June 18, 2003 | By: Aimee D. Heald

From west to east, many Kentuckians are dealing with continuous flooding from recent rainfall. Aside from the damage floodwaters ravage on home structures themselves, resident’s belongings often are damaged as well.

Linda Heaton, textiles and clothing specialist for the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, offered some tips for dealing with flood damage to clothing and household goods.

“Flood water is often contaminated with sewage waste that contains harmful bacteria,” she said. “If your clothes come into contact with this water, normal laundering with detergent and water is not enough to kill the bacteria.”

Heaton urged flood victims to keep soiled items separate from clean items and from surfaces. She said it’s important to wear protective gloves and clothing when handling flood-soiled items.

“Check clothing care labels to determine whether to dry clean or launder,” she said. “Either method can reduce harmful bacteria if treated properly. If you take items to a drycleaner, be sure to inform the cleaner that the items have been flood soiled.”

Heaton said county UK Cooperative Extension offices may be able to provide laundering specifics.

Mildew is another problem created by flooding and warm, humid conditions. Heaton said mold and mildew thrive in dark, damp places.

“If you haven’t checked your clothing storage areas lately, it’s time to do so,” Heaton said.

As residents are cleaning up, Heaton said they need to make sure they don’t put away clothing and other household items that still are damp, especially true for items made of cotton, linen (flax), rayon, ramie and wool.

“It’s important to never store items in airtight plastic,” she continued. “Even the protective plastic storage bags from the drycleaner should be removed immediately after you arrive home and before storing clothing in the closet.”

Heaton advised to periodically check storage areas. 

“If an area seems damp, turn on a light and leave it on,” she said. “Another alternative is to hang bags of silica gel or granular calcium chloride in the area. An open quart container of slow-start charcoal will also remove moisture from the air.”

For questions about other flood-damaged items or more tips on cleaning up after a flood, contact your local Cooperative Extension office.


Linda Heaton   859-257-7775