Flood Water Clean-up Tips

Report Waterway Debris

Report debris at 1-877-WARN-DEP or at waterwaydebris@dep.state.nj.us. Find additional information here.

Returning Home Requires Caution

Take care to follow these tips:

  • Return home only after authorities advise it is safe to do so. Keep tuned to your local radio and TV stations for recovery information.
  • Beware of downed or loose power lines. Report them immediately to the power company, police or fire department.
  • Drive only if absolutely necessary. Avoid flooded roads and washed-out bridges.
  • Enter your home with caution.
    • Beware of snakes, insects and other animals driven to higher ground by floodwater.
    • Upon re-entering the dwelling, clean and disinfect everything that was touched by floodwaters or mudflows, and throw out any affected foodstuffs.
    • Open windows and doors to ventilate and dry your home.
    • Do not use candles or open flames indoors. Use a flashlight to inspect for damage.
    • Check refrigerated foods for spoilage.
    • Use the telephone for emergency calls only.
    • Check for structural damage before re-entering your home. Do NOT go in if there is a chance the building will collapse.

Inside Your Home

Once you have been told that it is safe to return to your home you must be careful to thoroughly clean the area. Storm waters can easily mix with sewage and other impurities so every precaution should be taken to protect yourself and your family.

  • Keep children and pets out of the affected area until clean-up has been completed.

  • Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles during cleanup of affected area.

  • Remove and discard items that cannot be washed and disinfected (such as, mattresses, carpeting, carpet padding, rugs, upholstered furniture, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, pillows, foam-rubber items, books, wall coverings, and most paper products).

  • Remove and discard drywall and insulation that has been contaminated with sewage or flood waters.

  • Thoroughly clean all hard surfaces (such as flooring, concrete, molding, wood and metal furniture, countertops, appliances, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures) with hot water and laundry or dish detergent.

  • Help the drying process by using fans, air conditioning units, and dehumidifiers.

  • After completing the clean-up, wash your hands with soap and water. Use water that has been boiled for 1 minute (allow the water to cool before washing your hands.) You may also use water that has been disinfected for personal hygiene use (solution of 1/2 teaspoon of household bleach per 1 gallon of water). Let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy, use a solution of 1/4 teaspoon of household bleach per 1 gallon of water.

  • Wash all clothes worn during the cleanup in hot water and detergent. These clothes should be washed separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens.

  • Wash clothes contaminated with flood or sewage water in hot water and detergent. It is recommended that a laundromat be used for washing large quantities of clothes and linens until your onsite waste-water system has been professionally inspected and serviced.

  • Seek immediate medical attention if you become injured or ill.

The North Dakota State University website offers access to many helpful and informative booklets and videos pertaining to flood recovery. Their Flood Recovery Checklists include details on how to properly clean your home and the items within it, as well as how to recover your garden and landscapes, recommendations regarding financial recovery and much more. This booklet was published by the North Dakota State University Extension Service and as such includes local resource information that does not apply to residents of New Jersey but all other information in the booklet will prove quite useful.

Asbestos and Lead-Based Paint

New Jersey's Department of Health continues to remind residents of the importance of being aware that buildings and homes may contain asbestos since it was a common building material. Anyone who is removing walls or other parts of homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy should be cautious and determine if asbestos is present prior to removal. Home or business owners should first determine if the house or building contains asbestos by contracting with a professional asbestos inspector certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to conduct an inspection and take samples of any suspected asbestos-containing material. Anyone hired to remove asbestos must be licensed by the Department of Labor. Extensive training is required, including how to use personal protection equipment. While a homeowner is not required to be licensed, it is strongly recommend that only licensed professionals remove asbestos.

Additionally, if a home or building was built prior to 1978, it is important to test the paint before doing any renovation or remodeling of painted surfaces. If lead is detected, take all necessary precautions to ensure that lead-painted building components are removed in a safe manner. Protect your family and home - set up safely, control the dust, and clean up completely. For tips on protecting yourself from lead dust while doing repairs visit this EPA site. It is important to note that any contractors hired to conduct renovation work in homes built before 1978, must have received lead-safe training and are certified by the USEPA.

Flood Fire Safety

The U.S. Fire Administration encourages you to use the following safety tips to help protect yourself, your family and your home from the potential threat of fire during or after a flood. You can greatly reduce your chances of becoming a fire casualty by being able to identify potential hazards and following safety guidelines.

Types of Fire Related Hazards Present During and After a Flood

  • Generators are often used during power outages. Unless generators are properly used and maintained, they can be very hazardous.
  • Alternative heating devices used incorrectly create fire hazards. Proper use and maintenance can decrease the possibility of a fire.
  • Leaking above ground gas lines, damaged or leaking gas or propane containers, and leaking vehicle gas tanks may explode or ignite.
  • Pools of water and even appliances can be electrically charged. This can result in a dangerous electrical fire.
    Appliances that have been exposed to water can short and become a fire hazard.

Learn what you can do to avoid fires after a flood.

Further Reference Sources

For general information, contact the NJ Office of Emergency Management or the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

An informational brochure Flooding Hazards: What You Need to Know is available from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

Sources include:


Page last modified/reviewed on January 15, 2018

If you know of additional resources that would be appropriate to include in this section, please let us know by contacting us via e-mail at info@nj211.org

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