What Can You Save After A Household Flood?

Posted on: 30 October 2015

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You come home from work to find that the storm sewer has backed up into your house and your basement is flooded. The personal items that you can safely salvage depend on the source of the floodwater and the length of time the items have been under water. Here is what you need to know before you wade into that flooded basement to retrieve those old family photos.

Contaminants in the Water Affect What You Can Save

Water damage restoration companies classify flood water based on where it came from and the likelihood that it contains harmful contaminants. The three typical categories and how they impact what you can save are:

  • Category 1 - This is called "clean water" because it won't harm you if you touch it or even drink it. This flood water comes from sources such as a broken water supply pipe or an overflowing kitchen sink. Because few contaminants are in clean water, items soaked by it can be saved if they can be dried thoroughly without damaging the item.
  • Category 2 - This is called "greywater" and it does contain contaminants that will harm you if you swallowed it. Water from a broken dishwasher drain or an overflowing toilet with no solids in it are examples of this flood water. Any personal items that become soaked with this water must be disinfected before you can safely keep them.
  • Category 3 - This is called "blackwater" and contains microorganisms that can make you ill by just making contact with the water on your skin. Special precautions, such as covering up from head to toe, need to be taken to protect yourself before working in this water. But you're better off letting a water damage specialist take the risk. The cost of disinfecting items soaked with this water will be too high to make it worth the effort. Many of the items would be damaged during the cleaning process anyway.

Duration in the Water Affects an Item's Recoverability

Once you've determined how contaminated the water is, consider how long an item has been under water. Non-porous items, such as dishes and flatware, can be cleaned and disinfected. Porous items, such as photos, upholstered furniture and carpet, are harder to save if they have been in the water for a long period.

Wood and paper items soak up the water into the pulp fibers and swell. It's unlikely that you'll get the item to look normal even after it is completely dry. You can try to dry photos slowly between layers of absorbent materials with a heavy object on top of them to prevent curling as they dry.

If carpet is left submerged for longer than a day, you risk having mold and mildew set in. Once mold begins to grow, it can be difficult to get it out of the carpet completely. You can pull up the carpet, throw away the padding and have a flood specialist steam clean and disinfect the carpet.

Upholstered furniture has a similar risk. The longer it stays under water, the higher the risk is that mold and mildew grow. If the cushions have removable covers, take the covers off and throw away the foam. Have the covers cleaned professionally and the rest of the piece of furniture cleaned by a water damage specialist. Visit Flagship Restoration if you need a water damage restoration company.