Recovering Items from a Household Flood

You wake up one morning to find water in your basement. Knowing where the flood water came from and how long your personal items have been sitting in the water will help you decide which items you can safely recover. Here is what you need to know about a household flood and what you can do to save your personal belongings.

Where the Water Came from Is the Primary Factor

Depending on the source of the flood water, you may be able to  simply dry the items off or they may require extensive disinfecting before they are safe to use. In some cases, the cleaning process will damage the items, making them impossible to save. Here is how flood water recovery specialists categorize flood water.

Category 1—This is considered "clean" water and has few contaminants in it that would make you sick even if you swallowed it. This is the type of water that comes from an overflowing kitchen sink or a frozen water pipe that has burst. You can safely recover items soaked with this water if you can dry them out completely.

Category 2—This is "grey" water and comes from a source like an overflowing toilet or broken dishwasher drain pipe. This water can make you sick or uncomfortable if you swallow it. An item can be recovered from this flood water if it can be dried and disinfected before being used.

Category 3—This is "black" water, and it is so contaminated with organic matter and microorganisms that you will become sick if you swallow the water. An example of black water is water from a backed-up or broken city sewer line. Only an emergency water removal company should work in this type of flood water because of the safety precautions that must be taken. Most personal items soaked with this water must be disposed of because they wouldn't survive the disinfecting process required to make them safe to use.

How Long an Item Is Submerged Is Also a Factor

There are two reasons why the duration an item is submerged affects its ability to be recovered:

  1. Flood water left standing for long periods can become more contaminated. For example, category 1 flood water left standing for a long time can turn into category 2 water, which affects an item's chances of being recovered.
  2. The longer some items stay submerged, the more likely mold will start to grow. For example, carpet and upholstered items left in water for long periods have an ever-increasing risk of mold developing. Mold can be very difficult to remove, so the item may need to be thrown out.

Recovery Tips for Specific Items

  • Non-porous items should be rinsed off, washed, and dried thoroughly before using.
  • Photos may be placed between pieces of paper towel with a heavy item on top of them to prevent curling as they dry.
  • Important paper documents should be dried enough to photograph or copy and the originals then thrown away.
  • Rugs and carpets may be saved if they can be dried within 24 to 48 hours of being soaked. Throw rugs can be cleaned in a commercial clothes washer while wall-to-wall carpet should be cleaned by a water recovery specialist.
  • Upholstered furniture can be saved by removing all of the covers, cleaning them, and replacing the foam padding. The parts of upholstered chairs and sofas that do not have removable covers should be cleaned by a professional service before being used.

Contact a company like Firewater Restoration Services to learn more about this topic.