When it comes to mitigating water damage, every hour counts. Knowing what can — and can’t — be saved will speed cleanup and save money.
Salvage these water-damaged items
- Concrete, cinder blocks, and plaster walls: Wash first with soap and clean water, then disinfect quickly with a bleach solution. (1 cup to 5 gallons water to clean and sanitize; 1 cup to 1 gallon water to remove mold.) Allow to air dry.
- Linoleum and hardwood floors: These are salvageable if you can dry them quickly. Run high-powered fans.
- Subflooring: Dry thoroughly to prevent warping. Remove floor covering and use fans to circulate air and mitigate water damage.
- Drapes, linens, and clothes: Items that can’t be washed or dry-cleaned, such as mattresses and upholstered furniture, should be air-dried in the sun and sprayed thoroughly with a disinfectant.
Toss these water-damaged items
- Drywall, wallboard, and batt insulation: All hold water, so remove to prevent mold and decay.
- HVAC ducts: Replace water-soaked, insulated ducts to prevent mold from spreading throughout the house.
- Ceiling tile: Unless damage is minor, toss sodden soundproofing tiles.
- Large rugs with foam backing: Wet backing often deteriorates and takes forever to dry. You may be able to save the rugs, but toss the pads.
- De-laminated furniture: Soaked particleboard or pressed wafer board furniture probably is a lost cause: Re-glued laminate skins never look right.
- Food and medicine: Anything that touched the water is unsafe. Throw out wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples, and pacifiers.
- Toys and play equipment: If they’re water-logged or you’re unable to disinfect them, throw them away.
Caroline Mayer is a former Washington Post reporter who specializes in consumer issues, most recently writing for AARP and other general-interest publications.