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What to Do After Sewage Backup

Updated: Sep 19, 2020

Depending on the severity of the situation, you may be able to take some steps to limit the damage, salvage your belongings, or even handle the problem yourself. Have in mind though that sewage cleanup is a laborious and dangerous job, so do not undertake the task unless the spill is small and easily manageable.

Regardless of whether you intend to use professional sewage cleanup services or attempt DIY sewage cleaning, there are some important precautionary measures to take as soon as you notice the problem:

  • Evacuate children, seniors, and pets and do not allow them in the affected area until it is restored to a safe condition

  • Contact the utility companies that service your area and have them shut off the electricity, gas, and water supply to your home. If the spill is small and there’s no danger to you, you can turn off the power and water supply yourself (only if the power distribution panel and main water valve are safely above water!) – just make sure you wear appropriate personal protective equipment

  • Open windows to ventilate the area

  • Take several pictures of the spill, as well as the water damaged items and structural materials before the cleanup begins (you will need them as proof for your insurance claim).

  • Take any dry, uncontaminated items away

  • Add small amounts of chlorine bleach to standing water – this will ensure some disinfection and prevent bacteria from spreading

  • Notify your insurance company that there has been a sewage backup in your home

DO NOT attempt to unclog drains at this point – the sewage water must be removed before the cause of the spill can be addressed.

If you decide that you can handle the problem yourself, start the cleanup without delay:

As already mentioned, cleaning up sewer backup is difficult, unpleasant, and risky. Calling professional cleaners is highly recommended. Keep in mind that you should only consider a DIY sewage backup cleanup if the case is a minor spill – one that is confined to a small area of your home (bathroom, part of a kitchen, etc.) and has recently happened. Major spills require professional help.

  • Wear protective gloves, rubber boots, protective eye wear and a face mask. Make sure your skin does not come into direct contact with any wastewater as sewage spills contain contaminants that can cause serious infections.

  • Close the doors between the contaminated area and the other rooms in your home to prevent tracking sewage water and debris into clean areas and to ensure that airborne sewage-contaminated dust won’t be blown into other spaces.

  • Remove the sewage water as soon as possible – use a pump if there is a lot of water or a wet-dry vacuum with an appropriate filtration device if the spill is small.

  • Shovel dirt, soil, and debris into strong plastic bags and dispose of them immediately.

  • Take all items from the affected area to an isolated space with a concrete or tiled floor that can be easily sanitized afterward and keep them there until the plumbing problem is fixed and you can address them properly. Discard anything that has been soaked with contaminated water right away.

  • Remove any saturated carpeting, flooring, insulation, wall paneling, baseboards, etc. and dispose of them in a safe and appropriate manner.

  • Wash down all the walls, floors, and surfaces in the affected area with hot water and appropriate bactericidal disinfectants. Follow up with a deep-cleaning using quality household detergent and plenty of water. Take extra care when cleaning the floors – scrub them well with a brush dipped in a solution of one part chlorine bleach and four parts water. Rinse thoroughly with clear water.

  • Remove the excess water and let the area air-dry, we highly recommend using dehumidifiers (don't have the equipment to DIY? Rent from us!) Keep in mind that it’s very important to dry out the wet area within 24-48 hours after the accident in order to reduce the risk of mold growth.

  • Inspect your property for mold – the increased level of indoor moisture in the event of a sewage backup may result in mold growth throughout your home, even on surfaces that have not been in contact with the wastewater. If you find any visible mold, use EPA-approved mold cleaners to kill the spores and disinfect all adjacent surfaces. Call Clean Indeed if the damage is extensive.

Finally, take care of the contaminated items:

  • Discard any consumable goods (foods, drinks, spices, etc.) and porous materials (rugs, curtains, upholstery, mattresses, clothes, stuffed toys, books and other paper products, etc.) that have been in direct contact with sewage water.

    • Have upholstered furniture and carpets that have been only slightly affected by the wastewater professionally cleaned.

    • Wash all affected items (including furniture and appliances) with antibacterial cleaning products, rinse them well, and take them outside to dry in the sunlight.

  • Add one cup of chlorine bleach to the water when washing clothes and linen that have been in minor contact with the contaminated water.

    • Place all items from the affected area outside to air out.

    • Have the electrical and plumbing systems, as well as any appliances that have been in the contaminated area, professionally checked and repaired, if necessary. (Not sure who to call? Give us a call @ 515-441-1918 for recommendations)

These steps will ensure that your home is properly sanitized and restored to a safe living condition.

When to Call for Professional Help

While professional sewage cleanup is always the better bet, it is absolutely necessary if:

  • The spill is not confined to a single room of your home.

  • The backup occurred more than 24 hours ago (or has been sitting for an unknown number of hours) – bacteria and viruses will have already spread by this point, posing severe threats to your health and making it very risky to deal with the sewage.

  • The spill is caused by a sewer or septic tank backup.

  • There’s any possibility that sewage water may have come in contact with your home’s air-conditioning system (in this case, professional duct cleaning will be required to ensure the good air quality in your home).

  • You or a member of your family have health concerns that may be aggravated by the contaminants in the wastewater.

*Keep in mind that the longer the contaminated water sits in your home, the greater the risk of disease and water damage.


The information contained on (“Blog”) is for general information purposes only. Clean Indeed assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions in the contents on the “Blog”. In no event shall Clean Indeed be liable for any special, direct, indirect, consequential, or incidental damages or any damages whatsoever, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tort, arising out of or in connection with the use of the “Blog” or the contents of the “Blog”. may contain links to external websites that are not provided or maintained by or in any way affiliated with Clean Indeed. Please note that Clean Indeed does not guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness of any information on these external websites.

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