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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Cleaning furniture damaged in natural disaster

Cleaning_Furniture.pngSalvaging personal possessions such as furniture is one of the main tasks on the to-do list immediately after a tornado, flood or other natural disaster.

The easiest route is to use a professional cleaner, but if that is not an option, you can do it yourself.

One of the biggest concerns is preventing and treating mold that may have formed on wet or damp furniture, said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist.

“Mold can cause stains and cosmetic damage, and in some cases, even thoroughly cleaning the furniture won’t restore an item to its original appearance,” Peek said. “That’s part of the reason homeowners need to act quickly in these situations.”

Furniture made of hard plastic, glass and metal may be cleaned using a mild soap and water solution while leather items may be wiped clean of visible mold with a solution of 1 cup of denatured alcohol to 1 cup of water.

“First test the solution on an inconspicuous area since the dyes used in leathers can be extremely sensitive to a variety of substances,” Peek said.

Upholstered furniture and mattresses also are susceptible to mold growth and should be dried out immediately. For best results, take the item outside and brush or vacuum away mold on the surface. If the vacuum bag is disposable, throw it away.

Then carefully sponge down the piece with detergent and wipe with a clean cloth.

“You don’t want to use too much water and risk getting the furniture even wetter. Be sure the stuffing remains dry,” Peek said. “Set clean pieces outside in the sun for several hours, if possible, or use a fan and indirect heat to speed up the drying process. Allow every item to dry thoroughly.”

Depending on the condition, some furniture may need to be discarded. For instance, if mold develops in the fabric or padding, the only way to remove it and any odor is by renovating or replacing the item.

In the case of furniture made of wood, a crucial first step is determining if the mold is only on the finish or if it is in the grain. To remove widespread mold, sand down the affected area, then refinish it.

“Make sure any wood furniture pieces that were submerged in water are completely dry before trying to clean them,” Peek said. “Consider using a moisture meter to judge if the wood is dry enough.”

 

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