water damageYou come home after work or get to the office and find out that your home or office has been flooded, you have water damage.  You see damaged items and start to look for where the water came from.  One of the last things on your mind is quality of the air your breathing.

Standing water that has come in contact with organic materials such as the paper facing on drywall, the wood trim work the wood framing inside the walls, books, boxes, wool carpet etc becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, viruses, and mold.  Even if the water was from a clean source such as a burst pipe after 24 to 48 hours microorganisms have begun to grow.  If the water came from an unclean source it most likely already contains bacteria, viruses and other pathogens.

Note: these microorganisms can become airborne and once airborne you can inhale them.

Clean up is basic but must be done right.

  • First remove any standing water.
  • Dry out the structure and contents quickly
  • Disinfect as necessary

Let me stress “Dry the structure and contents quickly”  the longer they remain wet the more they can breed microorganisms.  Most professional companies will target 24 hours to get eh humidity below 60% and 72 hours to have the structure returned to a moisture level consistent with a pre-loss condition.

To dry a structure this quickly you will need industrial equipment. You will need to force the moisture out of the wet materials capture that moisture and dispose of it.  Understanding how the structure is built is necessary to dry it quickly.  Insulated walls or ceiling will retain more moisture longer so you most likely will need to remove the insulation. Areas that you can not see where water and pool need to be opened up and dried, like under your kitchen and bathroom base cabinets

Special care need to be taken with contents.  Some example to consider, if your leather couch has been sitting in water for 2 days you will NOT want to keep it.  The wood frame and leather itself has become infected with too many microorganisms for you to clean properly.  Books should be flash frozen then freeze dried to stop the pages from deforming.

Although some materials such as synthetic carpets can be dried properly carpet has a lot of embedded organic material in them like pet dander and human skin cells to name a few.  You may want to replace these from an indoor air quality point of view.

Cleaning up after a flood should involve washing and disinfecting of the walls, floors, closets, shelves, and contents of the house.  In some cases the household cleaners you use may compound the indoor air quality issues.  FEMA suggests that the heating and air conditioning systems and duct work be cleaned and disinfected.


In a flood situation the indoor air quality can be compromised by not only the microorganisms that were spawned by the flood but also by the disinfectants and cleaners that are used in the clean up.  When the structure needs to opened up for drying, issues of lead paint and asbestos can become an issue.

It is best to call a professional that understands these issues and can minimize and mitigate them in the dry out process.