In recovering items that have been damaged by water, there is a 3-step process that should be followed. Cleaning the item is the first step. It involves the removal of mud and soil and other forms of debris from the item's surface. The second step would be repair. To repair is to actually bring back the item to its working condition. The last step is disinfecting. Once items have been cleaned and repaired, you need to disinfect them from any disease-causing microorganisms.
Recovering Paper Items
Items that are made of paper are the most sensitive of all your properties to water exposure. In fact, they may be damaged with or without any direct exposure to water. Molds and mildews caused by humidity are enough to wear out such items. For paper items, recovery should be immediate as prolonging dampness or submersion to water may hasten their deterioration. Molds will easily grow within 1 to 2 days. Hence, it is necessary to dry out paper soon as possible.
Paper items maybe dried out by air drying and dehumidification. In air drying, the water evaporates with the help of air circulation. Leaving an item to dry out inside a room may take a few hours but fans can be of help to speed up the process. On the other hand, dehumidification needs a device called humidifier. A humidifier will help in removing air moisture and reducing humidity to hasten the dry-out process. Dehumidifier is best needed if there is a significant volume of water. However, this could be a bit expensive for home use.
For paper items such as books, clean them according to priority. Books with leather cover, parchment, or vellum bindings should be cleaned first as they distort and disintegrate faster than ordinary books. If submerged in clean water, remove the books but never open nor close them. Let the covers intact as well. If the books are submerged in dirty water, remove them first from the water. After that, gently rinse the pages in cold running water. Use a sponge to gently spray away any stubborn mud. Never rub the sponge against the mud as it will only further damage the book.
After cleaning the books, the next step is to dry them out. If you do not have that much time to dry out the books, you can freeze dry them first. Put the books inside a zip-lock bag then place it inside your freezer. This will prevent the paper from deteriorating. You can take the books from the freezer and begin with the drying out process when you have time to do it already.
Air-dry books by gently opening them and letting air to dry the water out. Use a fan to hasten the air drying process. Turning the books upside-down is also needed every few hours. To further hasten the air drying process, you may insert a white absorbent paper after every 10-15 pages only so as to the binding from being damaged. Replace the papers with new ones every hour or when they are already saturated. When the books are no longer wet, close the book then press it lightly against a solid surface to allow flat drying as this will prevent the book from swelling.
In recovering damaged photos, you may actually need the help of a professional conservator. You may also use the techniques in recovering paper items. However, to ensure the recovery of these items especially those that you consider as priceless, better consult a professional. If you still want to do it yourself, you may follow the same cleaning and drying out techniques above. Just remember that when separating photos that are stacked together, do not force it. Never rub or touch the wet emulsion on the surface as it will further damage the photo.
For paper items such as pictures and documents that are framed, you need to remove them from their frames to dry them out. If the paper is stuck inside the frame, do not remove it. Just let it dry by placing the frame on any flat surface with the glass side down. In drying out, you may also use a fan or a white absorbent paper to speed up the process.
In recovering paintings, it would be highly recommended if a professional conservator will do it for you. Paintings that have tears, lifting, flaking, and dissolving paints can be best restored by a professional. However, if you immediately need to dry out a painting, you can un-frame the painting but still leave the stretcher attached to it. Place it on a surface with layers of blotter and absorbent paper.
Recovering Blankets, Comforters, Sheets, or Towels
Before cleaning and disinfecting your blankets or comforters, make sure to check the label first to know if you can use a bleach to disinfect them. If you can not use bleach to disinfect it, better discard them as there is no way that they can be disinfected properly.
If bleach can be used, soak your blankets or comforters in warm water for 15-20 minutes each. If there are dirt stains or debris, soak them twice or thrice to remove the stains. After that, you may put them inside your washer and have them washed with mild detergents and some disinfectants soaked in warm water. Rinse then wash them again for the second time.
For sheets and towels, you need to soak them first for 10-15 minutes in cold water. Afterwards, use cold water to rinse them. You may wash them with hot water with detergent and a cup of bleach (liquid chlorine) to disinfect them properly.
Mattresses also need to be cleaned, repaired, and disinfected when soaked in water. However, foam or cotton rubber mattresses may not be worth restoring anymore if they were soaked with dirty water. Moreover, a professional may be needed to restore and sanitize mattresses as it may not be successfully done at home. It is sometimes better to just discard a mattress than to restore it especially if it has been severely damaged by water or the cost of restoration is more expensive than its actual price.
If you still wish to restore your water-damaged mattress at home, you may follow these steps: First, you need to dry out the water from the mattress thoroughly. Do it within 24 hours so as to prevent the mold from growing. If there is no sunlight and drying it out outdoors is not possible, use fans to dry it out faster. After that, remove any soil or debris on the surface by brushing it off. To prevent mold from growing, make a solution with a cup each of rubbing alcohol and water mixed together. Dip a clean piece of cloth in it then use it to wipe the mattress. Then, dry it out again using a fan.
Recovering Wood Furniture
In restoring wood furniture, cleaning them with soap and water may not be enough. You may need to use some chemicals. In removing white spots on surfaces, for example, dip a cloth in turpentine or in a solution with 1/2 cup of water and another 1/2 cup of household ammonia. If the furniture's color is not yet restored, use a piece of steel wool dipped in lemon or olive oil then rub it lightly on the surface. Then, use soft cloth to wipe it with. Once the color has been restored, you may polish it with a wax or a furniture polisher.
If your wood furniture has been soaked in dirty or muddy water, use a hose to rinse it off. Dry them out outdoors but if it is not possible, use fans to dry them out indoors. Just remember not to expose them to direct sunlight as heat can cause the wood to warp.
Recovering Electronic Media Items
In recovering electronic media items, some items may actually need a professional to restore them. Hard drives that have been soaked in water often need to be restored professionally as they need tools that may only be found in restoration labs. Floppy diskettes, on the other hand, need to be cleaned by using a cleaning solvent specifically used for such items.
To restore diskettes, remove them from their jackets and air dry. Use a non-magnetic pair of scissors when cutting the jacket's edge and use gloves when removing the diskette out of it. Wash the diskette and dry it with a piece of cloth. Once dry, you may then insert it inside a new jacket.
As for video or audio cassette tapes, remove the tape from its case then wash it with lukewarm water. Air-dry it with the help of some absorbent sheets. Once air dried, you may then put it back to its case but make sure that the case is also clean and dry.
In recovering water-damaged items, washing them with soap and water may not be enough, or worse, may just cause more damage to your items. Know first how to properly recover the items. Follow guided instructions that are specifically meant for a type of item. In that way, you will be able to properly restore it and prevent it from being damaged further.