Water damage can cause serious problems for a home and often requires extensive cleanup and repairs. Whether the damage is from flooding, burst pipes, malfunctioning appliances, or even sewage backup, prompt cleanup is required to salvage personal belongings and avoid other problems such as mold, mildew, and growth of dangerous bacteria. While dealing with water damage is a serious issue, there are steps you can follow to begin the process of cleaning your home and having it restored to its former condition.
Types of Water Damage
It’s important to understand the three types of water damage because it will significantly impact the cleanup process. Some types of water damage can be cleaned up on your own, while others require the services of a professional. There are three types of water damage to be aware of:
- Clear (or clean) water. This type of damage can occur from rainwater or a burst pipe and contains very little bacteria or other contaminants. Keep in mind that the color of the water can be deceptive. Just because water is clear, doesn’t mean that it’s free of bacteria and other harmful substances.
- Gray water. This type of damage may occur as a result of an overflowing toilet, dishwasher, or washing machine and contains some contaminants. While it’s a good idea to contact a professional for gray water cleanup, you can perform the cleanup yourself, preferably with the use of a mask and gloves.
- Black water. You should never attempt to clean up this type of water damage on your own, as it’s considered highly dangerous. Black water may contain chemicals, diseases, or dangerous pesticides. Black water damage can result from sewage entering a home, natural disasters, or a flooded house that was never attended to. It poses a serious health risk and requires the services of a professional.
Water Damage Complications and Health Risks
Each type of water damage carries the potential to create more serious problems if not dealt with in a timely and thorough manner. Proper cleanup procedures are required to stop the growth of mold and mildew and to decontaminate areas and possessions that have come into contact with gray or black water.
Clean water damage poses the least amount of health risks. It can be dealt with fairly easily by drying out the flooded area to prevent the growth of mold or mildew that may cause allergic reactions or aggravate conditions such as asthma and other respiratory conditions.
While gray water damage is not as harmful as black water damage, it can still cause significant health problems if not properly dealt with. Gastrointestinal illnesses and complications, in addition to skin or respiratory infections, can result from coming into contact with gray water or contaminated surfaces.
Due to its many contaminants, black water damage is the most harmful and poses the greatest risk to your health and the health of your family. It can cause a wide range of health problems, including severe allergic reactions, difficulty breathing, and infectious diseases.
Cleaning Up After Water Damage
There are many steps you can take to begin the cleanup process after water damage has occurred. Some of these steps differ depending on the type of damage and how extensive it is, and you will most likely need to contact a home water damage restoration specialist in order to completely restore your home to its previous condition. To help you begin the cleanup process, here are a few guidelines you can follow:
- Use caution with electrical equipment. Never try to operate an electrical device or appliance that has been exposed to water or that has been submerged. Most electrical equipment will likely need to be replaced.
- If water damage occurs in the kitchen, pantry, or another space containing food, discard any food that isn’t sealed in airtight containers. Remove the labels from canned goods and wash the cans if they were exposed to gray or black water.
- If utensils come in contact with contaminated water, discard wooden cutting boards and spoons, as well as plastic baby bottles, pacifiers, nipples, and plastic utensils. Metal and ceramic dishes, pans, and utensils can be washed and sanitized with hot, soapy water, boiling water, or in a solution of 1 tsp. of chlorine bleach per quart of clean water.
- Carpeting may need to be replaced, depending on the amount of water it was exposed to and if it was contaminated. Rugs, carpets, or pads that can be removed can be washed and dried out if salvage is desired. If they’ve been exposed to contaminated water, have them professionally cleaned or sanitize them using 1 gallon of water and 2 tablespoons of chlorine bleach.
- Mattresses and upholstered furniture that has been exposed to contaminated water should be discarded and replaced. Furniture that is made of wood, metal, or plastic can be cleaned and generally does need to be discarded.
- You can clean wall finishes, floors, and woodwork using a phosphate-free, all-purpose, or disinfecting cleaner. For nonmetallic or colorfast surfaces, you can use half a cup of bleach mixed with 1 gallon of clean water to kill mold and bacteria. Be sure to dry the area thoroughly by turning on the air conditioner, furnace, and fans, and by using a dehumidifier if one is available.
Precautions for Cleaning Furniture
When attempting to salvage furniture, you can use commercial cleaning products designed for the specific material you’re cleaning. Be certain to pull out drawers and discard any padding that was exposed to contaminated water. Allow all items to dry completely, but keep them out of direct sunlight due to the possibility of permanent warping. If ever in doubt about whether it’s safe to keep a certain item, contact a professional for assistance.
Remove Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew that has already formed due to water damage need to be dealt with as soon as possible in order to avoid potentially serious health problems. If one is available, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to clean up visible mold. If you don’t have access to a HEPA vacuum, clean items with damp paper towels and then seal them in plastic bags before discarding. Use sponges and a commercial cleaner designed for the type of material you’re cleaning to get rid of mildew or wipe mildew-stained areas with 1 cup rubbing or denatured alcohol mixed with 1 cup of water. Always wear gloves, a mask, and eye protection when cleaning mold or mildew from any surface.
In order to prevent the recurrence of mold, try to keep the area dry by running a dehumidifier and running the air-conditioner or furnace. If that’s not possible, open windows to help circulate air. If closets or other closed areas were affected, keep the doors open to facilitate faster drying. It’s also a good idea to limit activities that produce moisture, such as cooking and running the shower, but if it’s not practical to do so, run exhaust fans when cooking or bathing to reduce the amount of moisture released into the air.
Call the Professionals
Dealing with water damage can be stressful and time-consuming, no matter what type it is or how it occurred. Seeking the help of a professional saves you time and frustration, and United Water Restoration assists you with the cleanup process as well as the complete restoration of your home to its former condition. We specialize in dealing with all types of water damage, as well as mold remediation. Contact United Water Restoration in your area and let us help you and your family get back to your lives as quickly as possible.