Deciding What To Save After A Household Flood

Posted on: 7 August 2016

When faced with a roomful of personal items that have become soaked with flood waters, the decision to save or throw out something can be daunting. In some cases, cleanup of an item is simple. In others, the cleanup of the item to make it safe to use again may damage the item. Here are the factors that affect your choice of whether to discard an item or try to salvage it from the flood.

The Source of the Flood Water is the First Factor

Where the flood water came from will determine in large part whether you can save an item or not. Professional water salvage companies classify water based on the amount of contaminants it contains. There are three general categories for flood water sources:

#1 - This flood water comes from a clean source, such as the water supply line to your kitchen faucet. This water has few microorganisms and organic material in it that might make you ill if you ingested it. Items soaked with this water can be rinsed off, dried and will be safe to use again.

#2 - This water has a higher level of contaminants and could make you ill if you swallowed it. Examples are water from an overflowing toilet or broken dishwasher drain pipe. Items soaked with this water must undergo some level of disinfecting before it will be safe for you to use again.

#3 - This flood water has high levels of microorganisms and organic material in it and will likely make you ill if ingested. This would be water from a backed up city storm sewer. Items soaked with this water should be handled by a professional water damage specialist who is trained in working with contaminated items. These items would need such extensive disinfecting that they may be damaged beyond use. To be safe, consider replacing these items instead of attempting to clean them up.

The Duration an Item Has Been Soaked is the Second Factor

The longer an item has been soaked, the harder it may be to save it. Porous items, such as paper and wood, swell as they remain soaked. Drywall can break down when it remains wet for long periods.

One of the biggest problems is mold and mildew. Carpet can develop mold and mildew if left soaked for as little as 24 hours. Making carpet and upholstered furniture safe that has been soaked for long periods requires extensive disinfecting by a water salvage company. Consider discarding cloth or fiber items that have soaked for longer than day. An exception is clothing that can be commercially laundered with a disinfectant to make them safe to wear.

Knowing the source of the flood water and how long something has been soaked will give you the basis for your decision on whether to try to save a personal item or replace it. Speak with local mold remediation experts for more help.