How to clean up after sewer back up

"I've got sewer back up in my basement. It stinks and I am worried about how to clean up safely."

Here are the steps for you to follow after you have completed Step 1.

  • Clean up as soon as you can. You can call a professional cleaner for advice. You must take whatever "reasonable" steps you can to minimize the damage.
  • If possible let your insurance adjuster know the steps you will be taking. If you have pre-approval then you know you will be paid back for your expenses. If you do not have the approval then there is a chance not everything will be paid back by the insurance company. Also, your deductible will apply so bear this in mind.
  • Do not touch any electrical panels or systems until you know it is safe to do so.
  • Move anything that is damaged to a dry area that has good air flow.
  • You want to dispose of anything that has been contaminated by the sewer water. This could be a health hazard. Do not throw these items away. Move them to a safe spot and make sure that you keep a detailed list of everything. You will not remember later exactly what is in these piles. Take pictures or a video if you can.
  • If any of your appliances, including the furnace, have been in contact with water then have them checked by a qualified person before you use them.
  • Disinfect all surfaces that have come in contact with sewer water or flooding.
  • A stiff broom will help to remove sludge or mud.
  • Let the surfaces dry thoroughly before you clean and/or repaint.
  • Use a broom to sweep the worst dirt from carpets and rugs. Use a good rug shampoo that has a disinfectant.
  • Wet wood swells. Remove the drawers from furniture. Let this furniture dry slowly. Keep it away from direct sunlight heat t help prevent warping.
  • Get upholstered furniture out in the air. When it is dry then vacuum thoroughly and then shampoo with an upholstery shampoo hat contains a disinfectant.
  • Wash soiled clothing several times. If the fabric permits, use a disinfectant or bleach in the wash cycle.
  • Dry all your books and papers slowly, away from the sun or direct heat.
  • Not many insurance companies will reimburse you for your time to do all this. You should keep a list of expenses and you can request that you get paid for it.


Be aware that when you go through the proof of loss process that you will have to consider if you will actually repair or replace items. If you are not going to repair or replace then the amount you will get paid is significantly less. Talk to your adjuster so you do not have unpleasant surprises down the road.

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