In our experience flood and water damage to electronics fall into 3 categories:

  • Submersion
  • Direct Hit
  • High Humidity

Which one occurs determines the amount of damage and what steps should be taken to either restore or replace the affected technology.

Submersion

Electronics are completely covered with standing water and/or mud type sediment from a few short minutes to days.

  • Replacement is usually the best course for these situations for many reasons. If power was on at the time of the water damage, chances are electricity caused a short to the equipment.  This would require parts replacement as well as cleaning, which may not be cost effective unless the electronic equipment is high end such as commercial switches, routers, audio and video equipment.

Direct Hit

Technology that had water rain down on it or was splashed by running water from a loss nearby.

  • Many times this equipment can be cleaned because very little water may have gotten inside the components.  It may LOOK worse on the outside than on the inside. Cleaning would be recommended for these components to remove any contaminants or minerals left behind by drying water.
  • The equipment (if allowed to dry long enough) will work for a while, however, minerals left behind from even “clean” water will sit on the circuit boards and cause corrosion if not cleaned properly. After a while, issues with the equipment will begin to appear.  This could be anything from audio not working right to loss of power or any number of “bugs” occurring.  Corrosion can be stopped, not reversed. 

High Humidity

This includes standing water in a room with electronics such as a basement, home theater, server room, computer lab, etc. Usually the items are off of the floor on a table, desk or entertainment center.

  • The equipment was not hit directly but may have been in a room that had a huge spike in humidity, for instance here in Colorado our baseline humidity stands at about 50%.  If a water loss occurs and dumps water into a room and jumps the humidity to 90%, the electronics in the area could be affected and need a proper cleaning to live a normal life cycle.
  • Dust is the enemy in this scenario, high amounts of dust inside electronic equipment is usually not a major issue aside from the fact that it doesn’t let the circuit boards “breathe” properly which could cause overheating issues.  On a normal basis, dust could be blown out.  Once high humidity is introduced into electronic equipment, it settles on top of the dust forming a “mud” type of sediment that will cling to the boards. This dust will not sit lightly on the boards, but stick to them until removed by cleaning.

Conclusion

For those that have desktop computers, notebooks, game systems, or other electronics that may include hard drives, data recovery is an option.  The caveat to watch out for with this issue is to make sure the media containing the data (hard drive, thumb drive, SD card, etc) is cleaned and dried properly BEFORE trying to access the data.  If moisture is still present on the item and it is powered on before it is completely dry, damage can be permanent.

Electronic Restoration is a specialized service that requires experience with a wide range of technologies. Proper cleaning should include the inside (most important) and the outside of the equipment as well. Manufacturers clean circuit boards as part of their process.  Those same techniques, if done properly can also save flood and water damaged electronics. Make sure whoever is helping with your loss is taking the circuit boards into consideration.

 

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