Drying Out Water Damage: The 6 Steps to Drying Any Type of Water Damage

Few things are as frustrating as water damage. While the amount and source of water do impact cleanup, the process of drying out water damage is basically the same regardless. When it comes to water damage dry out and clean up, it’s important to stop the flow of water and begin restoration as soon as possible. This helps limit the damage and decreases the cost of drying out after water damage.

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6 Steps to Drying Out Water Damage

  1. Stop the Water – Turn off your main water supply line if the cause is plumbing related. Unfortunately, can’t stop nature. However, do not wait for the rain to stop or the flood to subside before you begin the cleanup.
  2. Extract Standing Water – Use towels or a mop to soak up water. For deeper water, use a pump or bail water out with a bucket. Then use a wet/dry vacuum to remove as much water from surfaces as possible.
  3. Remove Items – Remove as many items from the area as possible. This includes large items like furniture, as well as smaller personal items and important documents. Depending on the specific item, you may want to remove it while extracting the water.
  4. Dry Out the Area – Use fans and dehumidifiers to dry out the affected area. Open cabinet and closet doors and prop carpeting up to improve airflow and decrease drying time.
  5. Disinfect and Deodorize – Clean and disinfect hard surfaces with a bleach and water solution. Use baking soda to deodorize carpeting and fabrics. Allow porous materials like area rugs and furniture to air out outside. If necessary, use commercial disinfectants and deodorizers on other surfaces.
  6. Rebuild – Repair or replace damaged materials like walls, flooring, and cabinets. You may need to hang new drywall, install new carpeting, or replace cabinetry and furniture.

How to Dry Out Any Type of Water Damage

Every water event is different, so the process of drying out water damage will vary from situation to situation. However, these basic steps will work for every water event from a basement flood to a leaky roof.

1. Stop the Water

The first step to drying out after water damage is to stop water from entering your property. For any situation involving predominantly clean water coming from a pipe, plumbing fixture, sink, or toilet, turn off your water at the main water shut off valve. This is usually located in the basement or utility closet.

Unfortunately, this is more difficult if the water is coming from outside your property. If you have groundwater flooding, a sewage backup, or a leaky roof, the only option is to wait it out. However, you should begin extracting the water immediately to limit the damage. Make exterior repairs once the storm passes or the water subsides.

2. Extract Standing Water

Drying out water damage starts with removing as much standing water as possible. If the water is less than a few inches deep, use towels, sheets, sponges, or a mop to soak up the water. Wring saturated towels and mops out in a bucket. Once the bucket is full, dump the water outside and away from your property.

If the water is more than a few inches deep, it is more effective to use either a pump or a bucket to bail out the water. When bailing water out, do not send it down a drain. Instead, dump it away from your property. When using a pump, run the hose away from your property as far as possible.

Hand powered and electric suction pumps are available for purchase at your local hardware store and for rent at your local equipment supply rental. If you plan to purchase or rent a pump, one person should continue to manually bail out water while someone else runs to the store.

Then use a wet/dry vacuum with a hose to suck as much water out as possible. For hard surfaces like drywall, hardwood, and wood composites, place the hose directly on the surface and slowly move back and forth. For fabrics and carpeting, avoid rubbing the hose directly on the surface as it can weaken fibers.

3. Remove Items

As soon as possible, begin removing items from the area. This includes everything from furniture to personal items. While you should begin extracting water first, prioritize removing important documents, heirlooms, keepsakes, and antiques.

Move items you want to save to a completely dry area and wipe them down. Store larger items like furniture on a tarp or plastic sheeting. This prevents them from getting that area wet until you can begin drying them out.

Unfortunately, it will be necessary to dispose of some items. Cardboard boxes and other paper goods are difficult to dry out. Furniture made from particleboard or other composite materials can fall apart. In extreme cases, you may need to remove water-damaged drywall, flooring, or cabinets as well.

It’s best to put these items in the trash immediately. Use heavy-duty plastic bags and avoid overfilling, as the water will make them much heavier. For larger items that will require bulk pickup, store them in your garage. As a last resort, store them outside.

4. Dry Out the Area

Use fans and dehumidifiers to dry out water-damaged areas. While regular consumer-grade items will work, professional-grade equipment will work much faster. You can rent professional gear from your local equipment rental company.

Use as many fans an dehumidifiers as you can to decrease drying time. The shorter the drying time, the better the chances of saving water damaged flooring, walls, furniture, and other items.

Space fans through the water damaged area and aim them at wet items. Put dehumidifiers in the areas with the most water damage and empty them frequently. Dump the water outside and away from your property. Check areas every hour and reposition fans and dehumidifiers as necessary.

Open the doors on closets, cabinets, and furniture to promote better air movement. When drying water-damaged carpeting, separate the carpeting from the subflooring to improve airflow.

5. Disinfect and Deodorize

After completely drying out water damage, you need to disinfect and deodorize the area. Use a solution of bleach and water to wipe down hard surfaces. For fabrics and carpeting, use a non-bleach based, color-safe disinfectant. You can find these types of non-rinse disinfectants at most hardware stores.

While a variety of deodorizing products are available, baking soda is the most effective at removing odors from carpeting and fabrics. Sprinkle baking soda on the item and gently rub it in. Allow it to sit for a few hours or even overnight, then vacuum it up. Repeat the process as necessary.

6. Rebuild

The amount of reconstruction necessary after water damage varies greatly. In some instances, you may only need to repaint. In other cases, you may need to completely remodel the room. It’s best to repair or replace all of the damage as soon as possible to prevent water damage in the future.

Tips for Cleaning and Drying Water Damage

Take Action Quickly

If you plan to clean up the water yourself, begin drying out as soon as possible to limit the damage. Even a few minutes can make a difference between saving and needing to replace your carpeting or drywall. If you are calling a professional, do not delay in making the call. Look for companies that offer 24-hour emergency services, 30-minute response time, and a free estimate. Plus, there is a greater chance of developing a mold problem the longer you wait to begin cleaning up.

Be Careful With Electricity

Water and electricity are a dangerous combination and you should avoid wading through water that is near or above electrical outlets. If water is still entering your home and is approaching electrical outlets, shut off the electricity to that room or area. When in doubt, turn off all the power to prevent electrocution. If the water level is already above electrical outlets, contact a water restoration company or electrician to turn off the electricity.

Wear Protective Clothing

Take precautions when cleaning up water damage and wear protective clothing. At the very least, wear water-resistant boots, pants, long sleeves, and rubber gloves. If groundwater or sewage is involved, we recommend you also wear high rubber boots or waders, a respirator mask, and eye protection.

Work In Sections

When extracting the remaining water from flooring and walls, it’s best to work in sections. Start at one end of the room and work your way strategically to the other end. This limits your foot traffic on wet carpeting and flooring and ensures you don’t miss an area.

Limit Walking on Carpeting

Constantly walking on wet carpeting will wear it down faster. Depending on the extent of the damage, it may need to be replaced entirely. If you need to walk on wet carpeting to empty the room or to dry out the area, walk as gently as possible. Clear the room systematically to limit the amount of back and forth across the carpeting.

How the Category of Water Impacts Damage

Water is classified into three categories that indicate their level of contamination. The more contaminants, the more difficult cleanup becomes. Category 1 is clean water from a water supply line and contains virtually no contaminants. Disinfect with a bleach and water solution to prevent odors and mold from developing over time.

Category 2 is grey water that contains some contaminants. Grey water includes overflows or floods from dishwashers, washing machines, sinks, bathtubs, or toilets containing only urine. It may be necessary to disinfect the area several times to prevent mold and odors.

Category 3 is black water that contains significant contaminants. Blackwater includes groundwater floods, sewage backups, and toilet overflows contain feces. Dispose of porous items like paper, books, and cardboard saturated with black water. Thoroughly clean hard, non-porous surfaces with a bleach solution several times.

However, the longer the water sits, the great the chance for contamination. For example, if a water supply line breaks and the water sits for several days before cleaning up, it is no longer considered category 1. For this reason, you should always clean up water damage as soon as possible.

Professional Water Damage Restoration Services

Restoration Local is a network of local contractors that provide water damage restoration services. From a burst water pipe to an overflowing dishwasher, we have a contractor in your area that can dry out and restore your property.

If you need water damage restoration, find a qualified company in your area now. If you need immediate assistance, call 1-888-443-3110 to speak with the on-call contractor in your area. Our on-call contractors offer 24-hour emergency services, 30-minute response time, and a free estimate.

Author: Jeff Rooks

Jeff Rooks writes restoration content that helps homeowners restore their lives after a disaster or accident. Most days, you can find him cycling through Tampa. He also enjoys exploring new and delicious food and beverages around the world.

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