The items you can recover from a flood depend on the source of the flood water and how long the item has been submerged. Some items may be damaged beyond use by attempting to recover them. Here are some guidelines to help you know what you can safely salvage from a household flood.
Flood Water Source
Flood recovery specialists categorize flood water based on where it came from and the likely contaminates in the water. The recovery and cleanup methods differ based on these categories:
Category 1 - This is considered clean water because it has no harmful microorganisms in it that will make you or your family ill. Examples of clean water include a broken water supply line from being frozen or a kitchen sink that has overflowed onto the floor. If you can thoroughly dry items soaked with clean water, you can safely keep them.
Category 2 - Called "grey water" by restoration companies, this water contains microorganisms and other organic material that could make you ill if you ingest it. This could be water from an overflowing toilet or a leaking dishwasher drain. Items soaked with this water must be dried completely and then disinfected before saving.
Category 3- This is known as "black water" and is so harmful that you can become ill just by getting it on your skin. This water has high levels of microorganisms in it and should only be dealt with by a professional flood restoration company (such as Authorized Services). Water from a backed up sewer is an example of black water. Items soaked with this water have little chance of being saved because of the level of disinfection that must happen.
Length of Submersion
Some items have a high risk of developing mold after they have been soaked with flood water. For example, carpet that has been soaked for longer than 24 hours is a target for mold and mildew. Upholstered furniture is also at risk. You'll need a mold removal company to evaluate the items to see if they can make them safe for your family to use after the items have become soaked.
Carpet pads and closed foam items, such as cushions, should be thrown away because of the risk of mold and mildew. Drywall left in standing water can develop mold and may need to be torn out and replaced.
The pulp fibers in porous items, such as papers and photos, can swell with the water making recovery difficult. You can try to dry the items out with a heavy object on them to prevent curling. Otherwise, photocopy or photograph important original documents and throw them away.
Non-porous items need to be washed and disinfected before used. If you have any doubts about an item's safety, throw it out and replace it so you don't risk becoming ill.