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How to Restore Items After They’ve Been Water Damaged

Hurricanes, heavy rains, flooding, leaky roofs, main water supply leaks, burst pipes…all of these have the ability to cause severe water damage in your home. From destroyed drywall to submerged carpets, water damage can wreak havoc on both a home and the items within it.

No matter what the cause of the water damage, nothing is worse than finding your valuables and momentos swimming in a pool of water. Nobody wants to see their prized possessions ruined by water streaking or disintegration. The good news is, homeowners dealing with water damage to valuables are not alone.


Water damage is an everyday part of homeownership. In fact, you can consider yourself lucky if you have yet to experience a water damaged home…it’s far more common than not to deal with one if not two or three in a decades’ worth of time. That’s why you should always make sure your most valuable and sentimental possessions are kept safely out of the way of potential sources of water damage. Having them insured is also a good idea.


In the event of a water damage disaster that does happen to affect valuables, heirlooms and prized possessions, you have options. We receive calls every single day from homeowners whose valuables have been seemingly destroyed by leaks and flooding and we can say honestly that all hope is not lost – no matter how devastated you’re feeling in the moment.


The most important thing you can do for your valuables in the immediate aftermath of a water damaging event is to get a good jump on restoring what needs to be restored. The quicker you tend to your possessions, the more likely they will near-fully recover from water damage. Prioritize the items that mean the most to you. How you determine the “meaning” of an item is up to you: By price or by sentimental value are the two we hear most often.


Next, determine what characteristics the water you’re dealing with has. Try to take note of if the water is salty, dirty or contaminated, all of which indicate the water is toxic. If your valuables came into contact with toxic water, you’ll need to call a professional in on the job because trying to clean the items could pose a health risk.  If your valuables were affected by uncontaminated water, you can take immediate steps to restore them before you seek professional help:

 Air-dry affected items

Air-drying indoors is the best way to quickly and gently remove water from items. Try to open your windows to increase airflow if the weather permits. If it’s hot and humid outside, avoid natural air and instead use fans on low power settings, air conditioners and dehumidifiers to begin drying out items. Do not use hair dryers, irons or exposure to sunlight – all of which can cause further damage.


Clean items gently

Once your possessions are mostly dry, you’ll need to start cleaning them of dirt and debris. We recommend using soft cloths and brushes to do this. Remember, even if they were sturdy before, your items are likely hyper-fragile now and should be treated with great care. Photographs should be separated from albums and each other with white paper towels. Same goes for book pages. Avoid rubbing any water damaged item clean, which can cause structural damage and staining.


Pay special attention to photos

Photos and other family documents need immediate attention and should be treated as gently as possible to minimize the risk of ripping and bleeding/streaking. You can clean photos by rinsing them in clean water and then air-drying them on a paper towel.


Buy time

Water damage always seems to happen at the worst, busiest, most frustrating times. With all of the other restoration-related tasks you need to manage, plus maintaining your work and personal life, you might simply not be able to get to restoring every single item you’d like to. Here’s a cool trick instead: Freeze photos, papers, books and textiles in the freezer so you can clean them later. Freezing items halts further mold and ink damage and buys you time.

Other items that you cannot deal with in the immediate aftermath should be put in open, unsealed boxes or bags.


Dispose of what is ruined

Major storms and floods that cause severe water damage will undoubtedly leave a lot of debris behind – much of which may be unsalvageable. Be selective in what items you choose to focus on restoring and which ones you cut your losses with. Especially those items that are broken or disintegrated. Nobody likes to admit their stuff is ruined but removing the items you can will leave a clutter-free and unobstructed workspace for professional restorers.


Call in an expert

After a water damaging event, you can take the previous steps to initiate the recovery of your items, but you’ll likely also need to call in an expert to finish the job. When it comes to restoration, it’s better to do too little than to do too much. Leave the heavy lifting to the experts when you are unsure of what steps and procedures to take. Additionally, you’ll need to call in a restoration team to repair the water damage done to the structure of your home. The quicker you can get a professional in to clean up the water, inspect for mold and repair damages, the faster your life will return to normal. 


ServiceMaster Restoration By Simons is a MBE/WBE certified firm and family-run company serving Chicago, Oak Park, River Forest, and the North Shore.  ServiceMaster Restoration By Simons provides disaster restoration services including Water & Flood Damage Restoration, Fire & Smoke Damage Restoration, Mold Remediation and a wide range of interior specialty cleaning including Hoarder & Clutter Cleaning, Post-Construction Cleaning,Carpet Cleaning and Upholstery Cleaning to residential and commercial customers residing in Chicago, Oak Park-River Forest and the North Shore.  For more information, give us a call at 773-376-1110 or visit servicemasterbysimons.com.

Sam Simon
Sam Simon