Raw sewage is disgusting. There is no other way to put it. If you’re dealing with a raw sewage backup, understandably, you probably are doing your best to not think about what you’re looking at. Whether you have a finished basement or it’s used as a storage space, the sewage backup cleanup process is pretty gross. From what protective equipment to wear to how to clean up sewage in your basement, we cover all the basics.
How to Clean a Sewage Backup in the Basement
Unfortunately, sewer backup cleanup will likely be unpleasant. In addition to the mess, sewage produces very strong smells. Plus, sewage can make you sick as well. Follow these steps to clean up a sewer backup in the basement.
1. Secure Children and Pets
If you have young children or pets, keep them away from a raw sewage backup to prevent them from getting sick. Have an adult or older child watch young children or toddlers. Put pets in their pen or kennel or lock them in a room away from the sewage backup.
2. Wear Safety Equipment
Anyone that is cleaning up raw sewage should wear safety equipment. You want as little skin exposed while cleaning up after a sewage backup.
You should wear rubber boots or even rubber waders, pants, long sleeves and rubber gloves during cleanup. Also, wear a ventilator and goggles or a face shield to prevent sewage from splashing into your ears, nose or mouth.
Always clean, disinfect, and bandage all open wounds immediately. Also, wash your hands, wrists, neck, and face thoroughly. A complete list of safety equipment is listed below.
3. Air Out Your Basement
The smell of raw sewage can be overwhelming, so open windows or vents in the basement to help circulate air. You can also put fans at the top of the stairs to draw in fresh air from above. If you can’t air out your basement, take frequent breaks to ensure the smell doesn’t make you sick.
4. Remove Raw Sewage
The best way to clean up a sewage backup is with a pump. It will clean up raw sewage quickly and help limit the damage. If you don’t have a pump you can get one from an equipment rental company. Keep an eye on the pump while it’s running, as solid waste can block the inlet and slow down the cleanup.
Alternatively, you can clean up a sewage backup with a wet-dry vacuum. While a shop vac will suck up sewage fast, the biggest downside is the size of the tank. Depending on the size of the backup, you may need to empty your vacuum many times before the sewage is gone.
Lastly, you can use a mop and bucket for sewage cleanup as well. However, this can take a very long time. You should only use this as a last resort or while waiting for a restoration company to arrive. Use the mop to soak up the sewage and wring it out in the bucket. Repeat this process until the sewage is cleaned up.
Regardless of the sewage backup cleanup method you use, avoid pouring anything down the drain. This could easily cause another backup. Instead, you should either bag waste or dump it outside and away from your home. Then use your garden hose to wash away sewage and break up solid waste.
5. Throw Away Damaged Materials
Unfortunately, it is hard to clean and disinfect carpeting, walls, cabinets and furniture after a sewer backup. Always dispose of anything that is soaked through with sewage.
In most cases, you will need to throw away carpeting and carpet padding after a sewer back up in the basement. The same is true of fabric furniture. Even if you can clean the outside of your furniture, it’s much harder to clean the structural parts inside.
Also, throw away any other items damaged by the sewage. This includes walls and cabinets as well as paper products like magazines, newspapers and cardboard boxes. When in doubt, the best thing to do is throw it away.
Put smaller items in heavy-duty plastic bags. Cut carpeting down into small sections and then roll it up. Move furniture and cabinets directly to the tree lawn for pickup.
6. Clean Your Basement With Soap
Now that most of the damage is out of the way, you can clean your basement. You should use a soap that doesn’t produce a lot of suds and scrub anything that the sewage touched. Clean non-carpeted floors with a mop and use a rag or a sponge on anything else. Dump out the soap any time it stops making suds and mix up a new batch.
7. Dry Out Your Basement
Once your basement is clean, you need to dry it to prevent mold. While regular house fans will eventually dry out your basement, you should really use high-volume fans and structural drying dehumidifiers.
Not only are they designed to dry out your home, but they will work much faster as well. If you need fans and dehumidifiers, you can get them at most equipment rental companies. For small basements, you’ll need two to three fans and one dehumidifier. Drying out larger basements will take more equipment.
Check the fans every few hours and move them as needed to speed up drying. In most cases, you can dry out your home in between 12 and 24 hours. The longer it takes to dry, the greater the risk of mold and odors.
8. Disinfect Your Basement
After drying out your basement, you need to disinfect it. Mix a cup of bleach in a gallon of water and wipe down anything that the sewage touched. For walls and large, flat surfaces, you can use a spray bottle instead. Let the bleach air dry and then repeat the process again to make sure the mold and bacteria are really dead.
9. Rebuild If Necessary
If you have to remove carpeting or other building materials, rebuild your home after disinfecting. Renovations will vary depending on the area affected and the amount of sewage involved.
What Are the Health Risks of Cleaning up a Sewer Backup?
There are several health risks of a sewer backup in your basement. While it’s hard to talk about sewage without getting a little gross, it contains anything you flush down your toilet or send down your drains.
All that waste becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, viruses and parasites that can make you very sick. Since all that waste flows back into your home during a sewage backup, you need to take precautions when cleaning it up.
What Safety Equipment Should You Wear for Sewage Backup Cleanup?
Is It Safe To Cleanup Raw Sewage on Your Own?
You can clean up a sewage backup in your basement, it’s important to wear the right safety equipment. Also, make sure you work in a well-ventilated space and take frequent breaks.
You also need to use the right drying equipment as well. Otherwise, mold and bacteria will grow and make cleaning up even harder. You should throw away anything soaked with sewage as well. Although you can clean the outside, it’s almost impossible to kill everything growing inside.
If you want to clean up raw sewage on your own, make sure you have the time and equipment necessary to do so safely. If you can’t start cleanup for several hours or even days, it’s best to call a restoration company.