Basement water damage after flooding needs to be dealt with right away before mold and mildew grow. The process is easy but a bit long. Here’s what you need to do.
The basement flooded and you took care of that. You cleaned the carpet, a job that seemed to take forever, but now … there’s still water damage everywhere.
How can you bring this nightmare to an end?
You all know what I think about letting mold grow – in your walls, in your carpets, anywhere in your home – and so when a reader asked me what to do about dampness after a basement flood, I knew there was information to share.
We need to get that moisture OUT of your basement and clean out the water damage so that you’re not breathing it in!
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Table of Contents
- Bleach and sanitize
- Get a dehumidifier
- Get out the baking soda
- Steam clean your basement carpet
- Turn on several fans to dry the rug
- Apply Nature’s Miracle
Bleach and sanitize
Any exposed flooring or wallboards that might have been affected by the flooding need to be sanitized.
Fill up a bucket with hot water and a splash or two of bleach – just regular household bleach.
And mop it all.
Put on some music and clean those floors with hot water and bleach. Get the walls, too, if they were affected.
You may need to change the water a few times before it stays clear, and you might want to get out a scrub brush or cleaning rags to get into the corners.
About now you’re wishing your basement was made of sealed stainless steel, aren’t you?
Get a dehumidifier
If you don’t already own one, you can either buy a dehumidifier online or make a trip to the nearest home improvement store.
On a limited budget? Try combing the local classified ads or get on social media to see if anyone’s selling a used dehumidifier in or close to your town. Another option would be to borrow a dehumidifier from a friend or family member until you can get your own.
The dehumidifier will do a good job of removing the remaining water from your basement carpet, as well as from the air down there.
Create a “vacuum” of the entire basement by closing all the windows as well as the basement door that leads to the upstairs, while the dehumidifier is running. This is important because if you leave the windows open, the dehumidifier will be working extra hard trying to suck moisture out of the air from outside which will continue to come in. So DO close the basement windows and doors.
Leave the dehumidifier to operate for several days, even as long as a week or two, while the machine does its job of getting rid of excess moisture that resulted from the recent flooding.
Remember to go downstairs and check the water level at least twice a day. If it gets full, your dehumidifier will temporarily stop running until you empty it.
We actually leave our dehumidifier running all the time, since we live in a damp, cool part of Canada. It’s hooked directly into our pipes, so it drains out automatically. I love it.
Get out the baking soda
Once you’ve sucked up all of the water that you can using a wet vac and gone the extra step to dehumidify, you’ll want to dry your basement carpet further and prevent or stop mold growth by sprinkling baking soda.
I honestly buy baking soda by the case. I love it. There is so very much you can use baking soda for. In this case, though, you’re going to want to get special non-clumping baking soda, if you can. It’s specially made for carpets.
Regular baking soda will work just as well, but you may find that it’s more likely to form clumps, which makes it difficult to spread on the carpet evenly.
If you have particular spots on your rug where water collected, then do an especially good job of coating that area with baking soda. Scrub it in using a hard-bristled brush, and let sit for several hours minimum, but preferably several days.
Believe or not, walking on the baking soda-covered carpet will actually help because this allows the naturally absorbent, disinfecting and deodorizing substance to reach the deepest crevices where mold is most likely to grow.
When you’re ready, use a regular upright vacuum to suck up all of the baking soda from your carpet. If you’ve really poured on a lot, then you may need to sweep up the top layer using a broom and dustpan, with a garbage can close by to collect the mess.
Too much baking soda may break your vacuum, so it’s better to err on the side of caution and sweep up as much as you can first, or just use your wet-dry vacuum.
Steam clean your basement carpet
Once you’ve allowed the baking soda to do its job of killing mold, absorbing moisture and deodorizing, it’s time to clean the carpet.
Of course, you don’t have to steam clean it if you don’t want to.
But if a flood has occurred in a finished basement where your family spends their time and where your children play, then you really should do everything possible to deal with the moisture and mold situation.
So if you’ve never used a carpet steamer, now is the time to become familiar with this handy apparatus.
Steam clean your carpet early on a sunny day
You’ve worked hard to rid your basement of wetness from the unfortunate recent flooding.
If you’re following along with these step by step instructions, then several days have likely passed by now which means it may rain again or maybe it already has.
DO NOT steam your carpet on a rainy day.
This will reverse all the hard work and effort you put into halting mold growth.
Instead, choose a sunny day, all the better if it it’s hot out.
But if it isn’t hot weather, here’s another solution: after you steam clean your basement carpet, blast the heat down there. Turn it as high as it will go and leave the thermostat on this setting for a few hours.
This is another way to kill mold or prevent it from growing.
Where to get a steam cleaner?
Call up your local rental store to see if they have a carpet steamer available for temporary home use. I’ve seen them in grocery stores, so that might also be an option.
Make sure they provide carpet shampoo. If they don’t, you’ll want to pick some up.
It’s important to use the correct type of carpet shampoo for the machine you’re using. So make a note of the brand and model before heading out to the store. Grocery stores may not carry carpet shampoo. Once again, your best bet is someplace like Wal-Mart or Target, or a home improvement store such as The Home Depot or Lowes.
How to use a steam cleaner
If you’ve never used one before, a steam cleaner is kind of fun to use.
There’s a small plastic bin located toward the top of the machine that you must fill with hot water and a small amount (probably around 4 ounces) of the correct brand of carpet shampoo.
Toward the bottom of the machine you’ll see a second, larger plastic receptacle. That’s where the dirty water collects as you’re running the steam cleaner over your rugs. Once the bottom tank is full, you must empty it before you can continue to clean the carpet.
Proceed by turning on your carpet steamer and making slow, straight lines across your carpet, the same way you would if you were mowing your lawn.
There may be a special button to press that dispenses the water and cleaning solution on the rug. Underneath, there are brushes that spin to help work the soapy solution into the carpet. Then, the cleaner sucks it up into the dirty water tank.
If you’re also shampooing carpeted stairs (and my sympathy if the flooding was that bad!), then make use of the attachments that contain bristled brushes which spin and spray water when you engage the trigger.
Or, you may decide that the brushes aren’t doing a good enough job – in which case you can use your own scrub brush to clean the steps instead. Just take care not to saturate the carpet too much.
Turn on several fans to dry the rug
After you finish steaming the entire rug, it will feel damp but not sopping wet.
This is okay.
As mentioned, the day should be sunny and warm (or you should be running the heat as high as possible).
Now, you want the rug to dry with help from fans and the outside air. So open the curtains and the windows, to let as much fresh air and sunlight as possible stream in.
Strategically position some fans around the room to promote cross-ventilation.
Believe it or not, just having good air flow will go a long way toward drying out the freshly shampooed rug, even if it is located in a dark basement.
Of course, this is a basement, so you may have trouble getting light to come in through the windows.
But mold and mildew hate light – so turn on as many lights as possible and keep them on until your water and mold remediation project is over.
Light, heat and air flow are all your friends when it comes to not allowing mold and mildew to grow in your recently flooded basement.
Allow the fans and the fresh air from outside to dry your basement’s wall to wall carpet for as much of the day as possible. Again, do not attempt this if the weather is rainy or you’ll just be prolonging your project.
When you’re satisfied that the rug is clean, do the sniff test. If you still can detect an odor of moldy socks (like when someone’s forgotten a load in the washing machine and it’s been sitting there for a few days), then try the following:
Apply Nature’s Miracle
If there was a lot of water in your basement, then some parts may have collected puddles if the floor is uneven, has dips or is sloped.
The parts of your carpet that were the wettest will most likely have that musty or moldy smell.
To get it out, you’re going to use an amazing product called Nature’s Miracle which is actually meant for pet odors. The main ingredients are enzyme based detergent, Oxy Clean, and alcohol. You could probably make your own home version of this, but that might take some playing and tweaking to get the formula right.
With a flooded basement, you need to act now, not after you’ve figured out a copycat formula. Nature’s Miracle is highly effective at getting rid of odors in your rugs, including mold and mildew.
How much Nature’s Miracle should you buy?
This depends on how much water was in your basement.
If you’re only working on a few spots where puddles collected, then get several gallons. This stuff works by pouring it directly onto the affected area, full strength. You’re really supposed to saturate the rug.
Work it in using a scrub brush
Scrub in the Nature’s Miracle using a hard-bristled brush. You don’t have to scrub the entire rug – just focus on those trouble spots where the water puddles may have lingered for a while and begun to grow mold. After scrubbing, let everything sit for a bit. Then open the windows again and run fans for some cross ventilation. If it’s not summer, crank up the heat again.
This should be the final step in your mission to get water out of your finished basement, dry and sanitize your wall to wall carpet, and prevent or stop mold from growing.
Keep the fans running and the windows open if it’s warm weather over the course of the next few days. If you plan to leave the house, be sure to close the windows in case it rains. You wouldn’t want all of your hard work literally going out the window by making everything wet all over again.
From here, you can again go back to running a dehumidifier with all of the basement windows closed, to ensure that all of the moisture is gone and no mold can grow.
CONGRATULATIONS! If you did all that, then your carpet is probably clean. If you have any doubt, just repeat the above process.
With any luck, your basement will stay clean and dry for a long time to come.