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How to clean up after a contaminated water loss

After a leak, flood, or other water damage intrusion to your home, there are a few steps that homeowners can take in order to limit the damage, prevent injury and avoid health risks

If the water is from an outside source, or contaminated with sewage from a drain line it may have a range of harmful bacteria or other toxins. It is imperative that you avoid direct contact with this water and take steps to contain it. Here are some tips if you find yourself in a situation where contaminated water has entered your home.

The IICRC (Restoration Association) has some tips for homeowners that they recommend following immediately after a water damage event (with contaminated water).

  1. When entering buildings: Be very cautious of your surroundings, turn off electrical power at the breaker box and evaluate structural integrity of the building before entering (ceilings may collapse after being saturated with water).
  2. Protect yourself from harmful vapors and skin contact: Consider wearing an organic vapor respirator if noxious fumes are present (obtain from local paint store). Use other PPE (personal protective equipment) as required including rubber gloves, splash resistant coveralls, eye protection, and water proof rubber boots.
  3. Ventilate space: It is wise to ventilate the home to remove harmful vapors. Place a fan in a window blowing air out, then, open another window on the opposite side of the home allowing fresh air to enter.
  4. Many items will need to be discarded: All items that have contacted the water and are porous, or, soak up water will need to be discarded. All solid surface items may be salvaged if appropriately cleaned and decontaminated. Examples of building materials and other items that will need to be discarded include; Drywall, carpet, pad, pillows / bedding, and particle board.
  5. Wet clothing and household fabrics can be salvaged: Toss all clothing and linens that have contacted the contaminated water into the washing machine. Run a hot water cycle with a 10 minute soak in detergent. That will be sufficient to decontaminate the clothing.
  6. Open pockets of saturated materials: All areas that were saturated with water will need to be opened up and allowed to dry and decontaminate. Locate the water line along the wall and cut above that by 8 inches, remove the wet drywall and any saturated insulation. Take off base trim, and remove floor coverings such as vinyl and carpet (tile or hardwood may be salvaged).
  7. Clean, sanitize and deodorize: All exposed building materials including studs, joists and subfloor should be thoroughly cleaned by scrubbing with detergent or pressure washing. After cleaning and flushing materials, apply a disinfecting agent and allow to dry on the surface. Ensure all areas that have contacted the water are disinfected (consider contacting a restoration professional for this step).
  8. Prevent Mold: Mold can begin to grow as early as 24 hours after water intrusion. It could be visible within 48 hours. Use air movement to begin the drying process as soon as possible and keep the air moving until the area is confirmed dry with moisture testing equipment (mold will not grow if the materials are drying).
  9. Confirm Drying Complete: Avoid pitfalls of building over wet wood. If the wood is not dry to 16% WME then there is a possibility for mold to grow behind wall and for dry rot to occur. Use moisture testing equipment that penetrates the wood surface to confirm the interior of the wood is dry.
  10. Consider hiring a professional: Your homeowners insurance will likely cover 100% of the water damage cleanup as well as the reconstruction (minus the deductible). If the job is overwhelming to you, you might consider hiring Mountain Air Indoors, Inc. to assist with the clean up process. We will work tirelessly to ensure your home gets put back together as quickly and professionally as possible.

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