How to Clean Hardwood After a Toilet Overflow

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Q: How do I clean up my hardwood floors after a toilet overflows.

This question appeared as a comment on How to Clean Up After a Toilet Overflows

The difference between cleaning up toilet water on your typical bathroom flooring e.g. vinyl or tile and cleaning up hardwood is the hardwood is porous.

The advice in this post is for toilet overflows, not sewage backups. It also assumes that you are taking action quickly. If the water has been standing, has gone to the drywall, or seeped to a lower floor, more drastic measures should be taken.

While a toilet overflowing is certainly gross, it’s not the end of the world and as long as it is caught early, you may be able to prevent permanent damage.

The first step is to stop the influx of water.

Next, remove all of the water from the surface. Use old towels then a wet dry vac. Continue to use the vacuum even after you don’t see water on the surface, it’s still pulling some of the water from the wood.

The third step is to clean the wood flooring. Your bathroom flooring should not be a food contact surface, if it is, you should rethink your habits, for your sake and everyone else*. Use the cleaner recommended by your flooring’s manufacturer. If you cannot find that, something like Mr. Clean will do. Clean the floors and then damp mop or wipe with rags dipped in clean water with the excess squeezed out.

Run the cleaned wet vac over the floors again.

Finally, and this is the most critical step, dry the flooring thoroughly. If you have access to an industrial fan run this, pointed at the flooring until it is fully dry. This will take longer than you think as the moisture isn’t just at the surface.

Additional actions that can help with drying the flooring:

  • If you have central air, run it. Air conditioning removes some of the humidity from your house.
  • Do not run heat to this room until fully dry. If the floor was wet more than the surface, this can cause the boards to warp and encourage mold and mildew.
  • Use a dehumidifier

But what about the bleach you ask? Using bleach to disinfect runs the risk of damaging your flooring further. Contact your manufacturer for advice.

*Please wash your hands thoroughly before doing anything else after cleaning up this mess. I shouldn’t have to say this, but. . .

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