Record-breaking rainfall left much of the state under water. Homes and businesses alike were flooded, or damaged by tornadoes and straight line winds. Oklahomans were left scrambling to recover.
OSU Cooperative Extension family resource management assistant specialist, Cindy Clampet, said it's possible to save important papers and books that have been damaged.
“Despite living in a digital age, most all of us have important papers at home. Birth certificates, marriage licenses and titles for vehicles are just a few of the examples of important documents. Some may have a treasured book from their youth or even a family bible that has been handed down through the generations,” Clampet said. “For the best results, slowly dry papers and books. Wipe book covers with a solution of equal parts of rubbing/denatured alcohol and water.”
For those who don't have time to clean and dry papers and books immediately, Clampet suggests putting the papers and books in a plastic zipper bag in the freezer. This, she said, will help prevent mold and mildew.
"Place wax paper between the layers of papers or books so they can be easily separated when you are ready to clean them," she said.
When working on waterlogged books, place them on end with the pages separated. When partially dry, pile and press the books to help keep the pages from crumpling.
“Alternate drying and pressing the books until they’re thoroughly dry. This will help prevent mildew from growing,” she said. “You also may use a fan during this process to help the books dry faster.”
Important documents damaged by flood water can be sprinkled with cornstarch or talcum powder to absorb moisture. Leave the powder there for several hours and then brush it off.
If you happen to have valuable books that are nearly dry, consider ironing the pages with an electric iron set on low. Clampet said this may be a tedious process, but depending on the value of the book, can be worth the effort. When completely dried, close them and use C-clamps to help them retain their shape. Vinyl and leather book covers can be wiped with a light coating of petroleum jelly or leather dressing.
“Keep in mind that even if your recovered papers appear to have dried successfully, they may disintegrate rapidly because of substances that were in the floodwater or rainwater,” she said. “In the event the documents start to fall apart, you may want to contact official agencies and start the process of replacing Social Security cards, marriage licenses, birth certificates and other important documents.”
What about furniture damaged in a flood?
Penny King, Rogers County Family and Consumer Sciences Educator said one of the biggest concerns is preventing and treating mold that may have formed on furniture. While the easiest route is to use a professional cleaner, there are many do-it-yourself options.
First, King says, put on gloves and a protective mask.
Furniture made of hard plastic, glass and metal may be simply cleaned using a mild soap and water solution, she said.
To clean leather items, wipe away visible mold with a solution of 1 cup of denatured alcohol to 1 cup of water.
“First test the solution first on an inconspicuous area since the dyes used in leathers can be extremely sensitive to a variety of substances,” King said, adding that upholstered furniture and mattresses are susceptible to mold growth and should be dried out immediately.
"If possible, find a professional upholstery cleaner. If that is not possible, take the item outside. Brush away or vacuum away mold on the surface of upholstery. If the vacuum bag is disposable, throw it away. Then carefully sponge the piece down with detergent and wipe with a clean cloth," she said. "Take care not use too much water and get the piece even wetter. The stuffing should remain dry"
Once items are clean, allow them to dry thoroughly. “After you’ve cleaned your upholstered items, set them outside in the sun for several hours, if possible, or use a fan and indirect heat to speed up the drying process,” King said. "Some things might need to be discarded. For example, if mold is in the fabric or padding, the only way to remove it and any odor is by renovating or replacing the item."
When it comes to wood, a crucial first step is determining if the mold is only on the finish or if it is in the wood, King said. If the mold is widespread, the wood should be sanded down to remove the mold, then refinished.
“Make sure any wood furniture pieces that were submerged in water are completely dry before trying to clean them,” King said. “Consider using a moisture meter to judge if the wood is dry enough.”