Clearing up after a flood


Floodwater is sometimes contaminated with sewage, animal waste and other contaminants. If present, these contaminants will be very dilute but can present a low risk to health.

Although floodwater may be clear, it might leave a muddy deposit as it recedes and this may contain some harmful bacteria. Contact your doctor if you become ill after accidentally swallowing mud or contaminated water.

Drinking water

If you get your water from a private source, such as a borehole, you should take appropriate precautions.

Cleaning inside your home or business


  • When removing dirty water and silt from your property, don't forget any space under the floor.

Hard surfaces

  • Wash all hard surfaces with hot soapy water until they look clean.
  • Allow to thoroughly dry, this will help to destroy any germs that remain.
  • Heating and good ventilation will aid the drying process.
  • If the floodwater contained diesel or oil, any contamination left behind can be cleaned using a hot detergent solution.

Soft furnishings, clothing and toys

  • Use a hot machine wash (60°C or the highest temperature indicated on the manufacturers instructions) for cleaning clothing, bedding and other soft fabrics (including children's toys).
  • Other soft furnishings that can't be hot washed will have to be professionally cleaned or disposed of.
  • For Bulky Household Waste Collection phone us on 01865 249811.

Walls, ceilings and inside cupboards

  • Damp after a flood may encourage mould growth. Treat any affected areas with a fungicidal solution and ventilate.

Pumps, driers and heaters

  • Use fuel powered (gas, diesel, petrol, LPG) equipment in the open air ONLY. Exhaust fumes in confined spaces can kill you.

Council Grants and Loans

The Council provides Essential Repairs Grants and Flexible Homes Improvement Loans which you can find out about on our Oxford Home Improvement Agency page.

Food preparation, storage and waste

  • Don't eat any food that has been in contact with any floodwater.
  • Clean everything in your kitchen that has been touched by floodwater. Use hot tap water and detergent, then a food-safe sanitizer spray (available from supermarkets).
  • 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.
  • Do not use work tops that show signs of damage.

Check with your insurers before disposing of freezer contents or other things.

  • Throw away frozen food that has been at room temperature for a few hours.
  • Your should recycle your food waste or double-wrap contaminated food in plastic bags and put it in your green bin for your next refuse collection.
  • If you don't have a green bin, please don't put it out any earlier than necessary, as extra food waste in plastic sacks might attract animals.

Disposal of contaminated or damaged property

We offer a Household Bulky Waste Collection service for all flood water contaminated or damaged domestic property which you want to dispose of. Please contact us on 01865 249811 to arrange collection.

Garden and allotment produce

  • Take normal precautions - wash hands after working and be careful not to ingest soil.
  • Don't let young children play on the allotment, as they might eat soil.
  • You should throw away any produce covered by flood water if it is ready to eat, and is grown above ground, such as cabbage. It is fine to eat produce that is growing above the water and not contaminated with flood water e.g. fruit on trees.
  • It is OK to eat produce that has been cooked, even if it has been contaminated by flood water this is because cooking will kill any harmful germs that might be present.
  • You should wait at least six months after the area was flooded, before harvesting any new fruit or vegetables from that affected land. This is to make sure that any harmful germs that might be in the soil from the flood water will not survive and contaminate the produce. You do not need to wait before planting new crops if the fruit or vegetables will be cooked before being eaten.

Protect health by always washing your hands before eating or preparing food.

Safety FIRST

  • Wear waterproof boots and gloves when cleaning up
  • Always wash your hands with soap and clean water after contact with flood water, or anything floodwater may have touched
  • Wash children's hands frequently and always before meals
  • Wash and disinfect toys contaminated with floodwater before letting children use them.
  • Keep any open cuts or sores covered and away from contact with floodwater. Use waterproof plasters or waterproof gloves for cuts on your hands
  • If anyone gets an upset stomach, contact their GP or NHS Direct for advice

If you have any doubts about the safety of gas or electrical systems get professional advice.


  • Do not switch the power on until an electrician has checked the system.
  • Don't use electrical equipment exposed to flood water until it has been checked by a qualified electrician.
  • Make sure to properly switch off all electrical appliances before restoring the electricity supply.
  • To avoid electrical shock, wear rubber boots and keep electrical extension cables out of any damp patches.


  • Have your gas or oil central heating checked by a qualified person, before switching on the gas or trying to light any appliance, contact the British Gas emergency freephone 0800 111 999.

Gardens & Play Areas

  • Don't let children play where floods have been, until areas have thoroughly dried.
  • Sunlight and soil help to destroy harmful bacteria. Any additional risk to health should go in a week or so.


  • If floodwater has reached your sandbags, they cannot be recycled as they may be contaminated
  • You can dispose of used sandbags in the landfill containers at your nearest waste recycling centre
  • If you are disposing of the sand in your garden, wear protective gloves and dig it in the garden – do not spread across lawns or use for children’s sandpits
  • If the floodwater did not reach the sandbags, they can be stored for use in the future.

Useful telephone contacts

  • Oxford City Council all enquiries 01865 249811
  • NHS Direct 111
  • Thames Water 0845 9200 800
  • Environment Agency Floodline 0845 988 1188