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How to Clean and Restore Furniture After a Flood

Floods are terrifying, and they often strike with little to no warning. Dozens of homes or even entire neighborhoods can be devastated in a single day.

After all, we’re all at the mercy of Mother Nature, and, especially if you live in a more flood-prone place like Florida, New York, or Texas, floods are pretty much a reality that can happen every year.

We’ve outlined some good flood safety measures in our other post, but what to do about all the damage floods bring with themselves?

Floods can soak up pretty much all of our stuff, including furniture, flooring, and walls. A how-to-fix guide encompassing all of these would be too extensive and difficult to follow.

Hence, we’ve decided to focus today only on furniture – how to clean and recover wet furniture from a flood.

So, let’s get right into it!

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What to Do Before Beginning Furniture Recovery

Floods carry with them all sorts of hazardous waste and a plethora of contaminants. To sum them up, here are the three main hazards present in flooded buildings, according to the CDC:

  • Mold: Mold can fully grow in a building only 24 to 48 hours after a disaster. Mold produces mycotoxins, which can cause a variety of health issues, including coughing, sneezing, nausea, and diarrhea, as well as chronic fatigue, anxiety, and even depression.
  • Electrical hazards: If water gets into your wires, sockets, or other electrical equipment, you could get electrocuted. Many electrical items, even after considerable drying, can still pose a risk of injury and should therefore be removed.
  • Chemicals: This includes oil, paint, trash, pesticides, industrial and construction waste, along with biological waste, urine, feces, food waste, and many others.

We’re telling you this because we want to discourage you from cleaning up flooded rooms on your own. It’s incredibly dangerous, especially if you have a weak immune system or open wounds.

Another CDC article states that floodwaters can cause:

Floodwaters may also contain big and/or sharp objects that could cause severe injury upon impact. There may also be a risk of your walls or ceilings collapsing due to dampness.

Your furniture is likely soaked up with a lot of these contaminants, bacteria, and microbes. So, to clean it up, you’ll need to know exactly what you’re dealing with.

If you still wish to clean up your flooded furniture, make sure that floodwater is successfully cleaned up and removed and that mold has been either prevented or removed. But before you do…

Protective Clothing

As we’ve said, engaging in flood cleanup poses severe health risks. To protect yourself, wear appropriate protective clothing. Here’s a list of recommended things you should get:

  1. Disposable Coveralls:
    • Choose coveralls made of a durable and impermeable material to prevent floodwater from coming into direct contact with your skin. This is crucial. Consider Tyvek, polypropylene, or PVC (polyvinyl chloride) coveralls.
  2. Rubber Boots:
    • Wear knee-high, waterproof rubber boots. Look for ones with sealed seams to prevent water from seeping in through the stitching. Make sure they have slip-resistant soles and are also resistant to chemicals.
  3. Gloves:
    • Use heavy-duty rubber or nitrile gloves to protect your hands from direct contact with floodwater. Make sure they are long enough to cover your wrists.
  4. Face Mask or Respirator:
    • Use a face mask or respirator with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to prevent the inhalation of harmful airborne particles and odors (trust us, there’s plenty of that in flooded areas, like bacteria, viruses, and mold spores).
  5. Safety Goggles:
    • Protect your eyes too by wearing safety goggles. Choose goggles that meet or exceed ANSI Z87.1 standards for impact resistance. 
  6. Hard Hat:
    • If there is a risk of falling objects or low-hanging obstructions, consider wearing a hard hat for head protection.
  7. Disposable Shoe Covers:
    • These can provide an additional layer of protection for your footwear. Shoe covers with secure closures, such as elastic bands or adjustable straps, help ensure a snug fit around your shoes. 
  8. Waterproof Apron:
    • An apron can provide extra protection for your torso and clothing during cleanup. The apron is typically made from materials that repel water, such as vinyl, PVC (polyvinyl chloride), polyurethane, or other synthetic waterproof fabrics.
  9. Disposable Bags:
    • Use disposable bags for the safe disposal of contaminated clothing and materials, like double-bagging, for example.
  10. Antibacterial Wipes and Hand Sanitizer:
    • Keep these on hand for regular cleaning of your hands, especially if you need to touch your face or other surfaces.

Yes, you will get dressed like one of those crime scene cleaners you see on your favorite crime TV show.

If you think this is funny, think again. Do not proceed with cleaning up until you have protective clothing on. Okay, you perhaps do not need every item from this list, but your skin, body, and face should be protected.

Remove the Water and Dry Out the Room

Now that you’re ready, it’s time to first get rid of the floodwater itself.

You may need something as powerful as water extraction pumps to remove that amount of water. A wet/dry vacuum cleaner can help remove a decent amount of water too, but not the very large quantities usually present during flooding. 

You’ll also need dehumidifiers, air movers, and air purifiers to improve the air quality inside. Place the dehumidifiers in damaged rooms and let air movers target specific damp spots.

Place the pump in the flooded area and connect a hose to drain the water outside. Make sure that you properly dispose of the water. Do not pump water out too quickly, as it may overwhelm drainage systems.

Ensure that the extracted water is directed away from your home’s foundation. Use hoses or create channels to guide the water away.

Get a Professional Flood Damage Restoration Quote Nationwide!

As soon as you call the number below, you’ll be connected with a professional restoration company in your area. Free, with no advertising or commitment.

How to Repair Flood-Damaged Furniture

Okay, now we’re ready to tackle our furniture:

Wooden Furniture

Wood is porous, and if it absorbs enough water, it can start changing shape. At this point, it can be very hard to recover such wood. 

Wood furniture is made either of solid wood, like oak, maple, mahogany, or pine, or from engineered hardwood, like plywood, particleboard, and MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard). Solid wood tends to be more porous and therefore more prone to getting damaged by water.

Focus on cleaning and drying the furniture. Wipe it down gently with a soft cloth or sponge, while avoiding abrasive materials that could scratch the wood.

Place the furniture in a well-ventilated area for drying and open windows for air circulation. Try removing drawers and doors to allow better airflow and drying. Put air movers or fans next to it.

If the wood started warping and drying doesn’t help, you’ll likely need to replace those items.

Metal Furniture

Metal furniture is typically made out of steel, iron, or aluminum. As we all know, metal is not porous. Metals are dense and solid, composed of tightly packed atoms or molecules with very little space between them.

However, while metals themselves may not be porous, they are still susceptible to corrosion, rusting, or oxidation that happens when there’s moisture.

If your metal furniture has been exposed to water, the concern is often addressing the corrosion.

For this purpose, you can use:

1. Vinegar:

  • Mix a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water.
  • Apply the solution to the corroded areas using a soft cloth or sponge.
  • Allow the vinegar solution to sit for a few minutes to dissolve rust.
  • Scrub gently with a soft brush or steel wool.

2. Commercial Rust Remover:

  • Follow the instructions on a commercial rust remover product.
  • Apply the rust remover to the affected areas.
  • Allow it to sit for the recommended duration.
  • Scrub gently with a brush or steel wool.

Once you’re done, rinse the metal with water again to remove any remainders of the cleaning solution, and quickly dry it out right after.

Upholstery

Upholstery refers to the covering of furniture such as sofas, chairs, and cushions. Upholstery can also be porous, depending on the type of fabric or material used. Here are some common upholstery materials and how porous each of them is:

  1. Natural Fabrics:
    • Cotton: Natural and breathable, cotton upholstery can be very porous and prone to water damage.
    • Linen: Also a natural fabric with breathable characteristics, but it can also absorb water.
  2. Synthetic Fabrics:
    • Polyester: Often less porous than natural fabrics.
    • Nylon: Also resists moisture.
  3. Leather:
    • Genuine Leather: Not porous in the same way that fabrics are. It has a natural resistance to liquids, though it varies based on the leather type. Full-grain leather, which retains the outer layer of the hide, is generally more porous compared to other types of leather.
    • Faux Leather (PU or PVC): Less porous than genuine leather.

When talking water damage cleanup, consider what type of material you’re dealing with. Cotton, for instance, can quickly get soaked up and eaten up by mold (think of sofas or chairs).

It’s recommended that you throw away soaked-up upholstery, as it can not only get soaked up a lot in a short amount of time, but it will also absorb all of the pathogens the water carries with itself. This is especially true if there’s mold and mildew.

Plastic Furniture

While plastic itself is non-porous, the seams, joints, or connections between plastic pieces may have areas where moisture can seep through.

Rinse the plastic items with clean water to remove any surface dirt or mud. Mix a solution of mild detergent and water and use a soft sponge or cloth to clean the surfaces thoroughly.

Create a disinfecting solution by mixing water with a household disinfectant or bleach (follow the product’s instructions for dilution).

Place the plastic items in the solution or wipe them down with a cloth soaked in the same solution. Ensure that all surfaces are covered and allow the disinfectant to sit for the recommended time.

When it comes to mold, it generally doesn’t eat plastic itself, but the organic components of the same items can be infected by mold. Therefore, make sure everything is dry before storing your items.

Wicker, Rattan, and Bamboo

While they’re technically not wood, similar rules apply. These are porous too, although the weaving pattern can also influence the level of porosity, with tighter weaves being less porous.

The flood recovery process for these items is similar. Water and white vinegar for disinfection, or a commercial mold killer. Dehumidifiers and air movers for drying.

Glass

Unless it’s broken into pieces, your glass furniture can be recovered and cleaned up with relative ease, given that it’s not porous. 

Clean the glass surfaces using a soft cloth or sponge and gently wipe away any dirt or contaminants. Use a mixture of water and mild disinfectant for sanitization.

Now, if you wish to fix broken glass, that’s a topic for a completely separate post

Stone

While stone, especially granite, is not as porous as wood or upholstery, it can still absorb some amount of water.

Same story here; make sure to thoroughly dry out the room and items in it. For disinfection, a mixture of water and white vinegar will suffice.

If your stone furniture was previously sealed, check the condition of the sealant. It may need to be reapplied after water exposure.

Concrete

When talking about concrete, freshly poured concrete is more porous than cured or hardened concrete and more prone to water damage.

Use a pressure washer to clean the concrete surfaces. This helps remove mud, silt, and contaminants. For disinfection, use the same mix we recommended for stone items – water and vinegar.

If efflorescence (white, powdery deposits) is present, brush or vacuum it off.

Also, check for cracks. For small cracks, use a concrete patching compound. For larger cracks, consult with a professional for appropriate repairs.

And lastly, if you haven’t already, consider applying a concrete sealer to enhance moisture resistance.

Conclusion

And that’s it! It’s important to note that almost all types of furniture will eventually get really damaged if exposed to floodwater for a long enough timeframe. Hence, it’s important that you act quickly to minimize damage.

Make sure to hire a professional flood damage restoration company if you can’t cleanup the flood on your own. Use RepairSprout to find a flood recovery pro near you!

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