Hurricane Cleanup Tips from the Dept. of Health

The Florida Department of Health was established in 1909 to combat the ravages of yellow fever and other tropical diseases. Over the years it has grown to include mosquito control, water quality, and, most recently, procedures to follow in the aftermath of a hurricane. This year hurricanes have not been in short supply in the Sunshine State, and so the Department of Health has been very busy updating their bulletins and warnings to help citizens keep safe while recovering from the devastation.

Here are some of their main bullet points:

Waterproof gloves and rubber boots should be worn at all times when entering a flooded building. This not only protects against infections and mold, but against electrical shock if there is an exposed wire or outlet in the vicinity.

Do not make cleaning cocktails by mixing ammonia with bleach. Stick with one or the other. Combining them results in toxic fumes. If bleach and ammonia are unavailable, use vinegar or rubbing alcohol. Mix them one part cleaner to ten parts water.

According to sanitation expert Elliott Greenberg of TouchFreeConcepts, “Hard surfaces need soap and water cleaning as soon as possible to prevent the start of mold and mildew. After the soap and water use a bleach disinfectant as well.”

Curtains, pillows, and rugs should be tossed. Any soft material, including upholstered furniture, that has been under water is potentially contaminated with sewage and fungus. Wet clothes should be laundered and dried immediately. If there is an operating dry cleaner in the area, take your silks and satins into them. Never try cleaning material with gasoline — it’s simply too flammable and the fumes lead to long term neural damage.

Insulation and drywall that has been exposed to flood waters needs to be removed and disposed of asap. This allows the inner structural walls to dry out, which prevents the start of mold. If your electricity is back on you should aim some fans on these structural walls to get them dried quickly.

It’s a heartbreaking decision, but parents will have to gently remove all stuffed toys from their children’s flooded bedrooms and playrooms to dispose of them. The least bit of fecal matter on a stuffed animal can lead to serious illness in a small child who accidentally ingests it or gets it in his or her eyes. Some drycleaners will undertake to clean small stuffed toys, but it’s very expensive.

The general rule of thumb is that items that can’t be disinfected and completely dried within 48 hours should be considered contaminated and a threat to your health. Dispose of them. Even a family photograph that has water damage may harbor microbes or bits of sewage that can blossom into offensive smells in a matter of weeks.

If you have a cut or a wound, do not expose it to floodwaters. The chance of contracting tetanus is too great. Treat all scrapes and cuts immediately with antibacterial cream.

Storm survivors experience a high level of stress as they begin to rebuild their lives. Be careful of sunstroke and heat stroke as you begin to work on recovery. Keep plenty of bottled water, sunscreen, and sunglasses on hand.

For more details and more tips on how to manage after a hurricane, go to the Florida Department of Health’s special website by clicking here.

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Melissa Thompson

Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.