How to clean up after a flood and storm damage

father with children cleaning up their house after a flood

RACV Staff

Posted October 18, 2022

If your home has been impacted by a flood or stormy weather, use this handy guide to find out what to do next and how to get your home back in order.

With the La Niña weather event bringing a huge amount of rain to Australia, many Victorian towns have experienced flash flooding and enduring rains. The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) has forecast that this wet weather is likely to continue into 2023.

Extremely wet weather can cause serious damage to your home and property and potentially impact your health long after the bad weather has passed.

Follow these steps to ensure the cleanup process is as stress-free as possible.

Find out if it's safe to return home

Don't attempt to return to your property until authorities have declared it safe to do so.

Depending on the damage caused in the area, it might not be possible to drive back home. Often roads are blocked, or long detours are in place. Keep the radio on for regular updates, or if you have access to the internet, check for the same. Remember to never drive through flood water. 

Make sure you're stocked up on clean bottled water (as the local water may be contaminated) and snacks. While you're at it, consider grabbing batteries for torches, refilling any prescription medications you might've lost in the flood and filling the tank with petrol in preparation for your return home.

Contact your insurer

Once you're safe, a key next step is to contact your insurance company. 

To submit a claim you'll need to provide details including your policy number (if you have it to hand), the time of the incident, and details of what happened, including a log of damage. 

It's a good idea to take photographs of any damage to submit with your claim. 

Your insurance company can assist with:

  • putting in place make safe arrangements at your home and property
  • sending a qualified professional out to assess whether your home is in a safe and liveable condition 
  • organising a tradesperson for any repairs, or
  • if the property is assessed as unliveable, arrange for temporary accommodation 
person in a white blouse and jeans and boots standing in dirty flood water in a field

Make sure to wear sturdy, protective waterproof boots when cleaning up.

Record and report flood damage

Any residents with damaged property due to flood should take photographs or videos of all property damage following a flood or storm, and make a list outlining all damaged items. Where possible, include brand, model and serial number and keep samples of damaged material. These steps will help provide evidence for your insurance claim.

Be sure to document all damage from where your property starts, including driveways and fences, barns, sheds, even damaged cars, to the home itself.

Tips for a flood clean-up

It's important to seek the advice of your insurance company before proceeding with, or making any cleaning arrangements.

Have a cleaning kit

Items that will aid you cleaning up your home include brooms, mops, rakes and buckets. Stock up on household cleaners, detergents, bleach and disinfectants as well, and always read the label before using the product.

Dress appropriately

Stick to solid and sturdy water-resistant boots, long pants and long sleeves, gloves, protective glasses (if needed). If outside, don't forget a hat, insect repellent and SPF.

Safety and hygiene

Water damage can bring bacteria so it pays to be vigilant. Practice good hand hygiene and use disinfectant when cleaning. If wounded while cleaning up, disinfect immediately and cover the injury with a waterproof dressing. Avoid entering lingering water as it can hide submerged hazards like nails, glass and other harmful detritus. 

Don't bring the kids

Leave your children and pets with a trusted relative or friend if possible when returning to your property. It can be distressing for children, who are also at risk of injuring themselves or becoming ill from the flood waters. 


hail pelting driveway and road in front of house

Always check to make sure your property is safe to enter after a big storm or flood. Photo: Getty.

Dry out your house

Once the weather is dry enough hose out any mud, dirt, and debris and then open all your door and windows. If it's still wet outside, leave doors and windows ajar. If your electricity or gas is still working turn on your heaters, but monitor the heat level. You want the heaters to help get rid of the moisture, not warp your floors and walls. Don't worry about mould until everything is dry.

Beware of your surroundings

Watch out for snakes, spiders and any other animals that could prove a hazard. If an animal has taken up residence in your home in your absence, call your local wildlife rescue to come and safely relocate it.

Check electrical equipment

Thoroughly dry out any electrical items and have them checked by an electrician before attempting to use them again, as water damage might not be immediately apparent.

Determine what is salvageable

Divide things into piles to keep and throw away. If the flooding and damage were widespread, it might be best to get a skip for larger items and garbage bags for smaller items as you work your way through the house.  Heavy furniture like beds, mattresses and couches may also need to be removed if they cannot be saved.

Think about security

Your house may not be liveable for some time. In this case, it's advisable to notify your utilities of the situation and arrange with Australian Post to have your mail held or diverted. If your property can't be secured due to the destruction of locks, consider arranging for a temporary security measure (i.e. cyclone fencing) to be installed as a deterrent. 

Look out for mud

Mud can seep into all the nooks and crannies in your home during a flood, lingering in spaces you wouldn't even think to check. Look out for mud in small spaces like behind and under benches, in shelving, and under showers and baths.

Check walls and floors

Floors, insulation and plaster may need to be removed as damp spaces can lead to the spread of mould and mildew in your home.  It only takes mould about 24 hours to develop and start spreading, so your focus should be removing wet items and drying out your house as soon as possible.

If it’s all too much and it’s something you can afford, there are lots of cleaners around who specialise in post-disaster cleans that you can call in to help. 


A person wearing gloves rolling out a rug after a storm

Weather permitting, prioritise drying out items as quickly as possible as mould can develop in as little as 24 hours. Photo: Getty.

How to prepare your home for a storm or flood in the future

Clean your gutters

Doing this regularly will help prevent blockages and damage. Cleaning out your gutters can be dangerous, however, so seek out a professional, such as RACV Trades, if you don't feel safe doing so.

Trim your trees

By keeping your tree branches trimmed, you can decrease your chance of damage in a storm or when there are strong winds.

Check your roof

Fix any roof damage, including broken or missing tiles. Make sure to use caution if using a ladder.  

Know your cover

Check your insurance cover is current and that your policy provides you with adequate cover

Have an action plan

Ensure yourself and your family are prepared for an emergency by creating an action plan. Know where you will go if told to evacuate and how you will get there, planning for multiple routes in case of road closures.

Create an emergency kit

Prepare a kit in the event that you have no power or you need to leave your home. Include things like a change of clothes, batteries, torches, bottled water and a first aid kit. 

Secure large items

Ensure any large items outside your home (including items on your balcony) that could be damaged or cause damage in a storm are secured or put inside. 

Stay updated

Listen to your local radio for weather warnings. Make sure you've got batteries on hand so you can operate your radio without power if needed.  The VicEmergency website and app also features up-to-date information

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The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit As distributor, RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd AFS Licence No. 230039 receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. Product(s)issued by Insurance Manufacturers of Australia Pty Ltd ABN 93 004 208 084 AFS Licence No. 227678.

RACV Emergency Home Assist is an emergency home service product, separate to insurance, that is provided by Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) Ltd and not RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd. It is a fast response service providing up to 8 call outs a year for common plumbing, electrical and locksmith emergencies, all for one annual fee. Up to 1 hour of labour, including minor parts and materials, is used to repair or make your home safe. Emergency Home Assist does not insure you against the costs of a home emergency and is not a home insurance product. Refer to the RACV Emergency Home Assist Terms and Conditions for more details.