Water damage is perhaps the most devastating thing to happen to any electronic equipment or appliance. Water from a flood, or even accidental spillage of water or any other liquid on an appliance can render it irreparable, and replacing it will saddle you with an additional expense you are not prepared for. However, some electronics can be repaired if the proper after-event measures are taken, and done promptly.
The first thing you have to do is to de-energize your electronics by turning the power off. This should be done with extreme caution, because water damage can short-circuit the appliance and you could get an electric shock if you touch it. Make sure your hands are completely dry before touching it, and that you are standing on dry flooring.
Disconnect your main circuit panel before touching your electronic appliance, and then unplug the appliance.
Control the Humidity
The next most important step is to control the humidity. Corrosion after water damage usually occurs more slowly when the relative humidity is below 50%. If the room has air conditioning or an electric fan, turn that on. Alternatively, you can move the appliance – if it is small enough – to a cooler or air conditioned part of the house. If you have a dehumidifier, that may be helpful. Better yet, use the air conditioner and dehumidifier together.
Clean and Dry the Electronic Appliance
Next, you will have to remove the water inside the appliance. Any liquid – water, floodwater, soda, etc. – causes problems when it gets inside an appliance. If the liquid gets into the motor, the windings, the electrical contacts and switches, these may corrode or short-circuit. Insulation that has become wet will no longer be able to effectively carry out its job of keeping the heat in, as in a range, or keeping it out, as in a refrigerator or freezer, In addition, bad odor may develop on the insulation material.
Note that there may be cases, especially if the cleaning of appliance will involve touching or moving the wiring or internal parts, where you might want to have the technician check the appliance first before cleaning it.
Open the cabinet doors of the appliance, remove the side panels and covers, and pull out the chassis drawers to allow any water inside to run out.
Remove any standing water inside with a vacuum cleaner – use a wet vac that is specifically meant to suck out water or liquids. If you do not have one, you can do the mop-with-a-rag-then-wring-into-the-bucket method. For smaller appliances, you can use low-pressure air such as those canned air in canisters to blow out any water inside. Blot up water that cannot be blown out using absorbent cotton pads or a dry cloth. Be extra careful when doing this so that you will not bend the header pins or wire wrap connectors inside.
If the electronic appliance is set on the floor, either vacuum or mop up any water on the room floor.
It will be very tempting to hose down your appliance, especially if it is full of mud or water-filled, but control yourself from doing so. This may only increase the damage, through water getting into places that were not previously wet. Instead, wash the appliance with a wet cloth and a household cleaner. Then rinse it with chlorine bleach and water solution to sanitize it. Finish off by drying it with a towel or clean rag.
If there is a bad odor as a result of the water damage, wash the appliance with a solution made of one teaspoon of baking soda to a quart of water. Other possible homemade deodorizing solutions can be: one cup of vinegar to per gallon of water, or one cup household ammonia per gallon of water.
Charcoal may also be used as an effective deodorizing agent. Place some regular grilling charcoal – not the self-starting kind – on a cookie sheet or baking pan and leave that in your refrigerator or stove for about 6 to 8 hours. You can reuse the charcoal again by baking it in the oven at 350° for about an hour.
If the insulation in your range, oven, dishwasher or refrigerator has been wet, remove it. This will involve opening the frame of the appliance. Consult your user manual first before doing this, and remember to use gloves when removing the insulation.
Have the Electronic Appliance Tested
Now you will have to see if your electronics still have the potential to work properly after water damage. Call a professional – either an electrician or a repair person from the company.
It is best not to do the testing yourself for several reasons. First, unless you are an electrician yourself, you are not likely to know how to dry and test the equipment properly. Second, the air conditioner and dehumidifier as drying equipment may not be adequate. Some companies use commercial air dryers with either refrigerant or desiccant drying methods, which are more effective in drying out equipment. Third, unless you know what you are doing, you could only be endangering your personal safety. Keep yourself and your family safe and do not hesitate to spend on professional repair services.
When an electronic equipment or appliance has been water damaged, manufacturers usually recommend that any motor, electrical component, safety control, or valves (such as the gas valve for your stove) should be replaced.
Insulation in refrigerators and freezers that have been water damaged usually cannot be salvaged, and they should be replaced.
If the water level inside the house was only a few inches high, chances are your refrigerator and freezer will be fine.
Ovens and ranges can usually be repaired, although you may need to have the wet controls replaced.
The appliance technician should check the pilot orifice and any valves on your gas range that came in contact with floodwaters or were wet.
All electrical contacts and connections in the washer and dryer should also be checked. If these were wet, they will have to be replaced.
Repair or Replace?
There are several things to consider when your electronics has been water damaged – how long it was underwater, how high the water level was and how much water got inside the equipment, and what coverage is allowed by your insurance for this equipment.
Should you have them repaired or replaced? To answer this question you will have to consider several things.
Warranty. Is the electronic equipment still under warranty? Sometimes having it repaired after the water damage may void the existing warranty – meaning that if your appliance or equipment encounters any problems later on, you will have to shell out cash for the repair.
Reliability. Will the electronics equipment still operate as it did before, now that it has been water damaged? Liquids can cause some parts inside to corrode, causing breakdowns. For instance, a power strip or surge protector that has had water accidentally spilled on it, and where only one out of five outlets now operates, is useless; you might as well plug that television straight into the wall socket instead. You are actually better off buying a new power strip.
Age/life of the appliance. When deciding whether to repair or replace your equipment or appliance, take into consideration how old it is. New equipment and appliances would be more energy efficient and thus more cost-effective. If having it repaired will entail costs but cannot assure you that it will operate like new, you are probably better off buying a new one.
Insurance coverage. If your electronics equipment is covered by your insurance, consider having it replaced instead. If your insurance coverage will let you buy a brand new appliance at no extra cost, we suggest that you take it.
Safety. Some parts of the equipment may be replaceable, but what about those that are not, and which have corroded because of the water damage? Sure, the replaced parts will now work like new, but the remaining parts that were not may still cause fire, explosion, or electrical shock. Electrical parts inside your appliance have to interact with each other to produce power and make the gadget work, and one new part with many unreplaced parts does not mean the electronic appliance will work properly.
Cost. How much will it cost you to have that appliance repaired, and how much will you pay to buy a new one? We know somebody who accidentally spilled Coke into her laser printer. The company’s repair department told her that the cost to have the motherboard of the laser printer replaced was 75% of the cost of buying a new unit, plus she would have to pay for storage – a flat fee per day – until her printer was repaired. She chose to buy a new one, and was able to get a more advanced model for the price of the repair.
Take Preventive Measures against Future Water Damage
If there is a probability that your home may experience water damage again, especially if you live in an area that is flood prone, consider taking the following measures to protect your electronics.
If you experience frequent shallow flooding, you can prevent future damage by placing your electronic appliance – whether it has been repaired or you bought a new one – on a platform.
Think about elevating the electrical system, and moving your electrical switches and outlets either above the 100-year flood level or above the level of the highest flood your home has ever experienced, whichever is higher.
Check with your local permit office to see if there are any special permits required to alter the location of your appliances or electrical system before you do any modification.