Cleaning Up After Hurricane Sandy

How to clean up after a natural disasterHow to clean up after a natural disaster

While disasters can last a few minutes or several hours, the damage they leave can take months to clean up. Hurricanes and heavy rainfall can cause flooding in your home, which can lead to mold growth. Even though mold may seem harmless, its spores can cause serious health issues. Once floodwater recedes in your home, action needs to be taken immediately to remove the mold. While you may try to salvage everything, you have to inspect each item and consider if it's worth your time and money to save. Here are ways to determine what's salvageable and what isn't.

Fabrics that can't be cleaned and dried thoroughly or pieces that have visible discoloration, irreversible shrinkage, or are contaminated with sewage are unsalvageable. Among these items are mattresses, carpeting, and plush toys that aren't easily cleaned and sanitized.

However, pieces that can be cleaned, sanitizied, and dried completely are salvageable. First, these items should be sorted by washing method and cleaned accordingly. Textiles that are damp need to be rinsed before washing to remove mud, while dried fabrics should be taken outside and brushed off to remove dirt and mold spores. Before using the washing machine, make sure your water supply is safe to use. Then run an empty cycle with hot water and bleach. Other items you should be able to salvage include metal, wood, and plastic furniture, curtains, and rugs.

Related: How to Keep Your Food Safe When a Hurricane Hits

Any appliances that were covered with a few inches of floodwater should be salvageable. Some large appliances, like dishwashers, ranges, and refrigerators contain insulation that protects the mechanical parts. If this insulation happens to be wet, you'll need to call an authorized service technician to inspect the degree of damage and help you decide whether to toss or replace. If you opt to replace the items, see our recommendations for the top dishwashers, ranges, and refrigerators.

Be sure to clean and disinfect hard surfaces with a disinfectant like Lysol Mold and Mildew Remover.

If you're a vegetable gardener, be aware that your crop may be unsafe to eat after a flood. Read more details on TheDailyGreen.com.

More from Good Housekeeping: