Ask UfYH

Ask UfYH: Floors and Floods and Funk, Oh My!

Q: I just moved into a new apartment, and the floor in the living room is painted wood (no I don’t know why, it was like that when I got here). Every time I use a normal cleanser to spot-clean, I feel like I’m taking up a layer of paint or two. Do you know of any good way to clean a painted surface that’s (apparently) unsealed?

A: When I am queen of the world, I will outlaw two types of floor coverings: carpeting in bathrooms, and unsealed painted wood floors. Seriously. Both of these things are far more trouble than they’re worth, and only ever seem to lead to problems down the line. 

About your floors, technically the wood is sealed because it’s painted, but I’m guessing the paint never got any kind of polyurethane or other clear coat to keep the paint from chipping, flaking, or rubbing away. Which makes it a giant pain in the ass. If you owned your house, I’d suggest (if you were to keep the paint) another coat of paint and then some kind of sealant like polyurethane. I’m guessing your landlord won’t be down with that plan, so we’ll come up with an alternate plan for you.

As you’ve discovered, most things that you would normally think to use to clean are going to be working against you and your floors here. Your best bet is to try to avoid things that are A) wet, and B) made to de-grease, de-stain, or otherwise de-anything, really. What does that leave you? Well, sweeping, mostly. Or dry mopping (like with a Swiffer). If you have something that requires more than just sweeping can help with, try a damp (not wet) cloth with just hot water first, and dab at it, then immediately dry. Painted floors kind of suck. To be honest, I’d be inclined to just throw down some area rugs and call it a day.

Q: Help! I live in Colorado, and our basement got a few dunkings with rainwater. The floor’s stripped to concrete and fans and heaters are running 24/7 until the nice FEMA folks come by, but the whole house stinks of wet. How can we make things less gag-worthy?

Q: So, we’re in Boulder, which you may have heard has experienced some small amount of rain. Advice for unfucking a basement that has recently seen several inches of water (and the towels, blankets, books, furniture and laundry that was sacrificed to the 100 year flood gods?)

A: First of all, I’m glad you’re all safe and sound, but I’m sorry that you have to deal with flood aftermath.

Anyone who knows me knows I have a few things I preach pretty consistently. One is that bleach is overused, but another is that YOU DO NOT FUCK AROUND WITH MOLD. In this case, the second overrules the first, and bleach is entirely appropriate. The CDC recommends one cup of bleach in one gallon of water for mold that is visible, and one cup of bleach in five gallons of water to prevent mold on flood-affected surfaces. Any of your porous belongings that can’t go through the washing machine may be a loss; it can be nearly impossible to restore these items safely after a flood, and it may be better for you and your health to just get rid of them.

As for the smell? Ventilation, dehumidifying, and time are pretty much the only things that will really make the smell go away. A bleach wash of most surfaces will help a lot (please wear a mask and make sure you have lots and lots of ventilation or fresh air breaks), but until everything is dry and clean, there’s going to be some funk. You can do things to help cover up or mildly reduce the funk: candles (as long as you’re 100% sure you don’t have any kind of gas leak), boiling a pot of vinegar and water (it stinks while it’s happening, but it eats a lot of other smells), kitty litter, moisture absorbers like DampRid, etc., but it’ll take time (and a structural inspection) before things start getting truly better.

For more information on post-flood cleaning and safety, see what the CDC has to say.

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