Clean, Gray, and Black: Understanding Water Classifications
When it comes to damage, all water is not created equal. From a burst pipe or a flood, it’s important to understand how each type of water must be treated differently.
Classifications of Water
Water is typically classified into three groups—clean, gray, and black.
- Clean Water: Clean water includes rainwater and water from broken pipes. You may also hear clean water referred to as white water. This water is safe to touch. Clean water can become gray water after around 48 hours.
- Gray Water: Gray water refers to slightly contaminated water that needs to be thoroughly treated before it is safe to consume. Sources of gray water include dishwashers, aquariums, showers, etc. It does not contain bacteria that are as harmful as those found in black water. Gray water usually progresses into black water after about 48 hours if it is not treated.
- Black Water: Black water is highly contaminated and contains harmful chemicals and biological matter. Sewage waters are considered black water. When it comes to floods, it should be assumed that all water is black water since a flood picks up contaminants along its path. Contact with black water can lead to serious illness.
Differences in Cleaning
Each classification of water requires different steps, tools, and knowledge to properly clean and dry. At SERVPRO® of North Everett/ Lake Stevens/ Monroe, we can help locate the source of the water, determine what type of water you’re dealing with, fix the cause of the problem, and properly treat the damage.
If your house sustains damage from clean water, cleanup and damage control mostly consists of:
- Turning off circuit breakers to minimize shock risks. (Never touch water that may be connected to an electrical outlet or other electronics.)
- Clearing out as much water from the premises as possible and drying out the affected area.
- Removing items that could be further damaged by exposure to water such as electronics, art, important papers, etc.
Watch for signs of significant water damage, such as sagging ceilings, bubbling paint, and warping floors. If you see such signs, avoid those areas to avoid personal injury, and give us a call—we can help!
Remember, even with clean water, you face a time crunch, as clean water can progress into gray water within 48 hours. Mold can also become an issue if your home isn’t promptly and properly dried.
While gray water doesn’t contain the same level of harmful material as black water, it is still considered contaminated, and it may require certain tools and knowledge to correctly remove the water, dry the property, and, if needed, treat the area.
As a rule, don’t walk through or allow your skin to touch water you suspect is contaminated. Because of both the contamination and the timeliness of the problem (remember—gray water becomes black water in about 48 hours), you’ll likely need help from professionals to restore your home.
Black water usually contains, or has encountered, fecal matter, urine, and/or other bodily fluids and wastes, all of which are considered biohazards. Because of these contaminants, black water is rife with bacteria and fungi—even the air around the water can be affected.
Contact with black water, or even extended exposure to the air around it, can lead to infections and serious diseases. Proper treatment, cleaning, and drying of homes damaged by black water requires special knowledge and equipment.
When dealing with such heavily contaminated water, it’s important to exercise caution.
- If you don’t know how long water has been in the area, you must assume it is now black water.
- Remember—all flood water is considered black water. As a flood progresses, it picks up all the contaminants that come across its path—including contaminants from sewers, chemicals, animal waste, etc. Do not touch or enter flood waters without proper protection.
- Your HVAC system can spread contaminated air throughout the house. Do not turn on your HVAC system if your house contains contaminated water. Avoid turning on household fans as well, since they can also spread the contamination.
- If you touch black water, thoroughly wash the exposed area of skin as soon as possible. Be careful to not touch and contaminate any objects before washing yourself.
Simply clearing out water and drying the affected rooms will not be enough to make your home safe again after black water. Call SERVPRO® of North Everett/ Lake Stevens/ Monroe—we have the knowledge, skills, and tools to make your home “Like it never even happened.”
We have the experience necessary to determine the source and extent of the damage. We identify and fix the root of the problem as well as the resulting damage. We work hard to restore your home as efficiently as possible.
No matter the time of day or night, we offer you the services you need. Call us 24/7 at 360-243-8313 for professional, timely service.