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How To Clean Flood Damaged Clothes - Laundry After A Flood


How To Clean Flood Damaged Clothes - Laundry After A Flood

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Flood water contains bacteria that must be removed from water damaged clothing. Learn the proper steps to clean and disinfect flood damaged washable clothes. To care for dry-clean only clothes, read this information.

Specific questions? Just ask here.

Difficulty: Average
Time Required: several hours to several days

Here's How:

  1. As soon as possible, sort soiled clothes into piles of washable clothes and dry clean only. These instructions are for washable clothes. Dry clean only instructions can be found here.
  2. Sort washable clothes into whites and colored clothing. Do not leave wet colored clothes mixed with whites because dye transfer can occur.
  3. Using a hose, rinse as much mud as possible from the clothing. Do not put mud-covered clothing directly in the washer because the sludge can overwhelm the washer's drainage system.
  4. Wash the clothes in the hottest water recommended for the fabric. To disinfect, for white cotton fabrics, add 1 cup chlorine bleach in the wash cycle. For fabrics that cannot be washed with chlorine bleach (spandex, wool, silk, colored clothes), add 1 cup of pine oil disinfectant such as Pine-Sol or 1 cup of phenolic disinfectant such as Lysol to the wash.
  5. After washing with disinfectant, inspect clothing for remaining stains. If stains remain, do not dry the clothing. Allow soiled clothing to soak overnight in a solution of oxygen-based bleach (OxiClean, Clorox 2, Country Save Bleach, Purex 2 Color Safe Bleach) and then wash with regular laundry detergent.
  6. Dry clothing in a dryer at the highest heat recommended for the clothing to help kill bacteria. White clothes can be hung outside in the sun where ultraviolet rays will help kill bacteria.


  1. Do not sort wet, contaminated clothing on surfaces where bacteria can be spread. Clean every surface that comes in contact with the contaminated clothing.
  2. Do not store wet clothing in plastic bags which will encourage mildew growth and stains. If you cannot clean clothes immediately, do not leave in a wet pile. Spread out the dirty clothes and allow them to dry individually before washing if necessary.
  3. If your washer has been contaminated with flood waters, it should be cleaned and disinfected before using. It should also be checked by a technician to be sure it is safe to use.
  4. If the soil in the flood waters is high in iron content, chlorine bleach can cause rust spots to appear on clothing. Separate treatment will be needed to remove the rust stains.

What You Need

  • Hose
  • Washer and Dryer
  • Chlorine Bleach, Pine Sol or Lysol
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