Recovering from flooding | Oxfordshire County Council

Recovering from flooding

Advice on making insurance claims and cleaning your property after a flood.

Flooded allotment

Removing floodwater

Remove dirty water and silt from the property, including the space under the ground floor if you have wooden floors. This space may need pumping out.

There is no point pumping out rising water as it will come straight back in!

Once floodwater levels have receded, you might need to pump water from basement areas; pumps are available from hardware and DIY stores; emergency services do not provide a pumping-out service.

Electrics and plumbing

Get your local electricity supply checked before switching back on, and don't use electrical equipment exposed to flood water until it has been checked by a qualified electrician. Have your gas or oil central heating checked by a qualified person.

Yellow Pages lists qualified plumbers and electricians as well as suppliers of cleaning materials and equipment. Look under 'flood damage'. Alternatively, visit to find trustworthy traders.

Cleaning up

Before starting

Ventilate your building after flooding - less damp means less damage. Put on protective clothing such as wellington boots and rubber gloves before starting any clean-up.

Reducing the risk of infection

Floodwater and sewage often leave a muddy deposit that may contain bacteria and other micro-organisms. Experience from previous flooding has shown that any risk to health is small if proper precautions are followed.

Use protective clothing such as wellington boots and household rubber gloves if involved in the clean-up to minimise the risk of infection. Cover any cuts with a waterproof plaster.

You do not need any booster immunisations or antibiotics. If anyone in your family does become ill after accidentally swallowing floodwater or mud, contact your doctor and tell them your house was flooded.

Visit the Health Protection Agency website for more on health risks


Many residents will have received sandbags to help protect their properties from the recent floods. Remember that while sandbags help to keep water out, they will also keep it in as the water goes down.

Once the risk of flooding has past, it is the responsibility of the property owner or occupier to either retain the sandbags for future use, or to dispose of the used sandbags.

If the sandbags have not been soiled or damaged by floodwater it is recommended that they be kept in a dry area for future use.

If you do not have space to keep the sandbags, the sand may be poured out and dug into the garden. The empty sand bags can then be dried and kept for future use.

Some district councils have plans in place to reuse and recycle sandbags. Information can be found on the individual council's flooding advice webpages:


Alternatively, sandbags can be disposed of at the HWRC.  Ask site staff for further information.

Floors and walls

As floorboards and walls dry out, any resulting loose material and dust should be vacuumed up on a regular basis.

Very young children should avoid playing directly on timber floorboards or damaged tiled floors. Be aware of the risk of injury from sharp edges on tiles or raised nails in the floorboards until these have been repaired.


Wash down all hard surfaces with hot soapy water. Use a domestic disinfectant to wash over all hard surfaces after cleaning.

Laundry and soft furnishings

Clothing, bedding and other soft/fabric articles (such as children's toys) should be laundered at the highest temperature as indicated on the manufacturer's instructions. If this is less than 82°C, the articles may still contain bacteria.

Other soft furnishings and fittings that have been contaminated and cannot be put in a washing machine on a hot wash will have to be professionally cleaned. If this is not possible or they are damaged beyond repair, dispose of them.

Disposing of electrical items

When throwing out flood-damaged electrical items, cut the power cord to prevent someone taking the item and trying sell it on or re-use it. Cut the cord close to the electrical appliance so that another plug can't be attached.

Gardens and play areas

Do not let young children play on affected areas until they have been cleaned and restored to their normal condition.

Children should always wash their hands after playing outdoors, especially before eating or preparing food.

Food preparation and storage

The Foods Standards Agency has issued advice on food hygiene after flooding.

Do not use food that floodwater has reached.

Wash your hands

The single most important precaution is washing your hands after any contact with floodwater, contaminated sandbags or sludge, particularly before eating or preparing food.

Surfaces and shelves

Make sure that all surfaces that food will come into contact with are disinfected. If worktops and other areas show signs of damage, avoid food contact with these areas. In particular, make sure that shelves where food is stored (including those in your fridge) are cleaned and disinfected.

Food preparation surfaces should be wiped down using hot tap water with washing-up liquid. You could also use food-safe disinfectant to sanitise the surfaces, dishes and other utensils.

Crockery, pots, pans and utensils

All crockery, pots, pans and utensils should be thoroughly washed and rinsed with hot soapy water before using. If any of these are badly chipped or damaged, do not use them. You could use a food-safe disinfectant to sanitise them after cleaning.

Frozen food

Frozen food that has been at ambient temperature for a few hours should be thrown away. Check with insurers before disposal. Don’t be tempted to try and salvage damaged food (including tins) as they may be contaminated with sewage and chemicals left from the floodwater.

Garden vegetables

Don't eat garden or allotment vegetables that have been covered by sewage or floodwater. Although the health risk may be small, it is better to dispose of contaminated produce and start again.

Insurance claims and structural damage

Seek professional advice (structural engineer) if your property is damaged. Don’t dispose of damaged goods until your insurers have had a chance to inspect them.

Be aware that rogue traders and cowboy builders may try to take advantage of people in flood-damaged areas.

Making repairs to your property

You may be tempted to accept the first offer that comes along if your property has been damaged. Be prepared for cowboy builders and repair companies who may try to exploit the situation. Never agree to have work done by someone who appears at your door unannounced.

The Direct Gov website has information on making repairs to property after flooding including specialist advice from CIRIA (Construction Industry Research and Information Association).

English Heritage has specialist advice for historic buildings.

For more practical information on what to do after a flood see the Environment Agency website.


Last reviewed
09 August 2017
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