After you get over the shock of coming home to find water in your house, you'll begin the tedious process of recovering what personal items you can. Some items can be washed off easily and used again. Others may require extensive disinfecting to make them safe to be used. The disinfecting process can damage some items beyond repair, so it won't be possible to salvage them. The type of flood water and how long an item was wet determine how easy it is to save an item. Here is how those two factors play into your decision as to whether an item can be salvaged or should just be thrown out.
The Source of the Flood Water
The flood water in your home could have come from a number of sources, such as:
- a broken water line to the sink
- a broken drain in an appliance
- a backed up sewer drain
Professional water restoration companies classify flood water three ways, depending on the source and the amount of contaminants in the water.
Category 1 - This is water from a broken supply line. It has few microorganisms and other organic materials in it that would make you sick if you drank it. An item sitting in this water may be rinsed off and dried and be safe to use.
Category 2 - This would be the water from a broken drain pipe in your dishwasher. It has more contaminants in it that could make you sick if you drank the water. Items soaked with this water need to be disinfected slightly before being used.
Category 3 - This would be water from a backed up city sewer line. It has extensive contaminants in it and will most likely make you sick if you ingest any of this water. Some items sitting in this water, such as non-porous items like silverware, can be disinfected carefully and reused. Other items will need much more disinfecting and may be damaged by the cleanup process. Unless the item is very valuable or has sentimental value, dispose of these items.
The level of contaminants in flood water changes over time as it sits and becomes stagnant. For example, if your basement is flooded by a broken water supply line, the water is initially clean and classified as category 1. As the water sits, more microorganisms settle into it and now you have category 2 flood water. Items in this water must undergo a disinfecting process before being safe to use.
The Duration That An Item Is Damp With Flood Water
The second factor that determines how difficult it is to save an item is how long it's been wet. Some items develop a higher risk of contamination the longer they sit in the water. For example, carpet that has been under water for longer than 24 hours has an increased risk of developing mold and mildew. Once this happens, you'll need a mold removal specialist to clean and disinfect the carpet. Upholstered furniture, curtains, bathroom and bed linens, and clothing share this risk.
Get everything out of the flood water and into an area to dry out as soon as possible. You can then go through the items to determine whether you want to spend the time and money to salvage them.