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Can Flooded Clothes Be Washed?

Can Flooded Clothes Be Washed?

A flood can be devastating in so many ways, not least of all for your wardrobe.

It can be expensive to pay for dry clean only clothes to be restored, so sometimes, it is more economical to throw these garments away and replace them with new ones. A household insurance policy may help pay for this.

However, you likely want to salvage as much of your belongings as possible, which begs the question: Is it possible to wash flooded clothes?

How to Wash Clothes Contaminated From a Flood

Flood-damaged clothes can hold unhealthy bacteria and mold. Here’s how to wash flooded garments so that you can have fresh, clean laundry once more.

Sort the Clothes into Different Piles

Separate machine washable clothes from dry clean only.

Then separate the items you can launder yourself into white and colored linens. Do this quickly as the colors may run with wet garments.

Keeping Surfaces Clean

A good organization system is required to manage flooded clothes as they can spread contamination around your laundry room.

Flood water contains lots of visible contaminants like mud and debris and harmful bacteria that you won’t see. Even a garment that looks relatively clean won’t be.

Bear in mind that all the surfaces that the clothes touch will need disinfecting afterward, so work out how you will organize your laundry.

If you have a lot of loads to wash, then take them out of the room so you can keep it clean. Do not put them in plastic bags while they wait their turn, as this will encourage mold and mildew and increase staining.

Flood-damaged clothes can be left outside before their turn for the washer. Spread them out to dry if possible, but if you hang them on a line, remember to disinfect this and the pegs afterward.

Read more: How To Dry Out A Flooded House

Washing In Laundry Basket

Pre-Rinsing Dirty, Muddy, and Moldy Clothing

Depending on the type of flood, you might have more than household bacteria in the clothes. Floodwater from a hurricane can contain contaminants such as human and animal waste, bugs, pests, and invisible germs that cause harmful diseases.

Very muddy clothing will need pre-rinsing first, but beware, don’t fill your washer up with soil. Muddy clothes will convert the washer water into sludge and could block your machine’s drainage filter.

Hang a muddy garment or lie it flat on the floor outside and use a pressure hose to remove the worst of the excess. This technique also applies to dry clean only garments.

If you have limited space available and the garments are small, rinsing them in a bucket will work.

For moldy clothing, it’s best to wash these items separately.

Washing the Clothes

Wash the load at the hottest temperature allowed for that fabric to eliminate mold and bacteria.

To disinfect white cotton fabrics, add a cup of chlorine bleach to the wash cycle. For delicates like wool and silk and colors, use pine oil disinfectant or Lysol.

Flooded clothes may require more than one wash cycle, particularly if you have to wash at lower temperatures to protect the fabric.

If stains remain, don’t put them in the dryer. Instead, soak them overnight in an oxygen-based bleach solution and rewash them.

Drying Clothes

Using a dryer at the highest heat setting recommended for the fabric to eradicate any remaining bacteria that the wash cycle did not remove.

White clothes benefit from ultraviolet rays, which can help destroy bacteria. For these garments, you can hang them outside in the sun.

Clean the Washer and Laundry Room

Once the clothes are clean, you will need to decontaminate the washer and surrounding surfaces in the room itself.


The aftermath of a flood needs careful and systematic handling to avoid risk to human health.

All Dry USA can advise on damage restoration for domestic and commercial properties. Even a minor flood can carry serious risks, so always take expert advice if you are unsure.


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