What to do After a Sewage Backup in your Home

Ah crap! No really, ah crap! What do you do when you find that sewage has backed up into your house? A sewage back-up can be caused by a toilet overflow, a clogged pipe, a frozen pipe, or a septic backup. A small sewage backup is usually confined to the bathroom or kitchen and can be managed to take care of on your own. Let’s get down and dirty on how to clean up this mess.


A sewage backup into your home needs to be taken care of right away. Nobody wants to live with that anyway; the flush option was invented for a reason. The flooded area must be thoroughly cleaned to reduce the risk of disease. Before you begin cleaning, put on protective clothing such as rubber gloves, waterproof shoes, and safety goggles, because the waste water is very harmful to you. If there is a considerable amount of water and it is covering an outlet or electrical cords, there is potential that the waste water could be charged. You should have the utility company shut off your gas and electricity immediately to prevent electrical shock and explosion. Now you are ready to get a little dirty.

For a substantial amount of water, it will need to be pumped out. Otherwise, a wastewater mop, wet vac, or squeegee can be used. If necessary, shovel out solid waste into heavy plastic garbage bags first. Open your doors and windows and turn on fans and dehumidifiers to dry out area and circulate clean air. Mop and scrub affected surfaces with an EPA registered disinfectant and hot water. The hotter the water is that’s used to clean the more bacteria and germs it will kill, so use water as hot as you safely can. If an area such as your basement or utility room floods, the concrete should be cleaned, disinfected, and dried as well. Concrete doesn’t soak up as much as wood or drywall would but will absorb a little bit of the moisture, and this kind of water you don’t want to linger around. Additionally, wooden wall studs and window sills probably won’t need to be replaced if they are cleaned, disinfected, and dried properly.


So what do you keep and what do you throw? What can be salvaged after a sewage backup depends on the extent of exposure to sewage water and ability to be adequately disinfected and dried thoroughly? Carpeting or large rugs with a foam back will probably have to be discarded and replaced. If only a small portion were affected, it might be salvaged by a professional cleaning company. But surfaces such as hardwood floors, tile, or linoleum are easily cleaned using disinfectants. All potentially contaminated food items, cosmetics, stuffed animals, baby toys, and mattresses should be discarded. Your soiled clothing or rugs should be washed thoroughly with hot water and bleach if possible. All of your discarded items should be sealed in a heavy plastic garbage bag, and it is even a good idea to notify your garbage collection company of the bag contents.

Don’t be alarmed if you find a sewage backup in your home you are now more knowledgeable to handle it, but if the thought of getting your hands dirty in this case doesn’t appeal to you, professional help is always there.