What To Do When Your Home And Personal Items Are Under Water

Posted on: 24 September 2015

You wake up to find your basement flooded and you have boxes and furniture sitting in water. How do you recover from such an event? Quick action on your part will save some of your personal items. You'll also need help from a water damage restoration company. Here is how to approach a flood in the home so you'll save as many items as possible.

What Can Be Saved Depends on Timing and the Flood Source

Factors affecting what personal items you can save include:

  • how long an item has been sitting in water
  • the amount of contaminates in the flood water

An item that is slightly damp from water that is clean is more likely to be salvageable than something immersed in dirty water for several hours. Here is how you address these two factors.

Flood Water Source

The quality of water is categorized as to where it came from and the possibility that it contains hazardous substances. Water restoration companies classify flood water three ways:

  • Category 1 - This water is clean enough that you can drink it without ill effects. An example is water coming out of a burst water pipe coming into your house.
  • Category 2 - This water has some contaminants in it and will cause you to become ill if you drank it. This would be water that came from a toilet that overflowed.
  • Category 3 - This water has a dangerous level of microorganisms in it and will make you ill just by touching it. This would be water that comes from a backup of the city sewer system.

Items soaked with category 1 water can be rinsed thoroughly and dried to see if they can be saved. Items soaked with category 2 water need to be rinsed and disinfected by a water damage company before keeping. Category 3 water damaged items should not be handled and should be thrown away. The level of disinfecting required of these items will likely damage them and make them unusable.

Before going into the water to save personal items, identify the water source to assess your safety. If you have any doubts about the water contamination, have a flood specialist handle your items.

Timing and Item Salvage

If you are sure that the water is safe, then get as many items up out of the water as possible and onto a dry area. Items that are only slightly damp but at risk of getting soaked are the first priority. Next are the items that are immersed and absorb water such as upholstered furniture, linen and clothing. Non-absorbent items, such as silverware and plastic children's toys, can wait until later.

Some soaked items become more difficult to recover the longer they stay immersed. Carpet and upholstery are highly susceptible to mold and mildew growth if they are allowed to stay soaked for several hours. Once mold and mildew set in, items become much more difficult, and expensive, to save. The key to saving these items is to get them to a dry area and set fans blowing on them to dry them out quicker. Once dried, they will need to be disinfected to make sure mold and mildew don't develop.

For more information, contact a company like Flagship Restoration.