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Where To Start When Cleaning Up Water Damage

by April Carlson

If your home has been damaged by flooding, one of the things that you will want to do is to get it dried out as quickly as possible. While the best way to do this is to hire a professional water removal company, if there is not one available or if you choose to do it yourself, you must first figure out what type of water you are dealing with, and then collect the equipment that you will need. Here is some information to help you get started.

All Water Is Not The Same

There are three basic types of water that your home may have been exposed to as a result of a flood taking place in your home. These often differ based on how the flood occurred and where the water came from. They can be categorized as follows:

  • White Water - This is the water that is coming directly out of your tap. A flood that is caused by your tub overflowing, hot water heater bursting, or incoming water line breaking, may fill your home with white water.
  • Gray water - This is water that has been used but that has not been exposed to any type of fecal matter. It is generally contaminated by various types of soaps and foods. This is water that may be flooding your home as a result of your washing machine or dishwasher overflowing, or your tub, sink, or shower drains backing up. 
  • Black water - This is water that has been contaminated by fecal matter. Flood waters involving black water will normally come from the malfunctioning of your septic or sewage system. 

Safety Equipment Can Keep You Healthy

Any water, with the exception of white water, has the potential to be contaminated with various forms of bacteria and protozoans such as E.coli, Salmonella, Cryptosporidium (Crypto), and others. If you are unsure of the type of water you are dealing with, always err on the side of caution. Exposure to some of these bacteria could potentially lead to you developing various intestinal or respiratory conditions.

To make sure that this does not happen, make sure that you are safely outfitted prior to beginning your cleanup. Always wear waterproof boots, gloves, protective clothing and some type of safety glasses or goggles to protect your eyes. If you know that you are working with black water, or if mold and mildew has already begun to grow, you may want to wear a respirator to keep from inhaling any harmful particles.

Water Removal Equipment Will Get Your Home Drier Faster

One of the first steps to cleaning up after a flood is to get rid of any remaining water in the area. Consider using a wet/dry vacuum or a sump pump. Either of these will remove the water faster.

If you do not own a wet/dry vacuum or a sump pump, check with your friends or family, as these are very common tools. If no one has one you can borrow, check with the equipment rental companies in your area. If this is not an option, you may even be able to rent one from your local home improvement store.

Once you have removed any standing water, use fans and a dehumidifier to further dry out the area. Although you may think opening windows may help dry your area faster, it may hinder your efforts if the humidity levels outside are high. Opening windows may also make your dehumidifier ineffective.

Disinfectant Will Reduce The Chances Of Bacterial Growth

Once you have the affected area dry, it is important that you thoroughly disinfect the entire area to get rid of any bacteria that is present. Proper disinfection will remove any dangerous bacteria, as well as reduce the chances of mold and mildew growing in the space. 

Although there are many different types of products on the market that will disinfect and sanitize, one of the best and easiest things that you can use is standard household bleach. Make sure that this is never mixed with ammonia or other types of cleaners, due to the fact that this can create dangerous fumes. You may also want to consider using:

Check the EPA's comparison chart to assist you with choosing the best product for your particular situation. After you get started on your clean up, if you find that you have bitten off more than you can chew, remember it is not too late to call a water clean up company. They will have the knowledge and all of the equipment they need to ensure that job is done quickly, as well as done right. For information on water clean up, check out the site for a water cleanup company.  

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