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How to Clean Up a Flooded Basement Quickly

Updated on August 19, 2012

If you have a basement that is flooded, here are quick and simple steps to clean up and prevent further damage. These instructions and the work can be moderately difficult.

Some of the things you will need are:

Utility Pump

Shop Vac

Steam Cleaner

Mop and Bucket

Big sponges



Electric Fan

You should always have these items on hand. If you are in an emergency situation, the store may be closed or run out of an item that you desperately need. If you have a sump pump, you should get a back up pump or utility pump in case in case there is a problem and you need to continuously discharge water. Having a backup will allow to work on a flood immediately instead of waiting for an undetermined amount of time. There could be situations where it can be unsafe to go out of the house after a large storm or the store could run out of supplies and may not be able to get additional items for a week or more.

Safety should always be a priority. Recognize any electrical hazards before you handle a flood problem yourself.

First and foremost, turn off the circuit breaker to the basement, if not the entire house (to be extra-careful). If you have live electrical appliances in contact with water, you could be electrocuted. With a flashlight, unplug any appliances or anything plugged into the wall outlet.

Once the electrical hazards are removed, fix the source of the water problem. Examples and solutions are below.

If you have a broken or malfunctioning sump pump, repair or replace it immediately.

If you have a backed up sewer line, clear the lines with an auger or hire a professional.

If you have excess water runoff from your yard coming into the basement, divert the water away from the house.

If you have a broken water main in the house, turn off the water main and call a professional.

If you have a broken water main outside the house, the location of the broken pipe could be very difficult to find. Turn off the water main and call a professional.

Usually the flooding will occur during heavy storms with large amounts of rainfall. In some cases, flooding may not occur until the weather has stabilized. For example, if the ground is saturated with water and the sump pump receives and discharges the same water. The sump pump could overheat and fail.

If it is safe to drain the water, begin cleaning up immediately. If the power is off due to the storm, shut off the electricity power main in the house in case the power goes back on again. There could be a potential that electrical devices are wet. This could lead to electrocution.

The need for a new sump pump could occur in an inopportune time when everyone else has a flooding problem. If this is the case, get any type of water pump you can get such as a utility pump. It’s better than nothing and you can always get the correct one later.

If you have pumped out enough water, you can use a shop vac to remove the remaining puddles. But if you don't have a shop vac, a steam cleaner set to just suck water will be a good substitute. Using only mop will take more work.

Areas that can't be dried up with a shop vac or steam cleaner will have to be reached by mop or a large sponge.

Be sure to avoid any electrical hazards before using any equipment or devices requiring electricity. Make sure that the contacts are dry and that no water will get in and around the equipment. Also ensure that your hands are dry before you plug in a power cord.

Get a dehumidifier and turn it on at full power. Get at least one fan and turn it on at the highest setting. This will dry up the basement faster and reduce the chances of molds and bacteria growing and multiplying out of control.

Move any object that is wet such as boxes, area rugs, blankets, stuffed animals, etc., to a drier area.

If you have cleaned up the basement, call a professional to ensure that any mold or bacterial problems are completely removed. Mold can hide under carpeting and behind drywall. Professional mold testers can be expensive but they have better tools for detecting molds that are hidden. They can ensure that mold and bacterial hazards are removed. Mold detection test kits can be found in stores but reliability of these products are questionable.

If you have a water heater, air conditioning system, central heating, or other utility systems you will need a professional to fix any water damage that has occurred to them.

Contact your homeowners insurance to see what is covered and what is not. Don't tackle this type of problem by yourself. Always get help if the problems that require technical skills are over and above your capabilities.


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