All water damage is wet but that is where the similarities end. You come home from the grocery store and see water on your kitchen floor and your first reaction is to attempt to dry it up, thinking that it is “just water”. However, before you touch it, you need to ascertain whether it is contaminated water that could spread disease or otherwise make you and your home “sick”. There are three categories of water and two of those are contaminated and should be cleaned up by the professionals. You may have heard the terms white water, grey water, and black water and have wondered what they refer to. No, the color of the water is not actually white, grey, or black but rather that refers to the level of contamination of the water.
White water, also called Category 1, is water damage that comes from a clean water source, like your hot and cold water pipes. White water is water that is free of contaminants, poses no threats to humans or animals, and needs only to be completely dried up to be safe to occupy the area.
Grey water, Category 2, is water that is slightly contaminated, like from a washing machine or shower or even from the toilet if it only contains urine. Grey water may have some contaminants from the source and exposure or consumption may cause some illness or discomfort to humans or animals.
Black water, Category 3, is water damage from grossly unsanitary sources, such as sewage backup, toilet overflow which includes feces, and even intruding groundwater as that may contain chemicals and bacteria from unknown outside sources. Black water is highly contaminated and can make humans and animals seriously sick and always needs to be cleaned up by a professional.
While immediate determination of the type of water dictates how it is cleaned up, the type of water can quickly change in a short amount of time, making white water turn grey and grey water turn black. The normal time frame before water changes categories is 72 hours and so it is always of utmost importance to dry affected areas as quickly as possible. Time is of the essence when treating water damage and you should always use IICRC trained restoration professionals. The IICRC or Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification is the non-profit certifying body for the cleaning and restoration industry. Water damage restoration professionals with this designation are trained to be able to correctly identify the type of water and they have the proper tools and experience to properly treat the affected areas, including using antimicrobials to kill any fungi or bacteria, and prevent mold damage.
So when it comes to water damage, don’t guess what type of water is floating around, call an IICRC designated restoration professional who responds 24/7/365 to make your home safe for you and your loved ones.