It is a difficult choice whether to try to save something that has been water damaged by a flood versus just discarding it. Knowing the source of the flood water and how long the item was submerged will help you decide. Here is what you need to know before you begin the task of cleaning up after a flood.
The Flood Water Source
Flood water is characterized by the amount of contamination in the water. Organic materials and harmful microorganisms in the water can make items damaged by the flood difficult to save. The amount of disinfecting required for an item to be safe may damage the item even more.
Water damage specialists classify flood water as follows:
Category 1 - This is called "clean water" because of the small amount of contamination in it. This water will likely not make you ill if you should swallow some of it. This is the kind of water that comes from a broken water supply line. Items damaged with this water can be saved by rinsing them off and drying them thoroughly.
Category 2 - This is called "grey water" because it contains enough microorganisms that you may become ill if the water is swallowed. Water that contains no solid materials from an overflowing toilet is an example of this water. Items soaked with this water do need to be disinfected slightly before using to prevent illness.
Category 3 - This is called "black water" because it contains a sufficient number of harmful microorganisms to make you ill if the water is swallowed. Water from a broken city sewer line is an example of this water. Items damage by this water will need extensive disinfecting and may not survive the cleanup process.
Flood water becomes more contaminated as it sits. For example, a frozen water supply line in your basement bursts and floods the area with category 1 water. If you're out of town and the water sits for several days before being found, it can collect enough contaminants to become a category 2 water source. If you discover old flood water in your home, you'll need a water damage recovery service to determine how dangerous the water is.
The Duration an Item is Submerged
For some items, the longer it sits in water, the harder it will be to recover. Some items, such as non-porous metal and glass kitchen ware, can stay in flood water for long periods and still be cleaned and saved. Wood, paper and cardboard swell as it sits in water and won't fully return to its normal state even after thoroughly dried.
Carpet, curtains and upholstered items left in flood water for longer than 24 hours have an increased risk of developing mold and mildew. These items require special cleaning and treatment to prevent this from happening. Consider throwing out those items left in water longer than 24 hours so as not to be a health problem for you and your family.