Keeping Healthy after a Flood

Keeping Healthy after a Flood



Floodwaters can carry a wide range of pollutants including micro-organisms (‘germs’, ‘bugs’) that can cause disease. Toxic chemicals may also be present.

Everything that has been in contact with floodwater should be treated with caution. Personal hygiene is very important to prevent the spread of disease following flood events.

Please keep children and pets away from flood waters.

Always assume that flood water is contaminated with sewage


CHECK with the local council that it is safe to re-enter your home. You should only return back to your house AFTER:

  • Council staff have inspected the premises to ensure the building is safe.
  • The electrical supply authority has checked that the power supply and installation is safe.
  • The gas supply authority has checked that the gas supply is safe.
  • Floodwaters have receded from the property.

Follow the advice of your local council staff about returning to your home

Take care to be safe when first re-entering your home. Not all damage can be seen. Watch out for loose materials that could fall, flooded or damaged electrical wiring, broken or leaking gas lines, etc. Wear sturdy footwear to avoid injury.


Always wash your hands after you touch any surfaces or objects contaminated with floodwater and before you eat or drink anything or touch your hands to your face. Use soap and safe water (that has been boiled or disinfected). Dry your hands thoroughly after washing. If clean water is not available, you can use alcohol-based hand sanitisers.

It is also important to:

See your doctor or phone HealthLine on 0800 611 116 if you or anyone from your family becomes unwell.

Boil drinking water for 3 minutes unless you know the water is safe


Flooding is stressful. It is normal to feel anxious, upset and experience difficulty sleeping. Take care of yourself and your family and check on friends and neighbours.

Contact friends and family for support as it can take a long time for life to return to normal


Use protective clothing, rubber gloves, boots and eye protection while cleaning.

  • Begin drying out the house as soon as it is safe to return to your house and the flood waters have receded. Open all the windows and doors to ventilate the house. Dehumidifiers and fans can assist. Do not use heaters more than necessary as too much heat can warp and crack wood.
  • Drain away any water lying under the building. Increase the airflow under the house by removing ventilation grills, foundation linings.
  • Take everything out of the house that can be moved – floor coverings, furniture, moveable appliances, storage items, clothing, etc.
  • Discard contaminated carpets, rugs, curtains and upholstered furniture unless they can be cleaned thoroughly, disinfected and dried. Appliances such as fridges and freezers and electrical goods that have been in contact with floodwaters should be discarded. Place discarded items in a secure area such as a shed or garage until they can be checked by your insurance assessor and a claim lodged. Where possible take photos of the damage before the clean-up.
  • Throw out any food in your freezer or refrigerator and all food that has been in contact with flood water.
  • Thoroughly wash and disinfect every part of your home that has been flooded because of contamination from flood waters.
  • If mould has developed on surfaces, furnishings, etc. extra care must be taken during clean-up to reduce exposure to mould spores. Use protective clothing and a particulate respirator suitable for filtering out spores. Use soap and water to clean the surface then apply a commercial mould product or household bleach solution (refer to manufacturers instructions on container).

Regular hand washing particularly before eating, drinking or smoking reduces the chances of a tummy upset during the clean up


1. Australian Red Cross – "Cleaning up after flooding"

2. BRANZ – "Restoring a house after flood damage"

This information was provided by the Taranaki Health Board