Recovering from a Household Flood

How many of your personal effects you can save from a flood depends on where the water came from and how long the item sat in the water. A few items you can recover yourself, but you'll need a professional water damage recovery service to make sure other items are safe to be handled again. Here is how to determine what you can save and when to rely on a company's help.

Flood Water Comes from Many Sources

Where the water comes from determines the amount of contaminates in it. This affects whether an item can safely be reused after becoming wet. Some of the sources of flood water include these:

  • toilet bowl
  • dishwasher
  • washing machine
  • kitchen and bathroom drains
  • ruptured water pipe
  • backed up city storm drains

A flood service will first identify the water source and then categorize the water as to its level of hazardous content.

Rating the Water Safety

Flood restoration companies use a rating system to indicate the water quality.

Category 1 - This is clean water, such as what might come out of your kitchen faucet. It has no dangerous microorganisms in it that could cause you or your family to become ill.

Category 2 - This water has some microorganisms in it that can make you or your family sick if you drink it. Professionals call this gray water, and it comes out of a toilet bowl or from roof damage runoff.

Category 3 - This is called black water and has contaminates that are dangerous just by making contact with your skin. A backup of the city sewer would be classified as black water.

Note that water will be reclassified over time. For example, an overflowing bathtub would be considered category 1 flooding. But if it is allowed to sit on the floor for days, it may become category 2 because of the microorganisms that begin to grow in the standing water.

How Water Quality Affects What You Can Save

Items that have been soaked with category 1 water can be dried out and saved. The sooner you get the item out of the water, the better the chances are you can save it. If something sits in the water for too long, the risk of mold and mildew growing increases, especially in the case of soaked carpet, draperies, and furniture.

Items damaged by category 2 water need to be cleaned by a professional service. The items need to be disinfected to make sure there is no chance of illness if people come into contact with the them.

Category 3 water-damaged items should only be handled by professionals. The difficulty and expense of having these items disinfected precludes most items from being saved.

Talk with a water damage specialist about salvaging items contaminated by category 2 and 3 water. You may find it easier to replace the items than to attempt to clean and save them.