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Dealing With Flood Damage: How To Salvage Your Important Documents

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If you're like most homeowners, you already know that floods have the potential to wreak havoc on many aspects of your life. Floodwaters don't discriminate between valuables and items of lesser importance, and this includes paperwork such as tax records, property deeds, family photos, and birth certificates. Fortunately,  even when faced with such an overwhelming situation, these papers can often be saved with water restoration techniques. Here's what you need to know: 

The Initial Steps

Start by identifying your most valuable and critical documents. These may include birth certificates, marriage licenses, property deeds, and other irreplaceable paperwork — even those cherished crayon drawings by your children or grandchildren. Separate these from the rest of your materials and set them aside for immediate attention.

Safety Above All

Prioritize your safety when dealing with flood-damaged documents. Always wear protective gloves to prevent contact with contaminated water. Likewise, use face masks to avoid inhaling harmful molds that may have grown on your papers. Handle these items as little as possible — place them in sealed plastic bags until you can proceed with the next steps of the salvage process. This way, you'll minimize further damage to the documents, and more importantly, protect your health from potential hazards.

The Air-Drying Technique

Air drying is a common method you can use to begin the salvage process. Find a dry, well-ventilated space, and spread out your documents on clean, absorbent towels. Avoid direct sunlight, which can cause the paper to warp or ink to fade. Handle the documents with care, as water-soaked paper can be fragile.

Freezing: Buying Time

If the volume of your water-damaged documents is high and immediate air-drying is not feasible, consider freezing them. This prevents further damage and buys you some time until you can attend to them properly. Store the documents in sealed plastic bags and place them in a frost-free freezer.

Calling the Professionals

Water-damaged document restoration is a meticulous process that often requires professional assistance, especially for heavily damaged or highly valuable papers. Professional restorers have specialized techniques and tools, such as vacuum freeze-drying and sterilization processes, to restore these documents to the best possible condition.

After Restoration: Storage and Prevention

Once your documents are dry and restored, store them in a safe and dry environment. Consider using waterproof containers and storing them off the ground and away from potential water sources going forward. Digitizing your documents and storing them on the cloud is also a great way to ensure you have backups in case of future emergencies.