October 11, 2022

EPIC Exchange
Click to subscribe to newsletter and announcements button

 Please share this resource with your colleagues and networks. Visit CDC Emergency Preparedness & Response for more information.  

Image of cleaning supplies including gloves, brushes, sponge and cleaning solutions.

When returning to a home that’s been flooded after natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods, be aware that your house may be contaminated with mold or sewage, which can cause health risks for you and your family.

People involved in disaster relief and cleanup need to be protected from infectious diseases, chemical exposures, radiation, electrical shock, and potential fire hazards. Take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones during your cleanup after a flood. Follow our cleanup tips and monitor your radio or television for up-to-date emergency information. For more information, visit Clean Up Safely After a Disaster.

For more resources on cleaning up your flooded home, visit EPA’s Flooded Homes Cleanup Guidance.

General Safety Tips

Get the right safety gear

  • Hard hats
  • Goggles
  • N-95 respirator (or a respirator with a higher protection level)
  • Heavy work gloves
  • Waterproof boots with steel toe and insole (not just steel shank)
  • Earplugs or protective headphones (if you’re working with noisy equipment)
  • At least two fire extinguishers (each with a UL rating of at least 10A)
  • For more information on what to wear during cleanup, see What to Wear when Cleaning up Debris and Household Waste after a Disaster.

If sewage is involved, make sure to wear the following during your cleanup:

  • Rubber boots
  • Rubber gloves
  • Goggles

Use teams to move heavy/bulky objects

  • Have teams of at least two people work together to move heavy or bulky objects.
  • Avoid lifting any material that weighs more than 50 pounds (per person).

Pace yourself

Cleaning up your home can be a big job. Be sure to take care of yourself:

  • Rest when you need to.
  • Decide which cleanup tasks are most important and focus on those first. That way, you’re less likely to be overwhelmed.
  • Get help lifting heavy or bulky objects. If you lift too much on your own, you could hurt yourself.
  • Try to work with other people, so you aren’t alone.
  • Get support from family members, friends, counselors, or therapists.

Take precautions when using a chain saw

  • When using a chain saw, always follow manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure to wear appropriate protective gear and be sure that bystanders are a safe distance away.
  • Avoid contact with power lines and take extra care in cutting trees or branches that are bent or caught under something else.
  • Use extreme caution to avoid electrical shock when using an electric chain saw.
  • For tips on safely operating a chain saw, see Preventing Chain Saw Injuries During Tree Removal After a Disaster.

Stay safe in hot weather

  • In hot weather, try to stay cool by staying in air-conditioned buildings, taking breaks in shaded areas or in cool rooms, drinking water and nonalcoholic fluids often, and wearing light and loose-fitting clothing.
  • Do outdoor activities during cooler hours.

If air conditioning is not available in your home

  • Contact your local health department or locate an air-conditioned shelter in your area.
  • Spend some time at a shopping mall or public library—even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help.
  • Take cool showers or baths.
  • Don’t rely solely on fans to keep you cool. While electric fans might provide some comfort, when temperatures are really hot, they won’t prevent heat-related illness.

For more information on protecting yourself against heat-related illness, see the CDC Extreme Heat Web site.


Prevent mold growth

  • Clean up and dry your home quickly after the storm or flood ends—within 24 to 48 hours if possible.
  • Air out your house by opening doors and windows. Use fans to dry wet areas. Position fans to blow air outdoors or windows.
  • Throw away anything that you can’t clean or dry quickly (such as mattresses, carpeting, carpet padding, rugs, upholstered furniture, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, pillows, foam-rubber items, books, wall coverings, and paper products).
  • Remove and discard drywall and insulation that has been contaminated with sewage or flood waters.
  • Thoroughly clean all wet items and surfaces with hot water and laundry or dish detergent. For example, you’ll want to clean any flooring, concrete, molding, wood and metal furniture, countertops, appliances, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures.
  • Fix any leaks in roofs, walls, or plumbing as soon as you can.

Clean up mold with a mix of bleach and water

Keep Children Safe During Disaster Cleanup

  • Keep children and pets away from debris.
  • Children should not help with cleanup.
  • Do not use N-95 respirators on children.
  • Do not allow children to play in moving or standing water.
  • Children should cover their arms, legs, and feet when outside.
  • Use insect repellent with DEET or Picaridin on children when outside.
  • Keep children away from dead or stray animals.
  • Disinfect toys with diluted bleach. When in doubt, throw toys out.
  • Wash hands with soap and clean water. Clean and cover open wounds.

Additional Resources

Contact Us

Email Icon

Email: EPIC@cdc.gov

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Rd
Atlanta, GA 30329 

Contact CDC-INFO
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: 888-232-6348