Salvaging Household Furnishings

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Cleaning and Sterilizing Dishes and Cooking Utensils

Before using any dishes, pots, pans or cooking utensils that were in contact with flood water, wash and sterilize them.

  • Any piece of equipment that can be taken apart should be cleaned in pieces. Remove plastic and wooden handles from frying pans and saucepans. Clean parts separately.
  • Wash dishes, pots, pans and utensils in hot sudsy water. Use a brush if necessary, to remvoe dirt.
  • After sudsing and brushing, rinse in clear water. Place dishes in a wire basket or other container, and dip them in a sanitizing solution. Use a solution recommended byru local health authorities, or 1 1/2 tablespoonschlorine bleach to a gallon of water.
  • Air dry dishes. Do not dry them with a dish towel. If cupboards and food preparation surfaces were in contact with flood water, clean andrinse them with a chlorine bleach solution before storing dishesand utensils. 

Deciding What Furniture to Salvage

Before starting to salvage damaged furniture, decide which pieces are worth restoring. Such decisions should be based on:

  • Extent of damage
  • Cost of the article
  • Sentimental value
  • Cost of restoration
  • Consider each piece individually.

Antiques are probably worth the time, effort and expense of restoration. Unless damage is severe, you can probably clean, reglue and refinish antiques at home. Extensive repair or re-veneering work should be done at a reliable furniture repair shop.

Solid wood furniture can usually be restored, unless damage is severe. You will probably need to clean, dry and reglue it (see Salvaging Flooded Wooden Furniture). Slightly warped boards may be removed and straightened.

Wood veneer furniture is usually not worth the cost and effort fo repair, unless it is very valuable monetarily or sentimentally. If veneer is loose in just a few places, you may be able to repair it (see Salvaging Flooded Wooden Furniture).

Upholstered furniture may be salvageable, depending on its general condition. Flooded pieces will need to be cleaned and dried, and mildew should be removed. If damage is extensive, you may have to replace padding and upholstery. Since this is an expensive process, it might be wiser to apply the money toward a new piece of furniture.

You will not need to replace all pieces immediately. Any furniture worthy of repair should be completely cleaned, dried, and stored in a dry, warm place until you have time to repair it.

Salvaging Flooded Upholstered Furniture

Upholstered furniture that has been submerged in flood water may be impossible to salvage if it has been badly soaked. If the piece is worth the effort, however, you will need to clean and oil the springs, replace stuffing, and clean the frame.

Stuffing and Covering

  • Remove furniture coverings using ripping tools, hammer, or tackpuller, screwdriver or chisel.
  • Remove all tacks from the frame.
  • Wash coverings
  • Throw away all cotton stuffing You can't dry, fumigate, and reuse padding made of materials other than cotton.

Springs and Frame

  • Wipe off springs and frame.
  • Store wood furniture where it will dry out slowly.


Mildew may have developed on damp or wet furniture. Mildew is a gray-white mold that leave stains and rots fabric unless it is removed promptly. To remove mildew spots:

  • Brush with a broom to remove loose mold from the outer covering. Do this outdoors if possible, so you won't scatter mildew spots (which can start new growth) in the house.
  • Vacuum the surface to draw out mold. Dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag outside to avoid scattering mold spres in the house.
  • If mildew remains and fabric is washable, sponge lightly with a thick soap or detergent suds. Wipe with a clean, damp cloth. Get as little water on teh fabric as possible, so the padding doesn't get wet.
  • If mold remains, wipe the furniture with a damp cloth dipped in dilute alcohol (one cup denatured alcohol to one cup water) or a chlorine bleach solution (1/4 teaspoon bleach to a cup of water). Test in an area that is "hidden."
  • Dry the article thoroughly.
  • Use a low pressure spray containing a fungicide to get rid of musty odors and remaining mildew. Moisten all surfaces thoroughly. Respray frequently if mildew is a continuing problem. Spraying rooms with an aerosol material will not eliminate mildew problems.
  • If molds have drown into inner part, send furniture to a dry cleaning or storage company for thorough drying and fumigation. Fumigation will kill molds present at the time, but will not protect against future attacks.

Salvaging Flooded Wooden Furniture

Wooden furniture damaged by floods can best be salvaged through slow drying and proper repair.

Submerged Furniture

  • Take furniture outdoors and remove as many drawers, slides, and removable parts as possible. Drawers and doors will probably be stuck tight.Do not try to force them out from the front. After allowing to dry for a brief period, use a screwdriver or chisel to remove the back and pushout the drawer from behind.
  • After you have removed movable parts, clean off mud and dirt, usinga hose if necessary.
  • Take all furniture indoors and store it where it will dry out slowly. Furniture left in the sunlight to dry will warp and twist out of shape.
  • When furniture is dry, reglue it if necessary. You will need woodworking tools and clamps to reglue some pieces. Before you start, decide whether you have the time, equipment and ability to do the work. Consultan experienced cabinet maker if necessary. To reglue loose joints, thoroughly clean joints of old glue so the area will be as clean and free of glue as possible. Use a white all purpose glue, following directions on the container. Hold parts together with rope tourniquets or suitable clamps. To prevent damage from ropes or clamps, pad contact areas with cloth protection.

Damp Furniture - Removing white spots

Furniture that has been submerged in flood waters will frequently exhibit mildew or mold which can be removed with warm soapy (mild detergent) water and a soft cloth. White spots or a cloudy film may develop on damp furniture that has not been submerged. To remove white spots:

  • If the entire surface is affected, rub with a damp cloth dipped in turpentine or camphorated oil, or in a solution of 1/2 cup household ammonia and 1/2 cup water. Wipe dry at once and polish with waxor furniture polish.
  • If color is not restored, dip 3/0 steel wool in oil (boiled linseed, olive, mineral or lemon). Rub lightly with the wood grain. Wipe with a soft cloth and rewax.
  • For deep spots use a drop of two of ammonia on a damp cloth. Rubat once with a dry cloth. Polish. Rubbing cigarette ashes, powdered pumice, or a piece of walnut into the spots may help remove them.
  • If spots remain after all efforts to remove them, the piece should be stripped of the old finish and refinished.

Veneered Furniture

Thoroughly dry furniture. If veneer is loose in just a few places, carefully scrape glue under the loose areas.

  • Press veneer back in place. Place wax paper over affected area andheat with warm iron, and place weights on the area.
  • If veneering doesn't stay in place or is bubbled, carefully slitthe loose veneer with a razor blade, apply a good quality glue. Weightsare applied after covering the glued spots with wax paper to prevent excessglue (which may spurt out when pressure is applied) from gluing the weights to the furniture.

Repairing badly damaged veneered furniture requires special skill and tools. Unless you are an experienced woodworker, don't attempt the job yourself! Take the furniture to a cabinetmaker of have your dealer return it to the factory for repair.

If insurance allows part value on flood damaged furniture, it may be financially worthwhile to apply the money to new articles, rather than pay for extensive repairs.

This information taken from a pamphlet prepared by:

The Collier County Cooperative Extension Service
14700 Immokalee Road
Naples, FL 33964
239 353 4244