Disaster Recovery Dos & Don’ts

While you are waiting for the property restoration experts to arrive, there are some things you can do on your own to ensure that the damage and your out-of-pocket expenses are minimized.

Fire Damage


  • Protect chrome trim on kitchen appliances by applying a light coat of Vaseline or other type of oil
  • Blow off or brush-vacuum loose particles from upholstery, draperies, and carpet
  • If weather permits, open all windows in the damaged area to improve ventilation
  • Use a small amount of oil to coat and protect smoke-damaged faucets, towel bars, and tub fittings
  • Remove any pets to a clean environment (birds are particularly susceptible to smoke particles)
  • If electricity is off, empty your freezer and refrigerator and keep the door propped open
  • If it’s winter and electricity is out, pour antifreeze in toilet bowls, sinks, and tubs to help prevent frozen pipes and other problems
  • If heat is off in the winter, call a plumber to drain your heating system


  • Wipe or wash walls or ceilings
  • Use upholstered furniture
  • Use exposed food items—including canned goods—that may have been exposed to smoke or extreme heat
  • Use electrical equipment (TVs, stereos, etc.) until they’ve been professionally checked
  • Send smoke-damaged garments to the dry cleaner, since improper cleaning may just cause the residue and odors to sink into the material.

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Water Damage


  • Get rid of as much floodwater as possible by mopping and blotting
  • Wipe water from wood furniture
  • Prop up wet upholstered cushions to ensure even drying
  • Place aluminum foil on wood blocks between furniture legs and wet carpeting
  • During wintertime, open windows to speed drying—in the summer, turn on air conditioning
  • Open (but not do not force) drawers and cabinet doors to ensure that the insides are completely dried
  • Move valuable paintings and art away from flooded areas—and preferably to higher ground
  • Blot dry wet carpeting with white towels
  • Punch small holes in sagging ceilings to relieve trapped water (and place pans or buckets beneath)


  • Leave wet fabrics in place—and hang furs and leather goods to dry separately at room temperature
  • Leave books, magazines, and colored items on wet carpet or floors
  • Attempt to use your normal household vacuum to suck up floodwaters
  • Use electrical appliances while you’re standing on a wet surface
  • Turn on ceiling fixtures, such as lights as fans, if the ceiling is wet
  • Keep everyone out of rooms where the ceiling is sagging from excess water

Mold Growth


  • Open windows to improve ventilation
  • If coming into direct contact with the mold, wear gloves, a facial mask, and protective clothing
  • Wash all soft materials like towels and clothing and store them away from the mold growth
  • If the mold growth is extensive, it may be safest to move out of your home temporarily


  • Touch or handle affected materials
  • Sleep in any rooms where mold growth is present
  • Vacuum anything
  • Turn on air conditioning (or heating) as this can allow the contamination to spread through your ventilation system
  • Try to remove the mold on your own until you have consulted mold remediation professionals