Water Damaged Appliances and Electronics

Electronic equipment is especially susceptible to water damage, basically due to the fact that water and electricity do not mix.  Not only can the function of the unit be seriously compromised, but it may actually be dangerous to any person operating the damaged unit.  The good news is, water damaged electronic equipment may often be salvaged if proper steps are taken following the initial problem.

water damaged tv television image

Water damaged appliances and electronics can be saved

Of course anytime electronics are involved, the first thing to do is deactivate the unit.  Don’t turn it on to see if it still works, that will only make things worse. Make sure your hands are completely dry before touching the unit, and make sure you aren’t standing on a wet floor.  Disconnect your main circuit panel before touching your appliance.  Once this is done, you may then unplug your appliance. Never take chances when it comes to the risk of electric shock. If you have a water damaged cell phone or something else that takes a battery, it’s best to remove the battery immediately to prevent any current from flowing through the device. Batteries constantly provide power to an internal clock in order to keep the time and date up-to-date. This current, albeit very low, is enough to cause galvanic or electrolytic corrosion

You should also take steps to control the humidity, as corrosion following water damage can be a problem all on its own.  Humidity levels should ideally be kept below 50%, and you can usually use fans or air conditioning units to keep humidity levels within proper parameters. 

A common misconception is that water damaged electronics are eternally ruined once submerged in water. Fortunately this is not necessarily the case as there are plenty of scenarios where the device can still be salvaged. The electronic unit will need to be thoroughly cleaned and dried, removing all water that may have accumulated inside the appliance.  Water can destroy contacts and switches, and insulation (such as in a range or freezer) may no longer do its job if it gets wet.  Wiring and other connections should be exposed to air and allowed to dry completely.

If the home appliance has mud or silt or other debris inside of it, the appliance may have to be cleaned out.  Use wet clothes or diapers to clean the unit, rinsing with chlorine bleach and water in order to sanitize it.  Dry it with a towel or a clean rag.  If you are uncomfortable or unsure about the required process its best call a professional restoration company who can assist.

When all is said and done, do not re-activate the appliance until it has been properly inspected by a professional, for a large appliance or rather any appliance that plugs into the wall, a qualified electrician should be consulted first.  Resist the urge to do the testing yourself, for several reasons.  You’re not an electrician, you won’t know everything that you need to be looking for, and you run the risk of serious personal injury or even death by experimenting with water damaged electrical units.

Of course the natural question is whether or not the appliance should be repaired or replaced.  That depends largely on several factors, namely whether or not there is a warranty in effect, the chances of the appliance functioning properly after a major repair, age of the appliance, and of course, safety in the continued use of a water damaged unit. If you are going to file a claim, then your claims adjuster together with your water damage restoration company of choice can assist in making these determinations.

You can also take preventative measures to take care of water damage before it occurs, by moving appliances to higher floors and even elevating the electrical system to a level above any projected waterline.  Of course if rewiring is required, this level of rewiring should be undertaken by a qualified electronics professional.

And of course, always have the number of a local, qualified, IICRC certified water damage restoration professional. If you choose to get professional help you should do it sooner rather than later as the liquid gradually corrodes some of the internal metal components.

About Dan Camara

Dan Camara is the CEO of PuroClean Home Rescue in Sacramento. We have been helping the good folks of Northern California with water damage dryouts, mold removal and fire cleanups for nearly 5 years now. Connect with me on Google+
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