safe working environment for you and all employees.

Turn off the power

Electrician turns off the electricity at the fuse box.Toidi /

In homes with significant water damage, it is possible for electrical wiring to come into contact with moisture.

This poses a risk of electrocution for workers in and around the affected area.

To eliminate the possibility of electrocution, homeowners should go to their circuit breaker panel and turn off the power to the area of ​​the home that has been flooded.

Determine the type of water

A home in suburban Houston was flooded by Hurricane Harvey in 2017Michelmond/

Identifying the type of water that caused the damage is critical to assessing the proper protective gear to wear during the cleanup. Here are the different types of water and the potential dangers they pose to individuals.

Clean water (category 1)

Water outlet from stainless steel pipeAndrey_Popov /

Clean water is water from a clean source. Leaking sinks, shower faucets, rain, snow, and water heaters can all be causes of clean water damage.

This water poses no danger to the cleaner.

Gray water (category 2)

Washing machine with a water leakTommy Stock Project /

Gray water is contaminated water. Water from washing machines and dishwashers mixed with cleaners, food or detergents is considered gray water.

This type of water poses a potential hazard to the cleaner.

Blackwater (Category 3)

house floodJay Ch /

The most dangerous water category is black water. This water is heavily polluted and typically comes from flood water or sewage.

Blackwater poses a significant health risk to those who come into contact with it. Professionals should be contacted if blackwater is determined to be the source of your water damage.

Look for health risks

Woman looks at a moldy wallBurdun Ilia /

When assessing health risks, you should look for black water, mold, mildew, fungal spores and bacterial growth.

Areas with mold and fungus can pose health risks to the cleaner. In extreme situations, exposure to these pollutants can result in illness and death.

wear protective gear

Woman in a mask cleaning glass with a disinfectantAnton27/

M95 respirators, goggles, rubber boots, and protective gloves are essential personal protective equipment when cleaning up and restoring water damage.

If you do not have access to proper protective equipment, you should consult a professional to avoid health problems and ensure proper cleaning.

Confirm that there is no structural damage

water damageTom Gowanlock/

Inspect and test the integrity of the building material at the site of the water damage.

Just hours after building materials are exposed to water, they can begin to deteriorate.

If the structure of the house is compromised, a professional should be consulted and measures taken to protect workers during the repair process.

Clean up

man with cleaning suppliesAfrica Studio /

Once you’ve made sure that the website is safe and threat-free, it’s time to start cleaning. Getting rid of moisture is the first step.

The longer your home stays wet, the more likely it is that mold and bacteria will start to grow. Here are some tips to start the cleanup process.

get rid of water

Mop with a bucket in the backgroundMark McElroy /

The key to minimizing damage is to reduce the amount of standing water as quickly as possible. After stemming the flow of water, use towels, sponges, and buckets to remove excess water.

Remove debris from clogged drains and use submersible pumps, bilge pumps, and wet/dry vacuums to remove water from the affected area if the water volume is large enough to require it.

Retrieve salvageable items

Man moves couch outsideElnur /

If you acted quickly enough, some items that were exposed to moisture can be salvaged.

Wooden furniture usually begins to swell and become damaged after just a few hours of exposure to water. Quickly removing and drying these items will help prevent losses.

When fabrics are exposed to moisture, drying as quickly as possible is key to preventing mold growth.

At this point in the process, it’s a good time to document the damaged and unsavable items for your home insurance.


Large black metallic fan close-upbadahos /

After removing as much standing water as possible, begin recirculating air to reduce moisture and start the drying process.

Opening windows, turning on ceiling fans, and using powerful shop fans and air movers are great ways to increase airflow in a water-damaged home. You should keep these fans on throughout the cleanup process.

Be careful when turning on your HVAC system as it may have been contaminated during the flooding. Have the system checked to prevent mold from spreading throughout the house.

In addition to using fans and your HVAC system to circulate air throughout your home, consider purchasing dehumidifiers to help remove moisture from the air.

absorb residual moisture

Texture of new silica gel crystals.  It's a desiccant.  It adsorbs and holds water vapor.Zay Nyi Nyi /

Moisture-wicking materials help absorb and trap moisture in hard-to-reach places.

Industrial spill absorbents, silica desiccants, and kitty litter are some of the readily available materials that you can distribute to help remove water from the affected area.

Let this material sit until the dry vacuum phase of the cleaning comes later.

Remove damaged material

Water damage on the parquet floorJatuporn Chainiramitkul /

Certain porous materials can easily soak up water. Materials such as drywall, hardwood floors, and subfloors should be removed once they become inundated with water.

Flaking or flaking materials should be scraped from the ceiling to the floor during this time.

Vacuum dry/sweep/garbage

Dusting broom and dustpan dustpanwavebreakmedia /

At this point, a large amount of debris should be spread around the affected area, including bits of recently removed building material and the moisture-absorbing desiccants.

You should vacuum, shovel or sweep up this material and dispose of it properly based on its recyclability and environmental impact.

Clean hard surfaces

A woman in a mask with household disinfectantsAndrew Angelov /

Once the large debris is removed, hard surfaces should be cleaned with disinfectant soap and bleach and water solutions.

These measures are designed to kill bacteria and mold on hard surfaces and prevent future growth.

steam cleaning

steam cleaning roomXArtProduction /

Steam cleaning floors is a final step in the cleaning process.

Hot water from superheated steam extracts and kills mold, bacteria and mildew, providing an extra layer of protection against future growth.

Remember that fans and ventilation should be active throughout the cleaning process to ensure all affected areas dry.

repair and replacement

repair at homeFernandoMadeira /

After completing all the cleaning steps, now it’s time to start the repair and replacement.

At this point, new materials can be incorporated. In the event that the work exceeds your expertise, be sure to consult a restoration services expert to ensure a proper repair and replacement.

Related Services

contractors with homeownersSean Locke Photography /

When water damage occurs, homeowners often experience damage to other parts of their property. Here are related services that homeowners will find valuable.

mold remediation

Old house ceilingTom Gowanlock/

Significant water damage that persists for more than 24 hours will result in mold and may require remediation services. Mold remediation costs typically range from $1,373 to $3,325, with an average price of $2,347.


corner of the houseJasmine Sahin /

Are gutters really necessary?

The lack of gutters and improper gutter installation can cause water to pool in the wrong places or drain into basements. The average cost of gutters ranges from $888 to $2,496.

Clean up your yard after a hurricane

Hurricane Harvey damaged homes and yardsGood Moments /

Typhoons and significant weather events can not only cause water damage to your home, but can also wreak havoc on your yard. How you clean up your yard after the hurricane is an important part of the water damage restoration process.

Help your lawn recover from flood damage

Water pours from gutters and drainpipesUrsula Page /

A flood causes water damage to your home and significant damage to your yard. In most cases, homeowners need to help their lawn recover from flood damage.