Using Bleach to Prevent Waterborne Illnesses

Sometimes flood waters, especially those from hurricanes and other natural disasters, become contaminated by overflowing sewage systems and agricultural and industrial waste.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) skin contact with floodwater does not, by itself, pose a serious health risk. However, there is risk of disease from eating or drinking anything contaminated with floodwater. (Here are other useful tips from the CDC on flood water after an emergency.)

Red Cross volunteers distributing clean-up supplies like bleach in 2016 to aid recovery from Hurricane Matthew. Photo by Daniel Cima for the American Red Cross

To help prevent waterborne illnesses at home, use these practical tips:

  • If there has been a backflow of sewage into your house, wear rubber boots and waterproof gloves during cleanup.
  • Remove and discard contaminated household materials that cannot be disinfected, such as wall coverings, cloth, rugs and drywall.
  • Disinfect hard, nonporous surfaces using an EPA-registered disinfectant, like Clorox® Regular Bleach₂. (That subscript 2 denotes a specific bleach formula; always read your label to find out which bleach formula you have, as different formulas require different ratios of bleach to water for disinfection.)
    1. Wash and rinse surface with water
    2. Mix 1/2 cup of Clorox® Regular Bleach2 in 3/4 gallon of water
    3. Wipe area with bleach solution and let solution stand for 10 minutes
    4. Let air dry
  • Wash clothes contaminated with flood or sewage water in hot water and detergent and separately from uncontaminated clothes and linens.
  • Make sure only to use water that authorities have confirmed is safe for drinking, cleaning or bathing. Clorox® Regular-Bleach2 can be safely used to disinfect waterClick for instructions or review instructions on your bleach bottle label.
  • Disinfect floodwater-contaminated toys before letting children play with them. To disinfect hard, nonporous toys, use an EPA-registered disinfectant, like Clorox® Regular Bleach₂.
    1. Wash and rinse surface with water
    2. Mix 1/2 cup of Clorox® Regular Bleach2 in 3/4 gallon of water
    3. Wipe area with bleach solution and let solution stand for 10 minutes
    4. Let air dry

Some toys, such as stuffed animals and baby toys, cannot be disinfected. They should be discarded.

 

Clorox is committed to helping communities recover from hurricanes

Our hearts go out to all the people around the world impacted by devastating storms and floods. Here are some of the ways we are providing support:

We are a proud $1 million-level member of The American Red Cross Disaster Giving Program.

Following Hurricane Harvey, we donated cash and products to The American Red Cross relief effort, including more than 14,000 cases of Clorox Regular-Bleach and 6,000 cases of Glad® trash bags.

In addition, our Kingsford brand is supporting Operation BBQ Relief to provide 10,000 meals to displaced families and first responders.

Our Fresh Step brand is donating 20,000 pounds of cat litter to Houston animal shelters; using social media to promote Flights to Freedom, which is flying hundreds of pets from overcrowded shelters in the affected area to loving homes in the Pacific Northwest​; and launching a Paw Points donation match (up to 1 million points/ $20,000 value) to encourage consumers to donate their Paw Points to shelters in the impacted area to be redeemed for much-needed items like free litter, cleaning products, blankets and more.

Red Cross volunteers load Emergency Response Vehicles with clean-up supplies, such as garbage bags, rakes, buckets, gloves and water. Photo by Daniel Cima for the American Red Cross

Additional resources:

To learn more, visit Clorox.com, including The Truth About Bleach page, for valuable information on bleach safety and how to use it to disinfect surfaces and fight mold and mildew

Flood clean-up tips from the Clorox brand, including how to clean mold and mildew and tips to help prevent mosquitoes outside your home

How to Use Bleach to Disinfect Water

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