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Wisconsin Department of Health Services


Flood Home

Cleaning Up:
-Your Home
-Using Bleach

Potential Hazards:
-Drinking Water
-Surface Water

Other Resources for Residents

Health Professionals

Prepare for a Flood - ReadyWI (exit DHS)


Cleaning and Sanitizing With Bleach after an Emergency

Cleaning and sanitizing your household after an emergency is important to help prevent the spread of illness and disease.

Using Cleaning and Sanitizing ProductsCleaning Supplies/Photo Credit: Washington Co, Oregon

  1. Wash surfaces with soap and warm, clean water to remove dirt and debris.
  2. Sanitize surfaces with a bleach solution (see below for instructions to make a bleach solution).

It is critical to read and follow the safety instructions on any product you use. Below are important safety guidelines when using sanitizing products:

  • Never mix bleach with ammonia or any other cleaner. This creates toxic gases that are dangerous and can cause serious injury. Ammonia is commonly found in window cleaners check the cleaner bottle to see if it contains ammonia.
  • Wear rubber boots, gloves, and eye protection.
  • If using bleach mixtures indoors, open windows and doors to allow fresh air to enter.

Cleaning and Sanitizing with Bleach

Use regular unscented 5% household bleach and follow the instructions in the chart below.

Recommendations for Cleaning and Sanitizing Various Surfaces with Bleach and Water

Area or Item to be Cleaned

Amount of Bleach and Water to Mix

Cleaning Steps

Bleach Amount Water Amount

Clean and Sanitize Food Cans and Surfaces
Food surfaces that may have touched flood water (Examples: countertops, cups and plates, flatware)

Note: Throw away wooden cutting boards, baby bottle nipples, infant toys, and pacifiers

1 teaspoon 1 gallon  
  1. Wash with soap and warm, clean water.
  2. Rinse with clean water.
  3. Dip or rinse in a sanitizing solution of 1 teaspoon of bleach per 1 gallon of clean water.
  4. Allow to air dry.
Food cans that are not bulging, open, or damaged
1 cup 5 gallons  
  1. Remove can labels.
  2. Wash cans with soap and warm, clean water.
  3. Dip cans in mixture of 1 cup of bleach per 5 gallons of water.
  4. Allow to air-dry.
  5. Re-label cans with permanent marker.

Clean and Sanitize Other Household Surfaces and Items
Surfaces that do not soak up water and that may have touched floodwater (Examples: floors, stoves, sinks, certain toys, countertops, and tools)
1 cup 5 gallons  
  1. Clean surface with soap and warm, clean water.
  2. Rinse with clean water.
  3. Sanitize using a mixture of 1 cup of bleach to 5 gallons of water.
  4. Allow to air dry.

Clean Mold Growth From Hard Surfaces
Mold growth on hard surfaces (Examples: floors, walls, windows, stoves, sinks, certain toys, countertops, flatware, plates, and tools)
1 cup 1 gallon  
  1. Mix 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water.
  2. Wash surfaces with the bleach/water mixture.
  3. If surfaces are rough, scrub them with a stiff brush.
  4. Rinse surfaces with clean water.
  5. Allow to air-dry.


Other Useful Cleaning and Sanitizing Information may be found in the following links:

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Last Revised: June 10, 2014