This year’s floods have been both dramatic and sustained, causing a lot more damage to property and people’s belongings than in recent years. I can personally vouch for this as I recently lived in Burrowbridge, the epicentre of the flooding on the Somerset levels.
As the water rises, bed linen and clothes not normally found on the floor can come into contact with the dirty water, be mindful that some of this water may have been washed down through farmers fields.
Even worse than this, it may have come from sewerage water, a recent report by Sky News indicated that there could more than 1000 times the average bacteria in the water. One quote from this article states: “It’s possible they could get some quite nasty gastrointestinal diseases or diarrhoea etc from coming into contact with this floodwater,”
Cleaning Flood Damaged Duvets and Pillows
At this point we would just recommend replacing any duvets or pillows immediately as they are hard to keep clean at the best of times. Most natural fillings like goose or duck down do not like washing machines.
Once wet, only a steam cleaner can dry out the filling effectively, this can only be done if you remove the feathers or down from the duvet casing.
If this is not possible you will only damage the fillings beyond any repair and any moisture will still be left inside the duvet. The warm moist conditions would be a breeding ground for more bacteria, so this is why we would always recommend replacement.
Even with manmade fibres such as microdown and microfiber, effective drying at the right temperature required to kill off any bacteria could not be guaranteed. Once again we would just advise that you throw them away as soon as possible so that they do not contaminate any further items that could be saved. Expert dry cleaners only clean the top surface of any material and a duvet filling can be quite thick.
Cleaning Flood Damaged Bed Linen
This area can be quite grey – literally!
As we deal with bed linen on a daily basis we are often asked about the best way to clean and look after your linen, with flood waters we would suggest that the safest way for you and your family is to dispose of the soiled linen at the local council tip or removed with the rest of the household waste.
Even if the bed linen you have is one of the most expensive it would be wise to start over again and purchase new bed linen.
If you are fortunate enough not to have sustained heavy soiling or you need to save that family heirloom from the bin, there are a few things you can do. Always look at the wash care label before proceeding with any cleanup work, some items like silk or fine delicate woollen items cannot be saved due to the nature of the natural fibre, once damaged they are beyond repair.
Some items like polyester or cotton can be washed at high temperatures using a good quality washing powder. Most household washing machines can cope with normal soiled bed linen. Washing them at 30 or 40 degrees gets rid of the vast majority of dirt and bacteria but in the case of flood water you would need to wash them on the highest temperature setting the linen can sustain or dry clean them at a very high temperature to be sure that the bacteria has been killed off.
Here are a few tips on how to go about cleaning up your bed linen
- START as soon as possible by sorting out the linen into piles of washable bed linen and dry clean only. The instructions can easily be found on the wash care label attached to the side of the fabric.
- Sort into two piles of whites and colours. Do not leave wet colored bed linen mixed with whites because dye transfer can occur, we all know what a dyed white t-shirt looks like. We can assure you that a washed out pink is not likely to become fashionable this summer!
- Rinse as much dirt as possible from the clothing, ideally in the bath or sink. Do not put soiled items directly in to your washing machine because you may infect the washer’s filter system.
- Wash the clothes in the hottest water recommended for the fabric. For white only fabrics add a small amount of bleach in the wash cycle. For fabrics like wool, silk or coloured clothes add a small amount of pine oil disinfectant. Be careful and always follow the manufacturer’s recommended amounts.
- After washing with disinfectant you can inspect the bed linen for any remaining stains. Pre soak again overnight and rewash on the recommended wash cycle. Vanish prewash is ideal, check out their tip exchange for some brilliant customer ideas.
- Tumble dried at the highest heat recommended will also help kill bacteria. If the fabric cannot be tumble dried, hang them outside in the sun where the ultraviolet rays will help kill bacteria.
There’s also a useful article on what to do with flood damaged clothes.
Most good insurance companies would have no problem replacing flood damaged duvets, pillows and bed linen, once the cleanup operation is complete you can at least get back to building up a normal life again.