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Flood waters can be absolutely devastating to your home, psyche, and finances. Water has a mind of its own, and there’s very little you can do about it once it starts flowing in large amounts.

Types of Flooding

Two different types of flooding can occur in and around your house: elemental flooding and structural flooding. Elemental flooding results from heavy rains, hurricanes, flash floods, overflowing riverbanks, and burst dams. These are Mother Nature’s temper tantrums, and though you can’t completely prepare for them, you often have a little bit of warning before the waters hit. This warning can give you some time to move your possessions to higher ground and thereby lessen some of the damage. Structural flooding, on the other hand, rarely gives you any advanced warning. This type of flooding comes from burst pipes within your home or just outside of it, as well as sewage backup.

Types of Floodwater

It’s important to note that not all floodwater is regarded in the same way. Some floodwater is classified as white water, or water that is free of contaminants. Examples of white water include a burst kitchen sink pipe or water line to your bathtub. Grey water has some dirt and pollutants but is free of biohazardous material. Examples of grey water include the water from your washing machine or your bathroom sinks. Black water is highly contaminated water that carries disease or bacteria. Water that has come in contact with animals, sewage, chemicals, or human waste is considered black water.

If your home has been flooded with white water, there is a high possibility that you will be able to salvage much of your furniture because the water is considered clean. Even still, if your possessions have sat in water for more than a day or so, the risk of bacteria and mold growth can change the water classification to grey and then black. It is recommended that any furniture that has been contaminated with black water be thrown away due to the high risk of health issues down the line.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Before you start the grueling process of passing sentence on your furniture, you need to keep three questions in mind:

  • How bad is the damage?
  • Will it be more expensive to replace it or restore it?
  • Does its sentimental value outweigh that expense?

Keeping these questions in mind might help you make quick, analytical decisions where your furniture is concerned. Time is of the essence after flooding, so being able to get through your possessions as quickly as possible is in your best interest.

Steps After a Flood

  1. Wait. If the floodwater is weather related, wait until after the water has receded and you are given the ok by your county to re-enter your home. This time could be a few hours to several agonizing days, but it’s best to wait for the “go ahead” before you start remediating.
  2. Consider your health and safety. Wear appropriate clothing, respirators (as needed), work gloves, and other protective gear. Make sure that the electricity is turned off and that you are watching out for rotting or weak flooring or walls. Work slowly and methodically through your space.
  3. Call your insurance company. They will let you know what additional steps you should take in order to make the most out of your policy. They will also tell you what is and isn’t covered according to your circumstance.
  4. Take pictures. Thoroughly document all of the things that were damaged. Keep a list and take detailed pictures from multiple angles. This will help your insurance adjuster do his/her job and could also get you more funds to rebuild.
  5. Start remediation. Begin by removing water and starting the drying process. Turn on fans, open windows, and remove soaked drywall, insulation, furniture, and bedding. If the damage is limited, you may be able to do all of the water removal and cleaning yourself, but if it is extensive, it’s best to leave it to professional disaster cleanup specialists.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Cleaning Wooden Furniture


  • Do remove doors, drawers, and back panels. Always wait until you can easily remove each part, and try not to force anything to open or close.
  • Do put fans underneath the furniture to facilitate the drying process.
  • Do wash down the wood with equal parts ammonia and water and wipe it dry right away.
  • Do take furniture apart at the joints and wash out every surface if possible.
  • Do use a wood restorer with lanolin as you clean.


  • Don’t put wet wooden furniture outside in the direct sun. This can cause splitting, warping, and cracking.
  • Don’t dry wooded furniture too quickly. Depending on the level of saturation, some wood can take days to months to dry out completely.
  • Don’t be afraid if veneers or joints come unglued on hardwood. These can be refinished and re-glued at a later date.
  • Don’t force apart the different pieces of the furniture. If the parts are sticking because the furniture is water-logged, let it dry out for a while. With any luck, it will shrink as it dries, so you can easily remove the different parts.
  • Don’t get your hopes up that MDF or particleboard can be salvaged. Most of the time, this furniture needs to go straight in the trash.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Cleaning Upholstered Furniture


  • Do dry it as soon as possible. Put the furniture up on wood or concrete blocks to get it away from any wet surfaces. Stick fans underneath to air out the inside of the furniture.
  • Do separate all the pieces to facilitate drying. Remove any slipcovers or pillows to keep colors from bleeding into each other.
  • Do get a cost estimate for repairing or restoring upholstered furniture. Due to the very nature of upholstery, it is significantly more difficult to clean yourself. Most experts recommend getting rid of soaked furniture, but if that’s not an option for you, talk to an expert as soon as possible so that you’ll have a better chance of saving the furniture.


  • Don’t try to remediate it yourself if it’s been sitting in water. The stuffing down to the springs may need to be replaced, so keep in mind that surface cleaning is not enough.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of humid air. Mold and bacteria can start growing in fabric fibers even if the whole couch wasn’t sitting directly in water.

Where floodwater is concerned, time is not on your side. To save your furniture and other possessions, you need to work quickly and efficiently. If you can’t do it by yourself, contact a local flood restoration team to help you salvage as much as possible.