How to clean up the basement after a sewer backup

How To Clean Up After A Sewer Backup [Simple Steps]

Cleaning dishes after a large party or heavy mud from a vehicle may be a tedious undertaking, but most know where to begin. However, if you ever experience a sewer backup, where would you begin? The foul smells, the horrific mess and the shock of valued property being damaged, make for a daunting challenge. Most would not know how to clean up the basement after a flood.

If this unwelcomed situation has just manifested itself in your home and your mind is reeling with “Oh My Gosh” repetition, continue reading. Here are some helpful tips on how to clean up the basement after a sewer backup. The nasty mess you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy has a systematic solution that will allow for successful cleanup.

First Things First

Before we navigate you through these proven steps below, we want to address the gravity of your situation for your protection. Sewer water is abundantly germ infested and can potentially make one sick unless precautions are put in place.

Protect your hands by wearing either latex or nitrile gloves, both will be available for purchase at your local hardware store.

Foot covers or an additional pair of shoes can help limit cross contamination. Wearing an old pair of shoes in the actual footprint of damage and then taking those shoes off for a clean pair outside the affected zone of damage, will minimize cross contamination.

Wear a facial mask that can help with the smells and assist in filtering out contaminates. As we have learned so much during the pandemic, an N-95 mask has the ability to limit the potential of spreading disease.

Wear eye protection in case cleaning chemicals or sewage potentially splashes during cleanup. Getting either one of these hazards in one’s eyes can mean a sudden trip to the ophthalmologist.

Now that you have taken measures to stay safe lets discuss how to clean up the basement after a sewer backup. We’ll also outline how you can prevent a sewer backup from happening in the future.

Steps To Clean Up The Basement After A Sewer Backup

1. Remove all contaminated items

This includes moving furniture away from the area at risk, appliances, clothes, cushions, and any other item in the basement. If any items are absorbent and have come into contact with the sewage water, you should get rid of it as such items are damaged beyond the scope of restoration.

Wet boxes and paper products should be discarded in a 3 ml plastic garbage bag. Toys and other easily replaced contents as well should just be discarded and replaced. Non-absorbent items that are of sentimental value should be placed in a bag and taken out to the garage.

At some point these items can be dunked in a tub or tote of disinfectant and cleaned. Local hardware stores sell these products explaining the dilution rate with water. These germ killing agents all say on the label, “kills 99.9% of germs.”

If you are not certain if a particular item has attracted sewage water, it is recommended to err on the side of caution and remove such items from the affected area.

2. Remove wet carpet and pad

Sewer water has over 81 viruses, countless bacteria and harmful chemicals and gases. Once it escapes a floor drain and backs up into a carpeted room, the flooring is shot. As much as you may cherish your carpet it is damaged beyond the scope of being safe and even with cleaning will continue to release harmful endo-toxins in the air.

The padding as well will have to be pealed up and thrown out allowing for the subfloor to be exposed for cleaning. Because the absorbent nature found in padding materials you will need to proceed cautiously when discarding it. Usually is is heavy with water and can easily splash into your eyes, unless you are extremely cautious.

3. Sanitizing / disinfecting the sub-floor

If the floor beneath is concrete as what typically exist in a basement, the floor needs to be cleaned with a disinfectant. Again these disinfectants can be purchased from a local hardware store and used according to the hard surface cleaning directions on the label.

The use of a sponge mop will be of great service manipulating the solution into the floor and removing films and grimes. If the sub-floor is wood, than using the same cleaning solution with a sponge mop will accomplish the same cleaning goal.

If you choose to use bleach be very careful and the mixture should be no more than 1 cup bleach to a gallon of water.

4. Unclog the drains

After you have removed all contaminated items, unclog the drains in your home. Sometimes this can be achieved by using a plunger over the drain that backed up. In some instances pouring a clog destroying liquid into the drain may open it up. Don’t be dismayed however, if this fails to work.

Sewer drain systems are complicated having multiple reasons for backing up. You can manage how to clean up the basement after a sewer backup, but the plumbing professionals will more than likely be needed to fully unclog the drain.

If a clogged floor drain is not the culprit, check all sink and tub drains for signs of a water backup. This includes showers and toilets as well. If there is dirty water and muck it is a sure sign that water backed up identifying there is a clog or blockage.

You can attempt to achieve cleaning out the blockage with the same directions as were discussed earlier with the floor drain. If the blockage is removed the water should flow freely and all plumbing in the home should rapidly go down the drain.

If an issue remains after the DIY effort, than call a professional plumber to unplug the system. Snaking out clogged sewer drains is their bread and butter and they may also identify hidden problems that might stave off a future sewage backup.

5. Disinfect all surfaces

Disinfect all surfaces using either bleach water mixed 1 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water or a disinfectant with wipes. If there is mud and solids, than a putty knife and garbage bag will be needed.

After the removal of the heavy substances, you can thoroughly spray the flooring with the disinfecting solution and use a wet vacuum to remove as much of the excess water as you can.

Be careful when using the wet vacuum because it may spread contaminated water to other parts of the house. Better to use the wet vacuum over plastic sheets laid out in multiple areas around your home. Then you can just throw away the sheet when done.

6. Inspect the electrical and plumbing systems

Sewer water can come up abruptly and travel quickly before it is discovered. Going from one room to another through walls and flooring is common. In its migration there could be electrical systems and other plumbing that gets into direct contact with the sewage.

A careful inspection will identify any potential hazard. Most can be solved with some cleanup but in cases where there may be water intermingled with electricity, call an electrician. The minimum service call to make sure you and your occupants are safe is more than worth it.

Following these steps on how to clean up the basement after a sewer backup will ensure that your home is properly sanitized and restored to a safe living condition. Basement flood cleanup is not complete till all germs have been eliminated.

Finally, you can now start repairing damaged items in your home, including drywall, carpets, or anything that has been washed with dirty water.

On grand scale sewage backups that affect multiple areas and more than just 1 room, you would be best served by a professional restoration company.

Call for Professional Restoration in Bad Situations

In some cases, you may need to call in a professional cleaner.

The best way to find a trusted sewage restoration contractor is asking friends or word of mouth. Another way is to do a google search for a highly rated restoration contractor. If you type in the search bar: “sewage cleaning contractors near me”, you should get several local firms.

Check their ratings on multiple social platforms to see what others have to say on their work.

The professionals at Action Extraction restoration services are Michigan’s highest rated company on multiple ranking platforms. We can quickly remove all badly contaminated materials, eliminate all germs, restore and fully dry the property.

We specialize in high risk sewage damage cleanup and implement the necessary steps to keep you and your family safe. Our 30 years of experience has earned us an impeccable record in bringing safe and reliable restoration to property owners.

In any case, even if you attempt to do it yourself, it is highly recommended to get a professional opinion. We offer free inspections and will provide a free estimate on the cleaning cost.

No one knows more on how to clean up the basement after a sewer backup than our professional. Each is IICRC certified in sewage removal and has many years of on-site experience.

How to prevent a sewer backup from happening again?

If you have already experienced a backup, follow these tips on how to clean up the basement after a sewer backup will restore your living conditions. However, preventing a sewage backup is the best thing to do. Here are several tips on prevention that are not to demanding.

1. Clean your sewer lines regularly

It is important to have all drain lines in your home checked every 5 years by a plumber if your home has PVC plumbing. If your home is older than 4o years the materials are clay or worse and it is recommended to inspect and even snake the drain system every 1-3 years.

Your sewer line could be clogged due to tree roots invading it over time. This causes hindered flow of waste water and increasing damage to the drain system. Over time the potential for a full blown blockage increases placing your valued property at risk.

Having regular inspections and drain snaking when necessary is the greatest way to prevent a sewer backup. In some cases the plumbing professional may recommend placing a camera in the line to be sure there are no breaks or collapses.

This will help to locate and prevent clogs, especially after heavy rains or snowmelt when getting a clog is higher. A clean line also helps with water pressure so it is definitely a service that you do not want to skip.

If you have young children that may have slipped a small obstruction or toy in the toilet that will even affect a new system. If you are noticing the flow of water has diminished in speed and the system just seems a bit unusually slow, have it inspected by a plumber.

2. Keep your foundation drain clear

Your foundation’s drain might have connected to the city’s storm drain system. If this is the case, make sure that you check your ground water systems drain for clogs. It is best to check this drain after heavy rains or snow melts. They are most likely to expose they are clogged by tree roots after having a demand of excessive water placed on them.

If you see water beginning to swell up towards the drain than you have a blockage a plumber should clean out with a professional snake.

3. Flush only toilet paper avoiding larger disposable paper products

Using a single ply toilet paper is less capable of clogging sewer lines so your chances of a backup are less. However, most people like the 2 ply for various reasons we shall not mention explicitly.

Informing all occupants that using smaller amounts and flushing the toilet before usage of toilet paper can help minimize the likelihood of a sewer backup.

So remember to check your plumbing regularly, especially after heavy rains or snowmelt. If you notice a strange smell from any of your drains, immediate action is required to avoid a nasty surprise during the next heavy rainfall.

4. Avoid putting fat, grease and oil down the drain.

Even if your kitchen sink has a garbage disposal they are not intended to have bacon grease and other oils placed down them. These oils gradually clog the entire drain system and can cause extreme damage and blockages.

Grease and oils should be placed in a disposable receptacle such as a coffee can. If you have in the past placed these clog making oils in your sink, try pouring down a clog breaking product like liquid plumber to remove any excessive residues.

5. Have a plunger nearby each bath room

Everyone has faced the horror of watching the water rise in a toilet after flushing. When the expected result of waste removal is denied, one can panic. Having a trusted plunger in each bath room can prevent a toilet overflow which can be as bad as a sewer backup.

Keeping things moving through the system from the toilet to the lateral drain is how plumbing systems are designed to work. Having a plunger in each bathroom is better than knowing how to clean up the bathroom after a sewer backup, if you can prevent it from happening.

Finding a Reputable Plumber for Drain Cleaning

If you don’t know who to call for professional drain cleanup, contact us at Action Extraction restoration services. We have a list of qualified plumbing professionals with expertise in drain cleaning who can help you. Our plumbers can perform drain camera inspections to check for any damage or problems in the plumbing system.

If you need help on how to clean up the basement after a sewer backup, give us a call. We respond 24/7 day or night to service properties that are experiencing a sewage backup.

We can surely help you with sewer backup cleanup. To schedule an inspection, call 800-713-4333 or visit our website here.


In conclusion, sewer backups can be devastating to your home and family but maintaining your plumbing and being prepared for such an event is key in preventing a similar situation from happening again.