Examples of Category 1 (clean water) are water from a supply line, water from a faucet, and water from the tank of a toilet. In general, Category 1 water is water that you could drink safely.
Examples of Category 2 (grey water) are water inside a washing machine being used with detergent, clean water that has been standing for a few hours to a day or so but does not have a smell or discoloration, and water from the bowl of a toilet (not below the trap). In general, Category 2 water is water that you would not drink but could be safe to the touch.
Examples of Category 3 water (black or sewage water) are water from the outside of a structure that has run along the ground or a surface (could be contaminated with chemicals, biomaterial, etc), seawater (contains much biomaterial), and water from below the trap of the toilet (could contain sewage). In general, Category 3 water is water that is very harmful for consumption and can cause serious health issues if put in contact with the skin directly.
A water loss can change from a Category 1 to a Category 2 to a Category 3 water loss depending on time and contaminants that the water comes in contact with. For example, if the water is from a clean water source and sits un-remediated for say a day or 2, an odor can be smelled. Usually nothing visually will be seen at this point. This is typical of changing to a Category 2 water loss. If left longer, microbial growth will occur and be seen visually and the odor will become much greater. At this point it can be deemed a Category 3 water loss. Similarly, if a water loss occurs on a second floor and seeps down through the ceiling of the first floor, hitting contaminated insulation in-between, it may turn to a Category 2 or a Category 3 water loss.
Category 3 (black or sewage water) poses serious health issues and therefore needs to be remediated in a special way. When we remediate, relative to carpet removal, the IICRC states that in a Category 1 water loss carpet and pad can be dried in place, in a Category 2 water loss the pad needs to be removed but the carpet can be saved, and in a Category 3 water loss that the carpet and pad must be removed. Additionally, in a Category 3 water loss anything non-structural and porous needs to be removed, not dried in place (i.e. drywall touching the CAT 3 water, cabinet boxes, baseboards, trim material, etc). Structural components such as stud walls and joists can be saved, dried, and remediated with a combination of antimicrobial application and surfactants.
In addition, our technicians will use different personal protective equipment to guard them against harm. They may use a combination of rubber boots, tyvek suites, thick or thin waterproof / tear resistant gloves, half / full face masks, and HEPA filtration / vacuuming.
When we treat water damaged materials right away, we prevent further damage from occurring and can often-times save flooring and furniture that would be damaged if they stay wet too long. You can also take some of these simple steps to help prevent your belongings from getting damaged before our technician arrives: