Sewage Cleanup: How to Cleanup After a Sewage Backup
Of all the types of water damage that can affect your home, none are more dangerous than sewage based water damage. Sewage based flooding is highly contaminated at the source, containing all kind of bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi, and other elements that may cause serious illness or even death if exposed to or consumed by humans or animals.
The damage caused by sewage based flooding can be considerable. No longer is it enough to simply remove the water and dry everything up. Anything that has come into contact with sewage will need to be thoroughly cleaned, disinfected, and sanitized, probably more than once. And there are a good number of items that will be beyond repair.
Worse, problems such as mold actually show up even faster in cases of sewage based damage. The average time frame for the appearance of mold drops from 72 hours in normal cases to about 48 in cases when sewage is present.
Cause of a Sewage Backup
The most common reason for sewer backup is an obstruction in between the pipes of your home and the city sewer pipes. This problem can happen over time from the build-up of hair, grease, coffee grounds, and other items sent down the drain. Yet other obstructions are more blatant such as a child flushing something down the toilet that shouldn’t be. Your pipes can be more susceptible to pipe blockage if the water pressure of your home is low because there is less force pushing objects from your home to the sewers. This is why it is important to make sure your toilets and faucets are being used appropriately.
Preventing Sewage Backups
Homeowners can prevent and keep the sewer clean by carrying out some preventive measures. Usually, many sewer problems come from inside the house. You can install a catch-all that prevents hair from going into the drain and pipes. While working in the kitchen avoid putting things that can go down and block the pipes. Ensure only toilet paper is flushed down the toilets.
Tips for Sewage Cleanup
- Begin cleanup up sewage as soon as possible to limit damage to your home. Sewage will continue to cause problems as long as it remains untreated.
- Wear proper protective clothing and gear, includes pants, long sleeves, rubber gloves, goggles, a ventilator or HEPA respirator, and a face shield.
- Clean wounds immediately with soap and warm water. Cover with an antiseptic ointment and then use waterproof bandages. Replace bandages regularly.
- Dispose of any item that cannot be cleaned and disinfected.
- Wash contaminated surfaces and items with warm, soapy water. Then spray with a disinfectant solution. While a solution of bleach and water will disinfect, it can also stain fabrics, carpeting, and other materials. We recommend using non-chlorine bleach based hospital grade disinfectant.
- Clean clothes contaminated with sewage according to the washing instructions. Use regular laundry detergent and a peroxide-based bleach.
- Removing sewage from carpeting and rugs is extremely difficult. In most cases, it’s easier to throw them away.
- Clean, dry, and disinfect flooring, paneling, cabinets, and drywall immediately after a sewage backup. If the damage is severe or the sewage soaked into the materials, they should be disposed of and replaced.
Cleaning Up Sewage
Water will need to be extracted, and all surfaces cleaned, disinfected, and sanitized, quite possibly multiple times. All items that have been in contact with sewage will have to be treated, and many will need to be thrown away such as clothing. While clothing may under normal circumstances be saved, sewage is a whole different ball game, and I don’t think too many of us would be that thrilled with the idea of wearing a shirt that had been saturated with material from our home sewage lines.
Any surfaces that are porous will in all likelihood need to be cut away and replaced since it is next to impossible to completely clean out porous surfaces. The sewage gets down inside the material and even the most thorough cleaning procedures will be unable to remove it.
Sewage cleanup is the one area of water damage that should always be handled by a professional restoration company. The damage potential and health threats are simply too great to ignore. Time is always of the essence when dealing with water damage, because the longer you allow it to remain, the worse your problems are going to be. With sewage, the threat is increased. It becomes important to make the correct choices the first time, since sewage cleanup doesn’t forgive many mistakes, and choosing the wrong course of action (such as doing it yourself or hiring an unqualified company) will only serve to make a bad situation worse.
Cleaning up the sewage spill is not a one-step proposition, since sewage carries diseases that may easily become a part of the drywall, carpeting, furniture, clothes, and other porous items found in the home.
Up until about twenty years ago, many providers and insurance companies believed that carpeting could be salvaged even after exposure to sewage, as long as the cleaning and disinfecting procedure was a thorough one. It was believed that steam cleaning combined with a disinfectant would be enough to kill any potential disease-carrying organisms. Unfortunately, the truth is that no amount of cleaning can fully guarantee that all dangerous microorganisms have been completely eliminated. With that in mind, the standard procedure for handling carpet that has been exposed to sewage is to dispose of it.
Drywall presents a similar problem as it too is able to absorb liquids. Sewage that is absorbed into drywall can and will cause problems with mold, and may very well transmit diseases such as hepatitis and AIDS. For these reasons alone it is important to remove all affected drywall, as well as throwing out all furniture and clothing that have been exposed to sewage water.