We all know how dangerous and devastating floods can be. But, even after you clean out all the water and dirt, there are still consequences of the disaster. If the water has reached your wardrobe, it could have ruined your clothes. They could be messy, damp, or just unusable. If you have suffered a flood, after hiring a professional cleaning and possibly moving and storage company, and dealt with water and flood damage restoration, it’s time to clean your things. In this article, we will talk about how you can save clothes after a flood.

Reasons to Save Clothes After a Flood

Some might wonder why the clothes would need saving after a flood – it’s just some water. Why can’t a simple drying help?

Water that comes with floods is very dangerous. Various bacteria and microorganisms inhabit it. When the water reaches your clothing, these microbes stay on the clothes and endanger your health. This is why it’s very important to think about the ways to save clothes after a flood.

Another reason for this is that, depending on the type of the flood, other materials might be involved in ruining your clothes too. Some floods carry with them mud or soil. Depending on what the flood brought with it, there are various steps you need to take to clean your clothes.

Sorting, Washing & Drying

Sometimes washing the clothes can seem like a daunting process.
Sometimes washing the clothes can seem like a daunting process.

The first thing to do is sort your clothes. First, sort them by washable and dry-clean only clothes. After that, sort the washable clothes by the color – remove whites from the colored items. You need to do this because colored clothing can have a dye that can stain and permanently color, and thus damage, your white clothes. Also, cleaning anything that comes into contact with wet clothes should be your priority. You do not want bacteria to spread on the clean surfaces, too. If there are clothes that cannot be cleaned immediately, sort them out and dry them individually (if necessary). It is really important to get your clothes dries as soon as possible because bacteria prosper in damp surroundings. This is why you must not keep your wet clothes in a pile or in a plastic bag. This can lead to the creation of mildew or staining.

When washing the clothes, there are certain things to look after. If the items are stained by mud or soil, you should rinse them off as thoroughly as possible with a hose before washing them. This is because mud can damage the washing machine’s drainage system, and you don’t want your machine to overflow. If the soil had a high content of iron, bleach that contains chlorine can cause rust spots to appear on your clothes. These will need to be taken to a professional cleaner.

Disinfecting your Clothes

As for removing the bacteria and microbes from your clothes, bleach in the wash cycle is often enough. For white cotton fabrics, you can use a cup of chlorine bleach. If you can’t use bleach when washing your clothes (when washing wool, spandex, silk, colored items, and similar fabrics), you can either use a cup of pine oil disinfectant (such as Pine-Sol) or a cup of phenolic disinfectant (such as Lysol).

If you notice staining after washing the clothes, do not dry them. This will lock in the stains and you won’t be able to get rid of them. Instead, dip them overnight in a solution of oxygen-based bleach (OxiClean, Clorox 2). After that, wash them with a regular detergent.

Clothes hanging on a wire between buildings
Ultraviolet rays are deadly to bacteria.

To kill bacteria, dry them in the drier at the highest heat recommended for the item. You can also hang white clothes in the sun since the ultraviolet rays are deadly to bacteria.

If the flood reached your washer, you need to take care of that before doing the laundry. Clean it thoroughly and disinfect it. It is also a good idea to have a technician check to see if it is safe to use.

How to Handle Dry Clean Only Clothes

When it comes to dry cleaning clothes, the process might be a bit tougher. Here, you need to decide whether the cost of dry cleaning the item multiple times is less than the money it would take you to replace it. Sometimes, it is more cost-efficient to just buy a new garment.

If you are keeping them, and the clothes are covered in mud, you will need to rinse them with a hose just like the regular clothes. Again, do not keep them in stacks or bags because this can lead to mildew and mold. Instead, dry them away from direct heat and sun. After they are dry, take them to the dry cleaners’. The dry cleaning process itself will disinfect your clothes. Be sure to tell the dry cleaner the clothes have suffered the flood.

Use different cleaning products to save clothes after a flood.
Use different products to save clothes after a flood.

Things to Remember when trying to Save Clothes After a Flood

  1. Shake off the mud. This is so you don’t damage your washing machine.
  2. Prewash in cool water. Make sure you check whether your washing machine has this step incorporated in its washing cycle. If not, you need to wash them using powdered laundry detergent. Use these detergents to remove clay and ground dirt. If there is a lot of clothes, you can use the hose to do this, or divide them into smaller loads.
  3. Pretreat soil stains. There are two types of stains, and thus two different products you need to use. For oil-based stains, such as animal fats, body oils, cooking oils, cosmetics, and motor oils, use a prewash soil and stain remover. For protein-based stains, such as blood, body fluids, sewage and grass, use an enzyme presoak product.
  4. Wash your clothes with the highest temperature recommended. In order to save clothes after a flood, you need to kill all the microorganisms that the water brought. Depending on the materials, use different bleaches to speed up this process. Make sure you clean your clothes properly before storing them in your closet or storage unit.
  5. Don’t dry your clothes in the dryer until you are completely satisfied. Sometimes you might need to wash your clothes more than once. If there are stains on them after the first wash, don’t throw them into the dryer because that can lock in the stains. Wash them as many times as necessary, repeating the steps.

We really hope you will recover quickly and minimize the damage that has been made. If you plan on moving, keep in mind that there are many advantages of renting storage until you find a new home. Good luck!


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