Getting rid of septic odor from toilet backups or sewage in a basement can be difficult and time consuming, depending on what materials in the area are affected by the spill. Homeowners need to act quickly to prevent additional damage. Odors can waft into the upper floors of the house, tainting the living environment. The longer the problem persists, the greater the threat to health, as bacteria can breed in moist conditions.
Things You'll Need
- Dust mask or HEPA respirator
- Waterproof boots
- Eye protection
- Water resistant or disposable clothing
- Moisture absorbing material
- Household cleaning and disinfecting agent
Avoid direct contact with raw sewage, whether in solid or liquid form. Sewage contains bacterial organisms, viruses and possibly parasites that can lead to infection, irritation, illness and disease. Wear protective gear. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment suggests a dust mask, waterproof boots, gloves, eye protection and water resistant or disposable clothing. In more serious cases, an organic vapor HEPA respirator may be necessary.
Fix the issue leading to the overflow; a continuing issue may lead to additional odors and overflow incidents. Remove all of the overflow waste material. Drain the area or soak up and dispose of any liquids. Prevent cross contamination or spread of sewage material to other rooms of the house during the cleanup by isolating clothing and footwear, washing your hands thoroughly and showering after exposure.
Ventilate the area. Open any windows in or near the area of the spill; this helps reduce the humidity in addition to venting odors. Open any cabinet doors and closets to let the air circulate and prevent odors from being trapped.
Use a moisture absorbing material where possible to accelerate evaporation. Speed the process by using a dehumidifier. Direct fans or air conditioning into the space to encourage airflow and desiccation.
Remove and discard any soaked, damaged or destroyed items that may continue to hold odors or that cannot be properly cleaned and disinfected. Remove and discard any surface wall materials that cannot be cleaned, such as drywall and insulation. Some materials used in construction and support may be saved by drying them and covering them with new layers of uncontaminated materials, so areas that came into contact with sewage are removed from direct human contact.
Check whether the surfaces in the area can be safely cleaned without causing further damage. Wash any surfaces exposed to sewage. Clean and disinfect with bleach or any household cleaning and disinfecting agent. Introduce deodorizers such as baking soda into the space to help remove unpleasant odors. Multiple applications of disinfectants may be needed.
- Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment: Guidance on Cleaning Up After Sanitary Sewer Overflows
- The Free Library By Farlex: "Journal of Environmental Health"; Suggested Guidelines for Remediation of Damage From Sewage Backflow Into Buildings; Berry, et al.; October 1994
- InspectAPedia: Sewage or Septic Contamination in Buildings -- Investigation, Testing and Remediation
- InspectAPedia: Wet Weather or Cold Weather Sewage or Septic Odors: Diagnosis and Repair Guide
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