How to clean clothes after a flood

HOUSTON – A lot of people will be doing a lot of laundry as they begin the process of cleaning up. You can't just throw all of your clothes into the washing machine and hit start like you normally might do. The flood waters often contain sewage so there could be contamination.

The American Cleaning Institute has tips for cleaning clothing after a flooding or major disaster.

1. Scrap and shake off dirt and other residue from clothes as soon as possible.

2. Prewash fabrics in cool water. Hot water may set in stains. Use small loads with a full water level and allow clothes to rinse and spin dry.

*Don't pack the washer with clothing. Measure detergent into the water, then add water and allow detergent to thoroughly dissolve before adding clothes.

3. Pretreat: Once you have done the prewashing, pretreat clothes with stain remover.

*To help remove protein stains, such as sewage, grass or blood, add an enzyme presoak product to the prewash.

4. Wash: When washing use the hottest water safe for fabrics and use powdered laundry detergent. The powder is more effective in removing clay and ground in dirt. SInce clothing may have been contaminated with sewage you need to add disinfectant to the wash. You can use liquid household bleach.

*Important note: If your detergent happens to include bleach, this is not enough to disinfect your clothes. You will still need to add bleach.

*Check out rinse water: continue to wash clothes until they are clean. Look at the rinse water and if the water is dirty or cloudy the clothes need to be washed again. If the water is clear, clothes should be clean.

Important Details:

*Mildew is difficult to remove and if it's too bad your clothing may be beyond repair.

*Don't dry clothes until you are satisfied with the results because the heat will set in the stains.

For more details and additional tips for cleaning other items in the home check out the American Cleaning Institute.
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