Here’s What to Do If You Have Water-Damaged Floors

Paige Bennett
Written by Paige Bennett
Updated October 25, 2021
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When time is of the essence, learn how to dry, clean, and sanitize flooded floors

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Coming home to a flooded floor can strike panic in the heart of any homeowner. But before your despair, you can start drying, cleaning, and sanitizing floors ASAP to try to mitigate damage. Follow these tips to take care of flooded floors and restore them to their former glory.

Safety First

Before getting started, make sure your electricity is shut off in the flooded area to prevent electrocution hazards. If the electrical box is located in a damp or flooded area, call an electrician to assist you. 

You should also wear protective gear like durable boots, gloves, goggles, long pants, and a mask before you start flooded floor remediation.

Remove Water

If you have sitting water, you’ll need to remove it quickly before it causes serious water damage to your floors and the rest of your home.

  • Bucket: Use a plastic bucket to start scooping up the water from the floors.

  • Wet-Dry Vacuum: A wet-dry vacuum will be able to help remove about 5 to 10 gallons of water per minute. Do not use regular vacuums for sucking up water, as they aren’t designed to handle water and pose an electrocution risk.

  • Squeegee: After you remove most of the water, use a squeegee to push smaller puddles of standing water outside or towards the wet-dry vac for collection.

  • Mop: Finally, use a mop to soak up any last bits of water on the floors.

Dry Floors and Subfloors

Electric fan turned on drying hardwood floors
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Water damage can start within one hour of a flood, and mold can start growing within 24 hours. Drying out the room as quickly as possible is crucial to saving flooded floors. Leave fans, dehumidifiers, and the air conditioner constantly running to help dry out the room.

  • Windows: So long as the weather is favorable, preferably dry and sunny, open up the windows to help circulate fresh air.

  • Air Conditioners: Air conditioners don’t just cool the air inside your home. They also can dry out the air.

  • Fans: Turn on fans to circulate air.

  • Dehumidifiers: Dehumidifiers will help remove humidity from the air.

Clean Flooded Floors

Once you’ve removed the bulk of the water and started the drying process, you will want to get a jump on cleaning your flood-damaged home to remove any mud, dirt, or other debris. If the floors are muddy after the flooding, shovel out the mud before you start cleaning the floors.

Carpeted Floors

As soon as you can, remove the carpet to prevent mold growth or buckling of the subfloor. Unfortunately, if indoor carpets and their padding are flooded, they often soak up contaminated water and will need to be replaced. You might be able to save outdoor carpets or basement carpets that are placed above concrete subfloors.

  • Use a wet-dry vacuum to soak up as much water as possible.

  • Pull up carpets to dry or replace the padding beneath them.

  • Use an extraction or steam cleaner on carpets. Alternatively, hire a local professional carpet cleaner for the deepest clean.

  • Sanitize with disinfectant spray.

Hardwood Floors

After removing water from the floors, there may be dirt and debris left behind. After cleaning the floors, you may also have to further inspect hardwood floors for any buckling or damaged planks.

  • Use a non-sudsy disinfectant cleaner and gently brush to scrub away dirt from the floors.

  • Go over the floors with the wet-dry vacuum.

  • Follow up with a wood floor cleaner to remove any residue from the disinfectant cleaner.

  • Rinse the wood floors to remove any last bits of dirt and cleaner.

  • Dry floors thoroughly with a wet-dry vacuum and continuously running fans, dehumidifiers, and air conditioner.

Vinyl, Linoleum, and Laminate Floors

These types of floors can trap water after a flood, causing water damage to the subfloor. Before you clean these types of floors, you’ll need to remove them to inspect the subfloors and let the subflooring dry completely. Once the subfloors are dry, you may put down new replacement vinyl, linoleum, or laminate floors. If the vinyl, linoleum, or laminate floors weren’t damaged in the flood, you can dry them out completely, then clean and replace them.

  • Use soap, warm water, and a scrub brush to remove dirt.

  • Rinse with water.

  • Dry completely with the wet-dry vacuum.

Tile Floors

Tile floors are pretty water-resistant, so cleaning flooded tile floors is a simple job. You may need to pull up one or two tiles to check the subfloor for water damage, but generally, the tile and grout will prevent water from soaking into the subfloor.

  • Scrub the floor with soap and warm water.

  • Rinse away the cleaner with water.

  • Dry-mop the floors to soak up any remaining water.

Prevent or Remove Mold

Mold can start growing within 24 hours, and once it starts, it’s hard to stop it. If there’s no mold yet, you can prevent it. But if the mold has started growing, you can still remove it and stop it from spreading further.

How to Prevent Mold on Flooded Floors

The key to preventing mold is drying the flooded floors as quickly as possible. Pull up floors to also dry out subfloors, which can become a hotbed for mold growth if they are wet. If subfloors have extensive water damage, you should replace them to prevent mold from growing beneath your floors.

  • Dry floors with a wet-dry vacuum and fans, dehumidifiers, fresh air, and air conditioners.

  • Sanitize floors with diluted chlorine bleach with a ratio of 1 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water.

How to Remove Mold From Flooded Floors

If possible, hire a mold removal specialist to handle this job. Mold is dangerous, and you may end up with mold spores in the air if you clean it yourself. If you choose to do it yourself, take the following precautions:

  • Wear an N95-rated or higher mask to protect yourself from mold spores.

  • Scrub the floor with a solution of 1 cup of bleach for every 1 gallon of water and a stiff brush. You can also use baking soda and water.

  • Let the bleach solution sit for 15 minutes.

  • Rinse the bleach or baking soda away with water.

  • Use a wet-dry vacuum to remove any remaining water.

Sanitize Floors

Whether you found mold or not, it’s important to sanitize floors. Standing water may contain dirt or other contaminants. Create a sanitizing solution with the following household products:

  • Combine 1 cup of bleach for every 1 gallon of water.

  • Use a squeegee or scrub brush to clean the floors with the diluted bleach.

  • Let the bleach solution air dry to sanitize the floors thoroughly.

What to Do If Your Cleaning Efforts Aren’t Successful

Unfortunately, if the floodwater has been sitting for several hours, you may need to replace the flooring. In addition to being susceptible to mold, items that sit in flooded water for long periods of time could also be contaminated. If you’re unsure if you are able to properly clean and sanitize your floors, you’ll want to consult a flooring professional.

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