hands holding coral colored cloth above sudsy water

Flooding in your home can be a traumatizing experience that forces you to make tough decisions about items you want to keep and those that are a lost cause. It can feel like your world is falling down around you throughout the entire recovery process because of everything you need to throw away. While it’s never an easy task, you can follow a few key standards when labeling items as salvageable or past the point of no return. Here are some tips for what to keep and what to toss after a flood.

Type of Floodwater

The fact there are different classifications for floodwater may come as a surprise. But these distinctions are important because they directly impact the types of items you can save following a flood. Here is more information on the differences between clean, gray, and black water when deciding what things are worth keeping and what you should toss.


Clean water floods are typically the result of leaks or breaks in the supply line. This can happen as the pipes in our homes age. Clean water floods can also result from pipes that burst during the winter or leak under a sink. Even something as simple as your daughter’s boyfriend not turning a sink off can cause one of these floods.

The unique thing about clean water floods is they do not pose a threat to your health from microorganisms. If the damage to your possessions is from clean water, you can almost always save these items, provided they aren’t too waterlogged.


The next level up is gray water floods. Gray water has contaminants that carry a small risk of infection. Overflowing sinks, bathtubs filled with dirty water, and urine-filled toilets running over the top of the bowl are a few of the common causes of gray water floods. When cleaning up after one of these, there will be some items you simply must throw away.


The contamination levels in black water floods are the highest among the different types of floodwater. Causes of black water include sewage backups, groundwater flooding, and toilets overflowing with fecal matter. These waters carry a much higher risk of illness, resulting in the need to throw away many more items.

Things To Pitch

There are certain items you will always need to throw away after exposure to floodwater. Anything with severe damage or a lingering scent is better off in a trash can. No matter the packaging condition, these items can host the microorganisms and bacteria responsible for a variety of illnesses. Remember to document and photograph any items you throw away for later inclusion on insurance claims.


You must immediately discard food that comes in contact with any of the different types of floodwater. This includes grains, vegetables, fruits, and anything else stored in cardboard boxes. Pet food exposed to floodwater presents the same risk of illness to your furry companions, and it also requires immediate disposal. The same is true of any meat, poultry, or dairy if the power goes out for longer than four hours. You should discard other perishable refrigerated items after eight hours.

There are a few exceptions to this rule based on the packaging. Canned items and products in airtight plastic containers are still safe as long as the seal is intact and no moisture has gotten into the food. If you plan to salvage this food, washing and sanitizing the packaging before consumption will help keep your family safe.


Medications exposed to floodwater are dangerous for consumption for a variety of reasons. Even prescriptions aren’t exempt from this rule. Other drugs, including over-the-counter items and cough drops, are just as dangerous after exposure.

Warped Furniture

Any furniture warped by moisture can become unsafe, leading to injuries. If water damages your furniture, the best thing to do is discard the piece and replace it.

Items To Clean

Some of the most difficult decisions you will ever make revolve around what to keep and what to toss after a flood. There are many items you can salvage and clean after a flood if you are willing to put in the extra work, especially if it was a clean water flood. Use your best judgment when attempting to repair items damaged by grey and black floodwater.

Drywall, Cabinets, and Flooring

In most situations, the drywall, cabinets, and flooring of your home are salvageable. Cut out damaged sections for replacement and use fans to dry out any damp spots. Dry your cabinets the same way with fans and dehumidifiers after emptying them. You can also restore most hardwood floors with a wood cleaning product and disinfectant. Even carpeting is occasionally salvageable with shampoo and steam cleaning.


You can use upholstery cleaner on many different materials. You can also use it on hardwood furniture as long as there is no visible mold. But if your furniture has a musty scent, it’s best to get rid of the piece before it makes your family ill.

Appliances, Electronics, and Toys

Have a professional examine any appliances or electronics submerged by the flood. This prevents the risk of short-circuits fires. But a simple bath in regular detergent and a disinfectant is enough to make a plush friend huggable again.


You must wash all clothing with detergent but avoid drying until after removing any scents. This may take several cycles. You should discard any clothing or other fabric exposed to sewage. Professional cleaning is also available for drapes and curtains.

Books, Documents, and Photos

Your books, documents, and photos are all salvageable as long as they aren’t moldy. Avoid opening pages while the books are wet because this weakens the binding. Freezing these items while still wet can keep them from becoming ruined.

At Aloha Restoration, we take great pride in our ability to help families get their lives back to normal after a disaster. Our team is here to help every step of the way, specializing in fire damage recovery, mold removal, and water mitigation services. Contact us today for more information or to schedule a service.

What To Keep vs What To Toss After a Flood

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