Is It Safe To Clean Up A Backed Up Sewer Yourself?

Is It Safe To Clean Up A Backed Up Sewer Yourself?

This is definitely the nightmare scenario that no one wants to think about, and thus, few people are prepared to deal with. Maybe there’s a break in your sewage drainage pipe and, for weeks, or even months, your used sewage water has been leaking into the soil but enough blockage has formed that it’s coming up the pipe. Maybe someone flushed something down the toilet they shouldn’t have, and for weeks a blockage has been building.

Or maybe your town or city sewage system is overwhelmed by heavy rain and flooding. When that happens, the sewage that normally travels down the line starts going back up into people’s homes. If this should happen to you, what should you do? Is it just a matter of rolling up your sleeves, holding your nose and putting in a little elbow grease?

The answer is actually a bit more complicated than that.

The Risk

There are three type of “water grades” when it comes to safety. “White water” is the water that comes out of your tap or filtration system. It is potable, and perfectly safe to use for drinking, cooking or anything else where you may be ingesting something. “Grey water,” on the other hand is water that has not been treated for safe consumption. A rain barrel is one example, or the water collected by a dehumidifier. It may still be safe for watering plants, or cleaning lawn furniture, but this is not something you want to introduce into your digestive system.

“Black water” on the other hand from used toilet water, for example, is loaded with bacteria, contaminants, and contagions. Even just touching it has a strong possibility of disease transmission. It is extremely dangerous, and should be treated with caution and respect.


The most important thing you should do if you find that sewage has backed up into your home is block off the area from access by other members of the household. If you’re seeing it in the basement, for example, make the basement off-limits. If it’s in a bathroom, or the kitchen, limit people from coming inside.

Do not let anyone touch sewage water with exposed skin. This can lead to rotavirus, which can cause serious, sometimes-fatal diarrhea in children, or adenovirus, which can cause severe respiratory infection. 100 potential illnesses wait in black water, for those that don’t take the health threat seriously.

Get The Professionals

Just using bleach, or spraying a disinfectant is not going to get the job done in this case. Retail solutions are always considerably “underpowered” compared to professional commercial/industrial solutions, and that’s what’s required here.

Instead, you should think about getting qualified professionals, like plumbers who will have the tools, knowledge, experience, and, most importantly, safety gear, to quickly, efficiently remove the mess. They will also have the products required to sanitize an area and make sure it is safe for human habitation again.

Backed up sewage is not like a clogged sink or toilet. Do not try to handle this issue yourself, especially if there are other family members whose health and safety you need to think about!