With our recent flooding, many people are using bleach to clean their basements and some of their practices are not correct. First off, bleach is not typically considered a disinfectant but can be successfully used as a disinfectant with excellent results. Assuming you are using it on hard surfaces such as concrete floors and walls, the first thing to do is to wash the surfaces first with a detergent. Remove as much of the residue as you can using brushes or something similar. Some people are using powerwashers but you are adding a lot of water to a building that already has problems from too much water. If you use a powerwasher anyway, keep powerwashers outside and run the hoses into the basement. Gas powerwashers can cause carbon monoxide poisoning to the occupants. Electric powerwashers can short out in wet conditions and electrocute the occupants. Take great care with any electrical cords, lights, and fans so they stay out of moisture and use GFI devices on any electric cords.
When you are cleaning the surfaces, the goal is to remove residue that can contain microorganisms that either came with the dirty water, or ones that grew because the surfaces were wet for a prolonged time. You don’t necessarily have to clean every surface in the basement and you don’t need to clean every stain on the surface. Just the residue relating to this flooding incident.
If you see any type of mold or bacteria growth, or smell something that is musty or smells like dirty socks, you definitely have mold or bacteria growth. If you see or smell anything in the basement or feel uncomfortable, wear a respirator. You should wear at least a half -face N95 or P100 respirator and wear rubber gloves and boots as well.
After you have washed these surfaces, you can apply a bleach solution. Use 1/2 cup of bleach per gallon of water if you are using the germicidal bleach as it is stronger than laundry bleach. If you use laundry bleach 3/4 cup of bleach per gallon of water should be used. Do not use stronger solutions than this as it is not necessary and you can cause severe
health issues as well. Wear goggles or other eye protection when you apply the bleach as well as rubber gloves. The best method is to spray the bleach solution with pump-up sprayer and apply it heavy enough to stay wet for at least 5 to 10 minutes. After the bleach has the proper dwell time, use fans and dehumidifiers to thoroughly dry the basement as quickly as you can.
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