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Tag Archives: Sewer Backup

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Secrets to Removing and Controlling Odor After a Sewer Backup

There aren’t too many things as unpleasant as a sewer backup. Not only is it a complete mess and unsanitary, but the odor is very strong and to be honest, disgusting.

If you try to clean up the mess that a sewer back-up leaves in its wake, here are some secrets from the pros you should put into practice.

What Causes a Sewer Backup?

A sewer back-up can be caused due to an inadequate sewer system (typically in new development areas), leaks or breaks in your sewer pipes or a blockage somewhere in your system.

The Aftermath

If you experience a sewer backup due to a blocked pipe, there may actually be several sewer backups every time you try to do a load of laundry, flush a toilet or take a shower. Until that block is found and cleared, the sewer will keep backing up and the odor will intensify.

The aftermath of a sewer back up is raw sewage coming up through a floor drain or a shower if located in the lower level. What comes up is black, slimy, filthy, smelly gunk which spreads all over the floor, carpeting and even walls.

As if the mess and smell aren’t bad enough, the sewage contains parasites and bacteria which can cause disease, infections, and all sorts of health issues.

Micro-organisms become airborne which increases the odds of experiencing respiratory distress or make existing conditions like allergies and asthma worse.

Odor Control

The key to controlling the incredibly strong, bad odor is to clean, dry and disinfect the area as soon as possible.

With a hazardous situation like a sewage back-up, don’t tackle the mess without protective gear. Wear a mask, gloves, boots, long pants and protective eye gear to avoid breathing in and coming in contact with the contaminated sludge.


A wet/dry vac, shovel or mop should be used to suck or scoop up all of the visible mess.


  • Open any doors and windows to allow fresh air to circulate through the space.
  • Use as many fans and dehumidifiers as you have access to, and plan to keep them running for the next few hours to days until all the humidity and moisture is removed.
  • Open all closets or cabinets in an attempt to get air moving through these spaces.
  • Moisture-absorbing products should be used in enclosed or tight spaces where air cannot circulate through such as closets or cabinets.

It’s important to begin the air circulation and drying process as soon as possible so the sewage doesn’t have time to saturate into building materials, carpeting and personal items any more than it’s done already.

Toss Contaminated Items Causing Lingering Odors

  • While you’re waiting for things to dry, go through any items in the space to figure out whether or not they can be cleaned, disinfected and saved.
  • Carpeting and furniture may be salvageable after calling in a professional cleaning company for their assessment and estimate on steam cleaning and disinfecting costs.
  • Wall-to-wall carpeting that has been completely saturated will probably have to be tossed. If only a portion of wall-to-wall carpeting has been contaminated, it may be salvageable once deep cleaned, but more than likely any padding underneath should be replaced.
  • Throw rugs, towels and clothing may be salvageable if you’re able to wash them in hot water with a strong disinfectant like a color-safe bleach. If not, it’s better to throw them out.
  • Items to immediately discard of include food, pillows, blankets, mattresses, clothing, toys, stuffed animals, cardboard boxes and any paper products. These items become saturated and contaminated very quickly and it’s impossible to know what harmful micro-organisms, disease-causing bacteria and lingering odors are trapped inside.
  • All contaminated items should be sealed in heavy-duty garbage bags and disposed of at the local recycling center as soon as possible. For larger items like carpeting and furniture, contact a waste hauling company for any restrictions or guidelines as to how to handle disposal.


  • Don’t mix and match disinfectants which may result in toxic fumes that you should not be breathing in.
  • Bleach is one of the best disinfectants and cleaners you can use. A safe mixture is about one-quarter cup bleach diluted in one gallon of water.
  • Once the diluted bleach solution is applied, leave on the affected surface for at least one minute before wiping off. Rinse with clean water.
  • Clean the surface again with a mixture of mild dish soap and water. Rinse again.

Odor Still Present

If after you’ve cleaned, dried and disinfected your space it still smells musty or the sewer smell lingers, there is moisture somewhere that you’ve missed. There may still be bacteria or parasites left behind and you should call in a restoration specialist to check the space.

Even concrete walls and floors will soak up these contaminants, leave behind an odor and need to be thoroughly dried, cleaned and disinfected.


To eliminate odors and for proper cleaning, drying and disinfecting of your home after sewer damage, call the restoration specialists at RCS in Sonoma County. Our professional team is here to restore your home back to its odor-free, clean and safe condition.

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Broken Sewage Pipe? Now What!?

A home sewage line is an often-over-looked aspect of one’s home, but that doesn’t make it any less of a concern. While physical damage to the line is uncommon, a back-up isn’t, and these are rarely covered by your insurance! Since back-ups are often caused by the owner (and a lot of physical damage is preventable), you’ll likely end up paying out of pocket for the damages- which can be a lot if the back-up floods your home and damages everything!

Insurance: Good for Little

There are only a few things your homeowner’s insurance will cover and those are mostly environmental:

  • Falling objects, volcano eruptions, and vehicles/aircrafts.
  • Riots and vandalism.
  • Hail, windstorm, explosions, lighting, and fire.

Unfortunately, those problems are very unlikely and the more likely causes for a sewage problem are not covered by your insurance:

  • Poor Upkeep
  • Faulty construction
  • Preventable/Negligent Error

What You Can Do!

A helpful thing you can do as a homeowner is get a Sewage BackUp Endorsement which provides extra coverage for a small annual increase, but your best bet is to prevent a problem from happening in the first place by:

  • Dispose grease and paper products properly (like paper towels, diapers, and feminine products).
  • Maintain your sewer lateral (this is the pipeline between your house and the city’s main sewer line).
  • A long-term option is to replace existing pipes with plastic, because tree roots can’t penetrate them and cause leaks.
  • Locate your sewer line BEFORE something happens- just in case!
  • Know how to identify symptoms like: slow drains in sinks and bathtubs, gross smells, and mold inside the house are common signs that a larger problem is imminent.

If you do run into a back-up, here’s what you should do:

  • Act quickly! Turn off the water immediately; the longer you take, the more time the problem has to cause damage.
  • Save yourself time and money by setting up a video inspection; this relatively inexpensive service allows the professionals to locate the exact nature of the problem and how to fix it effectively.
  • Once the problem has been identified, it’s time to fix the broken pipe! Fortunately, if you’ve done a video inspection, then that fee will likely roll into the price of the repair.
  • Don’t forget to hire clean-up specialists. (This leak has the potential to cause more damage with mold, so attend to it immediately!)

All in all, what you as a Sonoma County homeowner need to know is: how to prevent a sewage backup, how to identify an imminent problem, where your sewer line is in case of an emergency, where the water shut-off valve is, and who to call when a pipe bursts. Remember, act fast!

flushing toilet

Warning Signs of a Potential Sewer Back Up

If you’ve ever experienced the damage and mess of a sewer backup, you’ll go to great lengths to avoid it happening ever again.

If you know what to watch for, you’ll know how to lower the risk of a repeat performance and when to call for help.

Causes for a Sewer Back Up

The most common reason for a sewer backup is due to a clog somewhere in your plumbing lines. Clogs result from a buildup of grease, hair and items that should not have been flushed down the toilet (like paper towels).

If experiencing a backup in just one drain, odds are there’s a clog somewhere in an individual pipe.

Older homes with older sewer lines experience frequent problems with sewer backups because the drain lines fail. Back in the day, materials like clay were used and over time, the lines simply collapse and leaves water with nowhere else to go but back up into your basement.

Tree roots are another cause of sewer backups. The bigger the tree, the longer and thicker the roots which can easily grow into and crack your pipes.

Another reason for a sewer backup is due to a clog or other problem with the main sewer drain line.

Torrential rain can overwhelm municipal sewers and cause a backup in your basement because the sewers can’t handle the large amount of water, which has to go somewhere.

What to Watch For

There are several things that warn you that a sewer backup might be headed your way. Watch out for these warning signs.

  • Slow drains
  • Gurgling noises or bubbling in the toilet when showering or running water in the sink
  • Toilets that are slow to or won’t flush
  • Higher than normal water levels in the basement floor drain
  • A strong, unpleasant sewer smell

Things to Avoid

  • Avoid flushing anything other than toilet paper down the toilet
  • Don’t pour grease down the toilet or kitchen sink
  • Remove excess hair from sink drains before rinsing down the sink

Easy Preventive Measures

  • Keep the sump pump clean and free from debris
  • Install an alarm in the floor drain to warn you about a rising water level in case you forget to check it
  • Install a backwater valve which allows sewage to exit from the drain while preventing it from coming back up into your home

When to Call for Help

DIY fixes such as snaking and pouring clog removers down the drains can cause more harm than good if you don’t know where the clog is or if there’s another more serious issue.

It’s best to contact a professional water/sewer damage recovery and restoration company to prevent a potential sewer backup, especially if it’s been a problem in your home in the past.

In Sonoma County, the experts at RCS can assess the situation for you. If the worst happens, RCS professionals can fix the problem and take care of all the drying, cleaning and disinfecting you’ll need to restore your home to a safe and healthy environment.