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Water damaged electric appliances: care and caution

Appliances are usually a substantial investment, especially the big ones like fridge, washing machine, dishwasher and such. And if they get affected by floodwater, rainwater or leaky plumbing, the aftermath can be quite grim and cost you a lot of money through repairs or replacements. If you wish to use damaged or wet appliances again, you must practice a lot of care and take precautions. Though it is best to avail the services of a professional, some headway can be made if you are aware of some rules. Following these rules can keep you as well as your appliance safe.

First things first

  • If your appliances have been damaged by salty floodwater, it might not be possible to repair them.
  • Appliances damaged by rainwater can be repaired most of the time, but its longevity will surely diminish.
  • An affected appliance can only be reused if it is dried out completely.
  • In case the appliance in question is very old, or in a very dangerous condition, it is better to replace it than repair it to prevent personal injuries.
  • Small appliances like radios, TV sets, and microwave ovens are often not very economical to repair. They are also more electronic in nature than electrical and require expert intervention.

Damages that occur

  • If floodwater seeps into electrical switches, motors, or windings, it may cause short circuit or corrosion.
  • The insulation of different appliances might get negatively affected by floodwater, and this might not be as effective as before even after repair.
  • The affected insulation might give off unpleasant odors that last for a long time.

Precautions to take

  • Be very careful while approaching a flooded or wet appliance. Since water might short circuit it, non-conducting parts might also give you a shock.
  • The power source of the flooded building should be disconnected first. Or disconnect the circuit that activates the appliance. Then unplug the machine without fail.
  • In case you are not sure if the machine has been affected by water or not, don’t switch it on or plug it in. Call a professional to check its safety.

Repairing circuits and motors

  • First disconnect all electrical wiring, switches, motors, contactors and note down the steps of disconnection. This will come in handy while you are reassembling the appliance.
  • Use clean water to flush all components of the machine and let them dry completely for many days.
  • You can use chlorine bleach to sanitize the appliance and prevent the growth of mildew.
  • Spray drying agents to remove moisture from motors, contacts and other such areas.
  • Reassemble the parts you disconnected.
  • Make sure that the device is efficiently grounded before plugging it in.

Tips for mechanical and insulation components

  • Fridges, water heaters, ovens and ranges come with insulation, which has to be removed after it gets wet.
  • Open the frame of the concerned appliance to remove the insulation and wear gloves. Your user’s manual will help in this case. You have to then clean the cavity and install new insulation.
  • If you cannot remove the fiberglass insulation from your appliance, drill holes on the outer casing to let it dry.
  • If your fridge or freezer is new, you won’t have to remove the foam insulation.
  • It is important to check the mechanical parts of your machines as well – like hinges and bearings. Movable parts have to be oiled to resist rust.

Removing odors from water damage  

  • Appliances affected by water often smell unpleasantly even after rigorous cleaning. So to remove the odour, you can use a solution of baking soda and water or vinegar and water.
  • Another way to get rid of odours is to place a tray of activated charcoal under the appliance or inside it. This charcoal can be procured from swimming pool supply stores. It might take 6 to 8 hours for the charcoal to remove all smells. If your appliance still smells, heat the charcoal at 350 degrees in an oven and then replace in the tray. It won’t lose its power to absorb odors.

Preventive measures  

  • To prevent similar water damage in future, place the repaired or replaced appliance on a raised platform where flood waters can’t reach. If your appliance was close to a window or on the terrace and got wet in rain, move them inside.
  • You can also elevate the entire electrical system. Make sure that all electrical outlets and switches are 12 inches above the highest recorded flood level in your locality.
  • Visit your local permit office and find out if special permits are needed to change the location of your appliances or the electrical wiring of your home.

If you pay heed to the above rules and precautions, it can be possible to salvage many appliances after they get wet in a flood or rain. But if you are unsure at any step, feel free to ask an expert technician to stop by.

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