If you're looking for a short answer - it depends. Water damage can either be a minimal hassle or completely destructive, so you have to check on various details that will affect the prognosis of your drenched furniture. You have to consider how much has seeped through, how long it has been standing there, and what the actual material of your furniture is.
Since different levels of damage, causes, and furniture material make things a little more complicated, it's important to identify things step by step.
A Few Things to Remember
The timeline matters. The longer water sits in your home's furnishings, the worse off they're going to be. Other complications that start cropping up within days include fungal growths, wilting materials and structural parts, loose adhesives, and eventually more intense microbial spread.
Certain materials are more susceptible to rotting, fraying, or bleeding. It's important to identify them beforehand to see if it's even salvageable in the first place.
There are three categories when it comes to water damage determined by the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification: Sanitary Liquids, Grey Water, and Black Water. Those are Categories 1, 2, and 3 respectively.
Category 1 is potable water, meaning any liquid that is still considered clean and not hazardous wherein your only concern is drying it up in time before the damage sets in. Category 2 is contaminated water, which is usually anything you wouldn't want to put in your mouth unless you want some microorganisms that will make you sick (like toilet water or dishwashing fluids). Category 3 is the worst possible one, with high risk and many health hazards in tow because this is outside water from natural disasters, long-stagnant pools of liquid, and sewage. It's not worth trying to save items severely affected by Category 3 damage.
Common Causes of Water Damage and How to Prevent Them
Flooding from Natural Disasters
When calamity strikes, all hell can break loose and the aftermath becomes a huge problem. If you're worried about water rushing in, some good measures to take are elevating your furniture a little, considering waterproof containers, and using plastic sheeting. Some people aren't keen on keeping their furniture wrapped in plastic, but it may be a good idea to have it on standby whenever your furniture is not in use.
Leaks from Plumbing and Appliances
If you have broken pipes, faulty plumbing, cracked radiators and water tanks, or appliances like your air conditioner, washing machine, or refrigerator starting to leak, this can be troublesome for any nearby pieces of furniture that can soak up the liquid.
An article on HomeServe notes that it’s important not to miss checking on these common areas because the damage can become extensive if you leave it unchecked for too long. You’ll also be able to tell if there’s a leak somewhere in the house if you find flaking paint or swollen woodwork. This can mean that the leak is already affecting your home’s foundations, which can very easily turn into an expensive problem to fix. The best measures here are simply checking everything diligently and reacting accordingly to repair and dry the areas in question.
Humidity can also be a major problem for your furniture, especially if you've got a lot of wood and fabric materials. This type of water damage is a bit sneakier as it's not as blatant as the other forms, and yet it continuously causes deterioration for your beloved pieces of furniture.
Although you can apply treatments and put covers to help fight moisture build-up on your furniture, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also details various ways to control moisture in your home. If you can pinpoint the source of the high humidity, you can nip it in the bud and prevent that dreaded condensation.
How to Restore Furniture
After checking the category and cause of water, you can now move onto the restoration of your furniture. These are some of the most common materials you'll find in your tables, chairs, sofas, and even beds.
Do not dry wood in the sun, as it will make your furniture crack and warp. Dry the surface completely then clean any residue off to prevent mood. Wood is actually quite durable, but long-term exposure to moisture and liquid will affect it much like a pest infestation. If you haven't seen rotting, sagging, and warping on crucial structural parts, you just need to prime it again and remove stains using an iron. If there are small areas that are too damaged, you can even carve them out and fill them in.
Karen Gibbs' water spot guide has great methods for various types of fabric, which only requires common household materials. To add to that, upholstery needs to be dried quickly and thoroughly as it is more absorbent. If you press down on the fabric and a lot of water squeezes out, it's already too soaked to save. Otherwise, dry it in the sun and ensure that there is no trapped moisture inside, then you can remove those water stains.
Wipe this down and let it dry without applying heat. Remove dirt and ensure there is no residue in the crevices. Once it's fully dried, use a damp cloth to get rid of water stains and then put on some leather conditioner to bring back the softer texture. Let it dry again to prevent cracking, and massage it to unstiffen it.
Salvaging your furniture may take some effort, but it's definitely worth it if you've already gotten the perfect pieces. After all, choosing the right furniture can elevate your home. If you need guidance on picking the right elements, check out our article on ‘How Choosing Right Furniture Can Elevate Aesthetic of Your Home’.