Saving Personal Items From A Household Flood

The flood waters are gone and you're left with a home full of soggy personal effects. It's time to sort through everything to see what can be saved. Here is what you need to understand about the impact of the flood water on your items and how to save as much as you can.

The Flood Water Source is the Primary Concern

Flood water may be contaminated with a variety of organic materials, some of which can make you ill. Depending on where the water came from, personal items may need to be disinfected before being used again. To help decide what can be saved and what can't, water damage cleanup companies categorize flood water in one of three ways.

Category 1 ("Clean Water") - This water contains very few harmful contaminates and will come from sources such as a broken water supply line. Items soaked with this water can generally be rinsed off and dried thoroughly to be safe enough to use.

Category 2 ("Grey Water") - This water has enough organic material in it to cause illness if you should swallow it. An example of this water is from an overflowing toilet with no solid waste in it. Items soaked with this water need to be rinsed thoroughly, then disinfected before being safe to use.

Category 3 ("Black Water") - This water has harmful levels of microorganisms in it and will likely make you ill if you swallow it. This would be water that comes into your house from a backed up city sewer line. Items soaked with this water would likely not survive the rigorous disinfecting needed to make the item safe for use. Any attempts to save these items requires the help of a water cleanup service.

The water contamination level changes as the water sits and becomes stagnant. Category 1 water can become category 2 in a few days if allowed to sit.

How Long An Item is Soaked is The Second Concern

The longer an items stays in the water, the harder it will be to recover. Items such as carpets, draperies and upholstered furniture left in the water longer than 24 hours have an increased risk of developing mold and mildew. This makes the items even more difficult to clean so the mold and mildew doesn't return.

Items made of wood, paper or cardboard will swell as they continue to sit in water. Drying the items will help, but they won't return to their pre-flood state once completely dried.

Get as many of your personal items out of the water to a dry area as soon as you can. Once dried, you'll have an easier time determining if an item can be salvaged or must be thrown away.

Specific Item Recovery Tips

  • Non-porous items, such as metal cookware and glasses, can be washed, rinsed off and dried to be safe to use.
  • Electronic items, such as televisions and computers may be salvaged if allowed to dry thoroughly before attempting to turn them on.  Turn them upside down on a surface to drain water out of them and let dry before turning on.
  • Important papers should be dried enough to copy or photograph them, then throw away the originals.
  • Try drying out photos by placing them between sheets of paper towel and putting a heavy book on top of them to prevent curling.
  • Machine wash all clothes, linen and throw rugs before using again.
  • Wall-to-wall carpet needs to be pulled up and allowed to dry. Have a water recovery specialist clean the carpet before re-installing. Throw away the old carpet pad.

For additional info, contact a flood restoration company near you.