Four tips for cleaning flood-affected clothes

As businesses and communities in South East Queensland, the Northern Rivers and Greater Sydney recover from the recent floods, there is much washing and cleaning to be done.

In situations like these, business owners are looking to minimise the cost of replacing damaged items by preserving as much as possible, from staff uniforms to bedding and other washable items.

When it comes to recovering these items, time is of the essence, and process efficiency is particularly important. Follow these tips to minimise your losses and speed up your recovery process. 

1. Work out which items are worth saving

Some items of clothing will fare better than others during and after a flood, depending on factors such as the type of material and general condition. While it may be possible to salvage items with minor damage, items with large stains or significant discoloration are likely beyond repair and should be thrown away, particularly if your business has been affected by sewage flooding. Items that have been in contact with sewage can cause health issues even after thorough cleaning. Still, if you’re in doubt about the condition of your items, it’s best to have a water damage restoration company assess it. 

2. Remove as much mud as possible

Once flood water recedes, any mud or dirt on your items will need to be removed as quickly as possible. Using your washer or sink to remove mud will cause blockages in your pipes – so instead, take affected items outside, use a hose to rinse off residue and hang each item up to dry. For safety, wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and ensure that the area is clear before spraying any cleaning products.

3. Separate everything in storage

Once you have thrown away items that are beyond repair, it’s important to store all remaining items with care until they can be cleaned properly. Avoid storing a collection of water-damaged linen together in an enclosed space as this can prevent items from drying properly, cause colours to run, and promote odours and mildew formation. Instead, separate each item to prevent contact until dry.

4. Wash or dry clean your linen

Soiled items needs to be washed as soon as possible after a flood – however, this can be challenging or even impossible if your commercial washing machine has been exposed to flood water. In this case, you should also have a restoration company assess your machine before use – and in the meantime, clean each item by shaking or brushing it down, rinsing it with cool water and air-drying.

If your commercial washing machine is in good working condition, it can be used to restore clothing which has sustained mild damage such as mildew stains. In this case, the best approach typically involves a full load of hot water, adjusted to the recommended maximum wash temperatures for each garment, with bleach (for whites) or hospital grade disinfectant (for colours). 

When clothing has sustained flood damage, the importance of effective disinfection is heightened, particularly when items may have had contact with sewage. The most effective disinfection approach depends on the fabric type and colour. 

Stain removal is also a high priority, particularly where items have been in contact with clay and ground-in dirt – both of which are common challenges during flooding events. In these circumstances, the most effective approach is to wash with a quality laundry detergent and hospital grade disinfectant or bleach in the hottest recommended water temperature for each garment. Once the wash cycle is complete, garments with persistent stains should be soaked in oxygen bleach overnight to prevent stains from drying and setting, and re-washed the following day. 

The team at Richard Jay is on hand to support our clients who have been affected by recent extreme weather events in any way we can. If your business has been affected and you’d like to talk to one of our experts, call us on 1300742427.