Cleaning Up After Flood and Sewer Backups


Bacteria, fecal material, viruses and other organisms associated with sewer water backups can cause disease. Use the following information to protect your health and prevent disease. Floodservices is very important.

How do sewer backups occur?

  • Flooding of sanitary sewers during heavy rain.
  • Blockage in private sewer line (home, apartment).
  • Blockage in the public sanitary sewer line.
  • Plumbing problems, such as gutters/downspouts or sump pumps connected to sanitary sewers.

How do I clean up after floods and sewer backups?

  • Odors from sewage backups are unpleasant but not harmful. Removal and cleanup of sewer water are essential.
  • Wash contaminated surfaces/objects with warm, soapy water and disinfect with a bleach/water solution, one cap of 5.25 percent chlorine bleach per one-gallon water.
  • Discard or properly wash and disinfect toys, clothing, and other contaminated objects.
  • Wear rubber boots and gloves during removal/cleanup.

How do I prevent disease during floods and sewer backups?

  • Avoid skin contact with sewer water, especially cuts and sores. Keep them clean and covered.
  • Do not allow children to play in areas contaminated by sewage backup.
  • Do not eat/drink anything exposed to sewer water.
  • Keep contaminated objects, water and hands away from mucous membranes (mouth, eyes and nose).
  • Wash hands frequently, especially after bathroom use, before eating, and immediately following contact with sewer water or contaminated objects/surfaces.

When disinfecting contaminated objects…

  • Read and follow label instructions on bleach.
  • Never mix cleaning products.
  • Do not use ammonia.

Additional cleanup recommendations and precautions

The following guidelines may help prevent the transmission of disease and reduce property loss.


Turn off main power switches. Air out and wipe dry all appliances and electrical outlets exposed to water before use. If you have fuel oil or gas systems, be sure tanks are secure and all lines are free from breaks.

Carpets and rugs

You can save carpet replacement costs by keeping carpets in place and cleaning with a mild detergent; carpets cleaned after removal nearly always shrink beyond recovery. Carpets and rugs with severe exposure to water must be removed to thoroughly clean. Remove silt accumulated on carpet liner. Generally, the carpet liner must be discarded because it cannot be cleaned adequately. If you prefer, call a reputable carpet cleaner.

Floors, drapes, and furniture

Scrub and wash all objects in your home, including clothes, exposed to floodwaters. If available, use the city water supply; it is chlorinated adequately to provide mild disinfection. Use cold tap water with soap – boiling the water will eliminate the chlorine content. Floors and other flood contacted surfaces should be disinfected with a chlorine solution made from household bleach. Prepare the solution by adding one heaping tablespoon of bleach (5.25%) to every four gallons of water. Take good curtains and draperies to a reputable dry cleaner.