Cleaning Up After a Flood or Leak


image of a flood warning sign

It's something that we all dread, a major leak or flood in our home. Burst pipes, leaking washing machines, storm damage to a roof, or even leaving the bath running could leave you with a wet and damp home that needs to be dried quickly. Using a dehumidifier is a great way to speed up the drying process and remove excess moisture before mould and mildew start to grow. Should you be unfortunate enough to have suffered a major flood or leak in your home our guide will offer some great tips and advice on what to do and the best way to clean up.

Burst or leaking pipes

Locate the main stopcock (sometimes called a stop tap) and turn off the water supply by turning the handle clockwise. The stopcock is normally found in the kitchen under the sink or where the main water pipe comes into your home. If you are having trouble finding it then turn on all the cold taps to reduce the pressure in the pipes which will slow down the leak. If you are unable to find a stopcock in the house then there may be one in your front garden, this will normally be found down inside a pipe in the ground, you may be able to reach down and turn off the tap by hand but if the pipe is too deep you will need a special extension handle. Be warned, stopcocks, especially those found in front gardens are often seized and sometime leak after being used.

On newer homes or those with water meters its easy to turn off the water supply as they have modern plastic ball valves that do not seize like the old metal taps. Look for a plastic handle which is sometimes blue and turn it a quarter turn clockwise. The water meter should have a foam frost protector, make sure you replace this afterwards. Note that any water pipes and stopcocks on your property are your responsibility.

You may find that the leak continues even when you have turned off the stop tap, this is probably because the water is now coming from the cold water storage tank in the loft. Turn on all the cold taps to drain the tank. Turn off any water heating systems you have such as central heating, immersion heaters and let any solid fuel heating die out. If you have a hot water cylinder you can now also turn on the hot taps to drain the cylinder.

If all else fails and you are unable to turn off the main water supply you can use pliers or a hammer to flatten the pipe. Only use this as a last resort.

Accidental spills and leaking appliances

It's not just leaking pipes that can cause problems, leaving the bath taps running until it overflows, or a leaking washing machine are common problems. There isn't much that can be done about overfilling a bath, we all make mistakes at some time. For washing machines a common cause of leaks is the door seal or the waste water pipe being blocked. A leak in the door seal can sometimes be fixed by cleaning it , however, if the seal is worn to only solution is to have it replaced.

Leaking roof or storm damage

Use mops and towels to soak up as much water as possible, use buckets to catch any drips where possible. Don't be tempted to get up the roof in bad weather, wait until the weather improves, or even better leave it to a professional roofer. Contact your home insurer to see if you are covered for the damage.


Flooding can be the worst type of water damage your home will experience, the water is often muddy and may even include sewage or animal waste. Clearing up after a flood is often best left to the professionals, who will use industrial dehumidifiers to dry out your home once it has been cleaned. Your home will need to be disinfected and may also need to be checked for structural damage. Carpets and any other soft furnishings affected will most likely have to be replaced. For further information on what to do in the event of a flood the DirectGov website has this useful guide.


Remember water and electrics don't mix. If there's the slightest chance that your electrics or electrical appliances could have been affected turn off the power supply and call an electrician for a safety check. Don't go climbing onto roofs to fix leaks unless you are competent at working at heights and with ladders.

Clean and Dry Quickly

It's important to get everything dry as quickly as possible before mould growth starts. Start by removing as much water as possible with towels, mops or a wet/dry vacuum system. Clean effected surfaces with a mild detergent or household bleach and clean warm water to remove any mould spores.

The flooded area needs to be dried within 24 to 48 hours to prevent mould growth. Mould needs a damp humid environment to grow in so open windows, put fans on and run a dehumidifier to thoroughly dry and ventilate the area. Ensure you have the correct size dehumidifier for the area that needs to be dried as too small a unit will not remove enough moisture.

Carpets will need to be removed as will the underlay and tacks. The carpet can be dried using a dehumidifier or you can have a professional company clean and dry your carpet. The underlay and tacks are not so easy to dry and clean so are best replaced. The floor underneath will also need to be scrubbed with detergent or household bleach and clean water to remove any mould spores, then allowed to dry before replacing the underlay, tacks, and finally carpet. The carpet can then be steam cleaned.

Walls or ceilings lined with plasterboard need to be checked for discoloration, sagging or soft areas. Sometimes if the water damage was not too severe then the plasterboard can be dried with fans and a dehumidifier. However, if you are unsure or if the seams have separated then they will need to be replaced.