After a flood

After a flood:

  • It may not be safe to return home even when the floodwaters have receded. Continue to listen to your local radio station for civil defence instructions
  • Help others if you can, especially people who may require special assistance
  • Throw away food including canned goods and water that has been contaminated by floodwater.
  • Avoid drinking or preparing food with tap water until you are certain it is not contaminated. If in doubt, check with your district council or District Health Board
  • Report broken power lines to appropriate authorities.
  • If your property is damaged, take notes and photographs for insurance purposes. If you rent your property, contact your landlord and your contents insurance company as soon as possible.

Salvaging food items and utensils

Floodwaters can carry bugs that cause disease. These can contaminate food.

  • Wash cooking, eating, and other kitchen utensils in hot soapy water, if they have been covered by floodwater. Rinse thoroughly in safe water, then disinfect by immersing for one minute in a solution of 500 ml (about two cups) of household bleach in 10 litres of water. Rinse again in safe water. Alternatively, boil all utensils for three minutes.
  • Destroy all unpackaged food and food items packed in paper, cardboard or non-waterproof material that have been exposed directly to the floodwater.
  • Get rid of all foods needing refrigeration when they have been unrefrigerated for more than two hours. If the power has been off to the freezer for more than two days, get rid of all thawed food.
  • You can save foods in waterproof, airtight containers (e.g. tins) that have been in floodwater, but make sure they are thoroughly cleaned before opening. Wash and scrub them in warm water with soap or detergent, then rinse them in clean water from a safe supply. Alternatively, soak them for at least one minute in a solution of 500 ml (two cups) of household bleach mixed with 10 litres of water, then rinse clean.
  • Wash and disinfect your can opener before using it.
  • Throw out the contents of bottles with crown tops and crimped or screw caps if they have been submerged in floodwater. It is safer to get rid of all home preserves, as these have a higher risk of contamination than commercial items.
  • Do not use packaged or canned food if it has been punctured, is bulging, leaking or the top has popped up. Throw out any canned foods dented on the side or along the top or bottom seams.

If in doubt, throw it out!


  • Boil water before drinking.
  • If your water tank is affected by floodwater, get rid of the contents because it may be polluted, clean the tank out and disinfect it.
  • If you use bore water, pump the bore to waste for 24 hours. If the bore is under water do not pump.
  • If your water comes from a well, mix 2.5 litres of plain household bleach with 45 litres of water and pour down the well (the bleach must not contain fragrances or detergent). Replace the well cover and turn on each tap until there is a smell of chlorine in the water. Turn off the tap, but do not use the water for eight hours, then open all taps and flush out the chlorine.