As a homeowner or renter with a lot of emotional and monetary value invested in your possessions, you might find it heart-wrenching to find water damage in your home. Whether the water is from a recent flooding event or your ceiling has developed a slow leak over time, water damage can be an insidious destroyer of belongings. Not only can it allow mold and mildew and other pathogens to develop, but it can also damage many types of belongings that just aren't meant to stand up to water. Here are a few guidelines to help you decide whether your items are worth trying to save.
1. Porosity and washability of the surface
A roof leak that drips on a box of washable clothing may cause entirely reversible damage, as long as you catch the issue before mold and mildew start to grow. Clothes are extremely porous, so you can wash the contaminated water out of them (and sometimes even the water marks, though not always). At the other end of the spectrum is plastic, which doesn't absorb water at all. A drip that lands on a plastic surface can be easily wiped up, and watermarks can be scrubbed off with relative ease. It's when things are moderately porous that you have problems. Wood, for example, can absorb water, but it's not porous enough that you can wash the contaminants out later, so any contaminated water that gets into wood may be stuck there for good, and watermarks may need to be painted over. In addition, semi-porous materials such as wood may be susceptible to swelling and shrinking based on the amount of moisture in their immediate surroundings, and that can lead to warping and cracking.
2. Type of water involved
If a wood item briefly comes into contact with clean water, it may be salvageable. If, however, sewage is in the picture and gets absorbed into the pores of the wood, it may be unsafe for your health to keep the item. Even clothes, though usually washable, may be best discarded if touched by sewage. In between these two extremes there's a wide range of possibilities, so if you find yourself in a gray area and aren't sure something can be salvaged, ask a damage-remediation professional (or someone who specializes in restoring the items in question) for help.
3. Extent and timeline of damage
The more damaged your items are, the more likely it is that replacing the items is the best course of action. In addition, the length of time between when the damage occurs and when your items get completely dried and restored is an important point. The longer the interval of wetness, the more chances bacteria and fungus will have to proliferate in the water and on the damaged items. This means that not only does the water get dirtier each hour but also that mold problems are likely to develop if remediation doesn't happen immediately.
These three criteria will help you make a rough estimate of how many of your belongings you'll need to replace after a water-damage situation. To be safe, you should also have a professional restoration team such as First General Services do some on-site restoration to prevent further damage to your house, and they can do restoration of any belongings that are worth saving.