We’ve already looked at some effects and causes of how sewage leaks can appear in the home, so now we’re going to take a look at how to go about cleaning up these messy and inconvenient spillages, so you can get back to normal, as quick as possible.
Whether it’s a toilet or sink that has overflowed in your home, the reality is far more serious than simply the mess that surrounds you (although that can be bad enough!) Bacteria and harmful viruses from the wastewater can spread, and if yourself, your children or your pets come into contact with the sewage water, they could incur severe health problems.
So, here’s our guide to help you carry out a thorough, indoor sewage clean-up, keeping it as straightforward and stress-free as possible!
Top tip: Immediate response is crucial!
How to practice proper hygiene
First things first: you should not be anywhere near the sewage water without first fully dressing in the correct, protective attire.
To avoid allergic reactions or the spread of bacteria and viruses when working closely with sewage, make sure you have the following:
- Rubber gloves
- Safety Goggles/Face visor
- Waterproof boots/wellington boots
- Waterproof overlays Bin bags
- Mop and bucket/wet vacuum cleaner
It is also important that you do not eat or drink within the same vicinity as the sewage, and keep doors closed between the affected and unaffected rooms, to keep chances of cross-contamination to a minimum.
Once you have carried out the clean-up, make sure that you:
- Throw away any equipment used in the process e.g mops, brushes, buckets etc.
- Wash every item of clothing you wore during the clean-up. These should be washed as a separate load to any other clothing. Better yet, if they are old clothes that you don’t intend to wear again, simply throw them away.
- Wash your hands meticulously. Pay close attention to make sure every area is washed. View our quick guide to thorough hand washing!
How to clean-up sewage spills
Now you are protected as much as possible, it’s time to begin the big clean-up!
- Switch electricity off! Impurities found in water conduct electricity, so make sure you turn off the electricity to avoid any more disasters!
- Remove the standing wastewater with either a mop and bucket, or a wet vacuum cleaner.
- Shovel as much of the solid waste as possible into heavy duty bin bags. If you don’t have heavy duty bags, it will be worth double bagging them for extra strength and protection.
- Ventilate the room as much as possible. Open windows, use fans, air conditioning units and dehumidifiers to help the air circulate the room. This will help lift the smell, and lower the risk of mould and fungus growth.
To keep, or not to keep?
The most logical thing to do is to sort out the salvageable items from the unsalvageable items. It should be fairly straightforward to distinguish the items that have been fully submerged by the sewage water and those that have perhaps only encountered it a little, and can therefore be saved.
Those items that have been completely immersed will need to be disposed of entirely. This is most likely to be carpets and rugs that absorb the water, whereas those that have came into contact with a small amount of wastewater can be rectified with thorough washing and disinfecting.
If you find yourself in two minds about keeping or getting rid of something, you should bite the bullet and throw it out – if there is even a slight doubt in your mind then it is probably not worth the time and effort of trying to save something.
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Various materials, once contaminated, need to be cleaned in different ways to ensure they no longer pose a health risk.
Flooring such as wood and linoleum surfaces should be cleaned using a mild detergent and hot water. This can be a regular household detergent, such as washing up liquid, and the water should be as hot as you can stand it, to kill as many germs and bacteria as possible.
Once this has been applied and the surface has been scrubbed, rinse with a solution of water and bleach (one gallon water: ¼ cup of bleach). Leave the floor to thoroughly air dry.
Please note: Any detergent or bleach needs to be in contact with the surface for at least 20 minutes before washing away, in order to be effective.
Once carpet is contaminated, it is extremely difficult to return it back to its original form, as its dense material acts as a sponge, absorbing the water. If you truly feel the damage isn’t that bad and it can be salvaged, then call in professional cleaners so they can use their expert knowledge and the latest technology for the best results.
Plasterboard and walls
Clean plasterboards and walls the same way you would clean hard flooring (detergent and hot water). Remove any panels, as the extent of the damage will need to be fully assessed. Any wallpaper will also need to be removed, to allow the walls to thoroughly dry out. Fans and dehumidifiers will help speed up this process.
Furniture and bathroom surfaces
Furniture pieces and bathroom surfaces such as toilets, sinks, baths and showers can be cleaned in a similar fashion to flooring. It is recommended to use a bleach solution (one gallon water: ¼ cup of bleach), but only use a mild detergent (washing up liquid) on any delicate furniture, so as not to damage the surface.
If any of your clothing has come into contact with the wastewater, wash them separately from any ‘clean’ clothes. Wash them on a hot, 60°C wash, or take them to a professional dry cleaners. If you do take them to a dry cleaners, make sure you tell them the clothes have been contaminated by sewage waste, so they can do the best job possible.
The difficulty with upholstery is that the material often cannot be removed to wash, either professionally or in a washing machine. Therefore, scrubbing the affected area with detergent and hot water is the only other option. If this doesn’t work, you’re probably going to have to throw the item away. Any spongy materials, such as pillows, cushions or mattresses, should be thrown away, as the wastewater would have been absorbed into the material, and will therefore be impossible to entirely restore back to its original state.
Top Tip: It is highly recommended that after everything has been disinfected once, you wash it a second time with hot soapy water and thoroughly rinse down and leave to air dry.