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A Comprehensive Guide to Restoring Your Home and Possessions

A wind storm like a hurricane or tornado can destroy your home and belongings in mere minutes. While devastating, many possessions can be salvaged with some time and effort. Here are free and low-cost tips for cleaning, drying, and restoring your valuables.

On this page you will find:

Disinfecting Techniques

  • Moldy surfaces can be treated with bleach, vinegar or borax solutions. Wear gloves and mask when cleaning mold.
  • Baking soda and water makes a gentle cleaner for many items. It also helps remove odors from textiles.
  • Don’t use items until completely dry to prevent further mold issues.

Photos and Documents

  • Begin by identifying and prioritizing the most valuable and sentimental items you want to salvage.
  • Create a plan that outlines which items to focus on first.
  • Carefully sift through debris piles from your home, as framed photos, albums and files may be buried but salvageable.
  • Remove mud and debris gently with clean water. Avoid rubbing or scrubbing as this will damage the items.
  • Lay out wet items in a clean, dry, and well-ventilated area to air dry. This can include clothing and small keepsakes as well.
  • Use fans or natural airflow to speed up the drying process.
  • If you cannot immediately address wet documents and photos, place them in sealed plastic bags or containers and freeze them. This halts mold growth and buys you time for proper restoration.
  • Once dry, items can be scanned or photographed digitally to preserve them. Back up files online or to external drives to protect against future loss.

Furniture, Rugs and Textiles

  • Use a hose or scrub brush and a mixture of water and a mild detergent to wash off mud from outdoor furniture, rugs, drapes and fabrics. Sunlight can help disinfect and dry items naturally. Place salvaged items in direct sunlight when possible. Allow them to air dry fully before bringing indoors.
  • Vacuum and clean indoor furniture and textiles. Let dry thoroughly to avoid mold. Place near fans or windows.
  • If structurally sound but damaged, wood furniture can be sanded and refinished. Upholstery and rugs may need replaced.


  • Never turn on or plug in wet electronics! This can short circuit them.
  • If electronic devices like smartphones or cameras get wet, remove the batteries, and place the devices in a bag of uncooked rice or silica gel packets. This can help absorb moisture. Once thoroughly dried out, electronics may work again. Backup data from the restored device as soon as possible.

Artwork and Collectibles

  • Gently clean mud and debris from delicate items but avoid harsh scrubbing.
  • When drying artwork, remove them from the frame but keep the stretcher intact to prevent curling or rolling and airdry them facing up in a location away from direct sunlight.
  • Consult a professional art restorer for evaluating and restoring damaged paintings, antiques and other collectibles.
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