Saving Your Personal Items From Flood Water

Posted on: 19 August 2015

You come home to find the living room carpet soaking wet because of a plumbing leak. Or you wake up to a basement full of water because the city waste water system backed up into your house. You'll have time to be mad or sad later. Now you need to take steps to salvage as much from the flood water as you can.

1. Protect yourself.

Put on rubber shoes or boots, and gloves to prevent getting a shock should you come into contact with wet wires. If you think that something electrical is covered by water, safely make your way to the circuit box first and shut off the power to the house. If you can't get to the circuit box, call an electrician or water damage service to come out and cut off the power.

2. Stop any more flooding from happening.

Identify where the water is coming from and stop any more from coming into the house. If it's an internal plumbing problem, shut off the water to the house. The city shutoff valve is located somewhere outside on your property, often in a large square box set into the ground.

3. Remove partially soaked items first.

Pick up smaller, slightly damp items first and move them to a dry area. If you have some fans, position them to blow over this area to help items dry. The sooner you get items out of the water, the better chance you have of saving them.

4. Put larger items up on blocks out of the water or take them outside.

Sofas, chairs and beds should be put up on something to get them out of the water. The longer these sit in water, the more risk there is of mold and mildew developing, which is difficult to get out of the furniture. Place wood tables and dressers up on something, too, so the wood doesn't absorb more water and swell.

If you have people helping you and a place to put larger items in a dry area, you can carry the furniture out of the house. Use whichever strategy is the quickest for getting the large items out of the water.

5. With the personal items out of the house, it's time to remove the water.

Once you have all of the wet items out of the house, up on blocks, focus on getting rid of the water. The longer it sits on the floor, you'll have more damage to the flooring materials, baseboard and trim, and the drywall. With a small amount of flooding, such as a soaked wall-to-wall carpet, use a wet vac to pick up the water and fans to blow on the carpet to speed up the drying. For standing water, consider using a water damage cleanup service. They have the pumps and large fans to get rid of standing water and dry out the space quickly.

6. Assess the damage.

Once things calm down, look over your personal items to decide what you want to spend the time on salvaging. Here are some tips for making those decisions:

  • Books and paper items can rarely be salvaged.
  • Photograph important papers or dry them out and photocopy them.
  • Put photographs between sheets of paper towel and place something heavy on them so the photos don't curl.
  • If the carpet was under standing water, you'll need to pull up the carpet and pad. Let the floor dry thoroughly, throw away the pad, and have a service steam clean the carpet to make sure it doesn't develop mold or mildew.
  • Furniture should be cleaned by a professional service to make sure there is no chance of mildew developing inside.
  • Electrical items should work fine once they have dried out completely. Do not plug them in and turn them on until you are sure they are thoroughly dry. 
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