A basement cleanout is one of the most important things to do in the pre- and post-moving process. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t involve just removing old junk. It also deals with drying up and clearing out any water that might be present.

Whether you’re cleaning up your basement to get ready to move, to get your basement clear for a sale or move-out, or are simply cleaning a basement for a property you’ve just purchased, we’ve got you covered. 

Let’s dive in and talk more about the steps in a basement cleanout and what you need to know.

Your basement’s a mess – here’s how to clean it

Basement cleanouts aren’t for the faint of heart. They can expose you to harmful chemicals, mold, mildew, sewage, standing water, and numerous other hazards. 

However, rest assured that if you’re looking to DIY water cleanup or handle minor flooding, as long as you have the correct tools and take precautions, you should be just fine. All it takes is some research and a little elbow grease to get your basement looking good as new and get your house ready for moving in or for sale in no time. 

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As always, if you’re not sure if you want to take on the task of cleaning up water damage in your basement, the professionals are just a phone call away.

Tips for cleaning a basement

Here are some tips for your basement cleanout: 

#1: Flip the breaker

Water and electricity don’t mix. That’s why switching off the electricity and gas should be the first thing on your basement cleaning checklist. If you don’t know the location of the breaker, get in touch with your electrician right away. 

Generally, they can give you a few ideas on where to look, and if you still can’t find it, they can come to your home to turn off the power for you. 

#2: Let it dry before cleaning

Mold grows in less than two days, so drying out the basement should be a top priority after a flood or leak. 

You can utilize a wet/dry shop vacuum or a water pump if you have experience in how to use that. Fans and a dehumidifier will help it dry the rest of the way after the water is gone. 

#3: Clear out any damaged items

Flooding (whether it’s from sewage or another source) can be toxic and contaminate those cans of peaches, corn, and baked beans in your basement. There isn’t a safe way to clean them, so it’s best to discard them. 

You’ll also want to throw away any carpeting, flooring, wall materials, insulation, beds, and furniture immersed in water. (If there was only minor water damage, some of these items could be cleaned.)

#4: Disinfect – don’t just sanitize

Sanitizing your basement with an antibacterial spray can help kill harmful bacteria, but it won’t stop all organisms from growing after a flooding incident. Bleach can, though. 

It’s important to disinfect your basement thoroughly for your family and home’s safety (more on how to disinfect a basement below).  

#5: Don’t forget to scrub the walls

When you think about cleaning a basement, the first thing that comes to mind is usually the cement floor. However, you don’t want to overlook the walls. 

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Like the floors, the walls can get affected by water. That’s why it’s important to clean nearly two feet up the wall from the floor and wherever there is damage to ensure that the walls are no longer contaminated. 

#6: Add a waterproof stain

Once the water is gone, consider a waterproof stain to help fight back against water damage in the future. This is extra beneficial if you live in an area at risk for flooding or have an older home that’s known for leaks. 

To apply the stain, you’ll first need to give the floor a good scrub using an alkaline cleaner and degreaser. Next, you’ll want to wash away the cleaner, add phosphoric acid, and scrub the floor once again for about 60 minutes. Leave the solution there for 20 minutes. Then, rinse the floor three times over. Finally, after it’s dry, you can apply the stain, which takes about a day to dry. 

#7: Take care of any necessary repairs

It’ll be easier to see the damage the water left behind after the basement is clean. That is your chance to schedule repairs or DIY the repairs yourself. 

These repairs may include tearing off the carpeting, painting the walls, or putting in new walls and insulation. No matter what the job entails, make sure to wear the proper gear to keep yourself safe.

An english basement with couch and tv
It may take some work, but you can get your basement looking like this

How do I disinfect my basement?

First, you’ll need the right supplies. That includes chlorine bleach, scrubbers with long handles, washcloths, one or two buckets, a mop, latex or vinyl gloves, and safety goggles.

Next, you’ll want to make sure the basement floor, walls, and anywhere else affected are completely dry. If they’re not, you can move this process along by plugging in a handful of dehumidifiers and fans. 

After the area is dry, you’ll want to open the windows to help with the airflow. Then, add a tablespoon of chlorine bleach to a bucket of water. Dip your mop inside of the bucket until it’s fully wet. Then, mop the floors and walls until everything is covered. Wait for the area to dry, and mop it again. Use your scrubbers for more difficult areas. 

Tip: If the solution is not properly cleaning the floor after a flooring or sewage incident, up the bleach quantity to ¼ cup. 

How do I clean up water in the basement?

As we mentioned above, you can do one of two methods: vacuum the area with a wet/dry vacuum, such as this one by DEWALT. You can also use a water pump or sump pump to get the water out. Again, it is vital to dry the area before starting the cleaning process. 

A wet vacuum on a wet basement floor
A wet vacuum can help enormously with cleaning a basement

What do you do with junk in the basement?

First, you’ll want to assess the water damage. If an item is beyond repair, you can throw it away or recycle it in some cases. If there are items you want to get rid of that were not affected by the water, you can sell, donate, or recycle these as well. (You can also have a company that offers basement cleaning and junk removal pick up your items for you.)

Ultimately, it comes down to how much time you have and whether the items are salvageable. Find more junk removal tips here

What if you can’t clean your basement alone?

Basement cleanouts are no easy task, and it gets even harder when there’s water damage. If you don’t have the right tools or time to clean your basement by yourself, contact a flooded basement cleanup company for assistance. 

They can ensure the job is handled professionally from square one, dry everything out, and limit the chance of mold and mildew growth. All you’ll have to do is show them where to go.

Best of luck with your basement cleanout

Once your basement cleanout is complete, it’s a great time to contact movers (such as your friends at Bellhop). We can help coordinate your move from start to finish, deliver your items to your new home, help you carry your items inside, and much more. Here is a bit more information on comparing moving company quotes as well.
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Tyler Brown