Flood water not only causes extensive damage to structures but contains mud and bacteria, contaminating everything it touches. This includes your clothes. The good news is there are a few simple steps to make your clothes feel and smell like new again. We’ll explain these steps and tell you how you should clean your washing machine before and after disinfecting your clothes.
Cleaning Your Washing Machine
If your washer and dryer have been through a flood, get a technician to inspect it for safety. If it’s safe you’ll want to disinfect it before washing your clothes. A deep clean will prevent bacteria growth and foul odors. First, you should run a hot water cycle with a cup of bleach. Some units have a special clean cycle which can be found in the owner’s manual. If you threw the manual out long ago, you should be able to find an online edition. For best results, immediately start a rinse cycle on max spin after the clean cycle.
If you still have an odor or see residue, directly spray a bleach cleaner on the affected spot and scrub with a brush. If your washing machine has a dispenser drawer, pull this out, there should be a tab to push when removing. Wash the drawer in bleach and hot water. We’d advise repeating this process after disinfecting your clothes as well to remove any remaining smells or bacteria.
Disinfecting Your Clothes
When your washing machine is clean, you can turn your attention to your clothes. You should sort your clothes by lights and darks to prevent bleeding colors. Take any wet or dirt covered clothing outside and wash them down with clean water from a hose. Excess mud in your washing machine can gum up the drainage system so you’ll want to remove as much mud as possible before washing.
Be mindful not to overstuff your washing machine. Use hot water, set your washer to the highest capacity and add the recommended amount of heavy duty laundry detergent. You can also add ½ a cup of white vinegar. The vinegar will prevent mold and mildew, remove odors and act as a clothes softener.
You’ll also want to add a disinfectant. For whites, bleach is best. For all other colors, a pine oil disinfectant works great to kill lingering bacteria. According to the CDC, the word “disinfectant” must appear on the label for it to meet their standards as an effective disinfectant. If the stains persist, soak your affected garments in a solution of oxygen-based bleach, like an OxyClean or Clorox 2.
After washing, dry your clothes at a high heat to kill the remaining bacteria. You can also sun dry them. The ultraviolet rays will kill bacteria and you’ll avoid the risk of shrinking your clothes. It’s also a good idea to iron your dress shirts and pants as the heat will help kill bacteria.
Getting through a flood is a step by step process. Everything in your home that is salvageable needs to be cleaned and your laundry is just one more step of the process. Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to a fresh wardrobe and washing machine!