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How to Salvage Water-Damaged Goods


If you have suffered through flooding, it is important to know which items can be salvaged

Floods, broken pipes, and other hazards can cause extensive water damage inside a home. Many times, items are ruined beyond a salvage point, while some household goods can be saved. If you are in doubt, however, as to the safety of using an item following a flood of any type, the best advice is to pitch it.

While you can make the effort of salvaging and cleaning most household goods, mattresses are the exception. They simply cannot be dried in a timely manner from the inside out to prevent bacteria, mold, and mildew from forming inside and working toward the surface. At present, there is no simple method for drying and cleaning a mattress. Letting it sit in the sun is not a viable option.

Most pillows are inexpensive and should be replaced rather than cleaned if at all possible.

Obviously, many other items can be cleaned if they were merely subjected to rain as opposed to floodwaters. When attempting to clean, always follow the care labels first. If those methods do not work, you can always try more drastic cleaning tools; after all, you will have nothing to lose.

You'll be dealing with three basic issues when cleaning damaged items: disinfecting, staining, and shrinkage. Always take precautions, especially with flooded goods. Wear rubber gloves and a face mask and work outside if possible. Try air-drying materials first.

To disinfect, add (about ½ cup for front loading or 1 cup for top loading) fabric bleach to a washing machine filled with cold water. Stir and add one or two items. Let soak for at least ten minutes and finish the cycle using mild detergent and cold water only. Once you have made sure that all stains are removed, rewash in warm or hot water and then place in the dryer or hang outside.

Remember that shrinkage may occur when some items are exposed to warm or hot temperatures. If in doubt, use cool water only. Some materials should be dry-cleaned instead.

Which method you use will depend on the item: quilts, draperies, bed linens, and towels. Do not give up if some staining remains; continue soaking and air drying and, over time, most staining will fade or be resolved entirely.

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