There’s arguably nothing worse than a raw sewage backup in your basement. Whether you have a finished basement or it’s used as a storage space, the raw sewage backup cleanup process is pretty gross. It’s hard to prepare yourself for dealing with a sewage backup in your basement. Learn how to clean up sewage in the basement as well as what safety precautions to take to prevent illness.
Take Precautions Before Cleaning a Sewer Backup in the Basement
Most utilities enter your home through the basement, so take precautions before beginning sewage backup cleanup. Check for electrical issues like buzzing, sparks, or smoke and do not enter your basement if the water line is above electrical outlets. While it may be difficult, try to smell for a gas leak.
If you see any signs of electrical or gas line problems, vacate your property immediately and call the fire department and the utility company for assistance. Do not re-enter the property until a professional has repaired the issue and given you the all-clear
If the basement appears safe to enter, proceed with caution. You should always turn off your main water shut off valve to prevent more sewage from backing up. Depending on the severity of the damage, you may also want to shut off your gas and electricity as well.
How to Clean a Sewage Backup in the Basement
Unfortunately, sewer backup cleanup will likely be unpleasant. In addition to the mess, expect foul smells as well. This is much more involved than cleaning up other types of water damage or a basement drain backup. Sewage contains parasites, fungi, bacteria, and other harmful contaminants that may cause a variety of illnesses. This guide will help you navigate how to clean up a sewer backup in the basement.
Wear Personal Protection Equipment
Although your first thought might be to gather equipment and cleaning supplies to take care of a sewage backup, you should protect yourself first. Always wear a ventilator and goggles or a face shield. This will prevent sewage from splashing into your ears, nose, or mouth, which could lead to an infection or illness. Ideally, you should also wear rubber boots or even rubber waders, pants, long sleeves, and rubber gloves during cleanup. Additionally, dress wounds immediately with waterproof bandages to prevent getting an infection.
Ventilate the Area If Possible
The smell from a sewer backup can be overwhelming. Whenever possible, open windows or vents in the basement to help circulate air. Position fans at the top of the stairs to draw in fresh air from above. If you cannot ventilate your basement after a sewage backup, take frequent breaks to ensure the smell doesn’t make you sick.
Cleaning Up a Sewer Backup With a Pump
The most effective way to clean up a sewer backup is with a submersible pump. Choose a pump with a long discharge hose so it can pump waste outside and away from your foundation. Additionally, monitor the pump during use so that solid waste does not clog the pump. A clog can wear out the pump faster or even cause it to fail completely. Most equipment rental companies have submersible pumps available for rent by the day or week.
Cleaning Up a Sewage Backup With a Shop Vac
Second only to a submersible pump, a wet-dry shop-style vacuum is a great tool for removing both liquids and solid after a sewer backup. A shop vac is also extremely effective at getting into tight corners and small spaces. Look for a model with a large tank capacity and at least a 1.25” diameter hose. As with the pump, you can usually rent high-quality wet-dry vacuums from an equipment rental company.
Sewage Cleanup with a Mob and Bucket
While not the fastest tool for a sewage backup cleanup, a simple mop and bucket are still effective. Start by using the mop to soak up the sewage, wringing it out in the bucket as necessary. Repeat until most of the liquid sewage is gone. Depending on the situation, you can use warm water to help dissolve solids and then mop them up as well. A mop and bucket will not, however, work on carpeted areas.
If you are using a mop to clean up a sewage backup, a small shovel is often helpful when cleaning up solid waste items. Scoop solid items into either the mop bucket or into heavy-duty garbage bags for disposal. Often marketed a construction bags, these are especially thick plastic and are less likely to leak during cleanup and removal. Also, avoid overfilling them. Materials saturated with sewage are significantly heavier than when dry.
Avoid Using Your Drains and Plumbing During Sewer Backup Cleanup
Regardless of the sewage backup cleanup method you use, avoid pouring anything down the drain. This could cause more sewage to backup. Either bag waste or dump the waste outside and away from your foundation. Use your garden hose to wash away sewage and break up solid waste. You should also avoid using your plumbing too. Don’t use sinks or flush toilets until you have identified the cause of the backup.
Dispose of Contaminated Materials After a Sewer Backup
Unfortunately, carpeting and furniture can be difficult to disinfect after a sewer backup. Furniture items made of wood, particleboard, and fabric will soak up sewage. While cleaning and disinfecting the surface is possible, it’s much harder to clean the structural parts inside the furniture. Always dispose of carpeting and carpet padding after a sewer back up in the basement. Again, use heavy-duty garbage bags to prevent leaks when throwing items away.
Cleaning and Disinfecting After a Sewer Backup in the Basement
Once you have removed the raw sewage from your basement and disposed of contaminated materials, you need to clean and disinfect everything. While you may think you can do these at the same, we recommend you clean first then disinfect. Use warm water and a mild detergent to wipe down items and surfaces.
Disinfect using a solution of 1 and 1/4 cups of bleach in a gallon of water. Wipe down large items with the bleach solution and a rag. For the best results, mix up a new batch of disinfectant solution every 20 to 30 minutes to ensure it remains effective. For flat surfaces, apply with a spray bottle and allow to air dry.
Is Sewage Backup Cleanup Covered by Insurance?
While you should document the scene and call your agent immediately, most sewage backups are not covered by standard insurance policies. Sewage backups are typically considered groundwater incidents and the most major policies do not include groundwater coverage. Groundwater or sewage backup cover may be available, so review your policy and contact your agent for more information. Additionally, federal relief money may be available after widespread natural disasters.
Call 1-888-443-3110 now for Sewer Backup Cleanup
If you need sewage backup cleanup services, choose a water damage restoration company in your area now. Our listings include independent companies and popular brands like Paul Davis Restoration and Steamatic. For emergency service, call 1-888-443-3110 for a free estimate from our on-call restoration specialist in your area.