Floodwater can leave behind risks to health and safety. Follow these recommendations when cleaning up after a flood.
- When cleaning water-damaged areas, be sure to wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes to prevent cuts and scratches from debris.
- Floodwater can contain hazardous substances and sewage. If you have open cuts or sores exposed to the floodwater, keep them as clean as possible by washing them with soap and clean water. Apply antibiotic ointment to reduce the risk of infection. If a wound or sore develops redness, swelling or drainage, see a physician.
- Do not let children play in floodwater. Disinfect toys by washing them in one-quarter cup of bleach in one gallon of water.
- Always wash your hands with soap and water after cleanup activities and after handling articles contaminated by floodwater or sewage.
- Mold can become a problem in parts of your house or building exposed to floodwater. About mold and mold removal »
- Tetanus vaccination is recommended if it's been 10 years or more since you were last vaccinated. In the event of a puncture wound or wound contaminated with floodwater, individuals should consult a healthcare provider. Tetanus vaccinations are available at all county health departments.
Food Safety: Preventing Food-Borne Diseases
- If fresh fruits, vegetables and other produce have come into contact with floodwater, discard them.
- Throw away all screw cap or crimp cap containers that may have been submerged.
- If you lost power, discard any cold or cool food that has warmed. Food that is still frozen or cold (45 degrees Fahrenheit or less) is safe to prepare.
- Undamaged, commercially canned foods can be saved if you remove the labels and then disinfect the cans in a bleach solution. Use one-quarter cup of bleach in one gallon of water. Assume that home-canned food is unsafe.
- Discard baby formula that has come into contact with floodwater. If your water system is under a boil-water notice, boil water, then cool it, to prepare baby formula.
Preventing Waterborne Illness
Any loss or significant drop in your water pressure, even if it is brief, means that your water supply could be contaminated by groundwater. If you notice an interruption, loss of pressure, or significant drop in pressure in your water service, follow standard boil-water precautions below. If you are unsure of the safety of your water, contact your water supply operator.
If your area is officially notified that emergency water purification is necessary, MSDH advises the following:
- Vigorously boil water for at least a full minute before using.
- Treat chemically by adding unscented chlorine bleach in these amounts: two drops of bleach for each quart of clear water or four drops of bleach for each quart of muddy or dirty water. Let the water stand at least 30 minutes before using.
- Homeowners affected by flooding who receive their water from a private well should have the well inspected, disinfected and sampled in order to protect their health. See our step-by-step instructions on disinfecting your private water well.