Sewage Backup Contaminants

My Toilet Overflowed, What Should I Do?

Who knew there are different types of toilet overflows?   Understanding the type of overflow helps determine how serious the exposure risks might be, and how to go about the process of cleaning-up the mess.


Let’s keep it simple. A toilet overflow might include waste from your family members, or it could be much more serious, such as when the sewer system in your neighborhood backs up into your home.


The discharged water from any toilet overflow will include undesirable bacteria and create a health risk, so always avoid direct contact. However, if the waste is from beyond your home, it might also contain infectious pathogens excreted by people who are carrying disease.  


First off, be careful not to spread the problem further.  You may be tempted to get a mop and bucket, throw down some towels, or grab the “shop-vac”.  Accidental exposures take place when the liquids are splashed during cleaning, or when dripping wet towels are carried through the home.  But the most dangerous exposures are when a vacuum is used to suck up the water & waste.  This is because the high pressure and rapid airflow inside the vacuum create extremely tiny water droplets, even smaller than a fine mist, which is expelled from the vacuum making the pathogens airborne.  Once airborne, the pathogens can drift about and become inhaled or contaminate large portions of your indoor environment.  And worse yet, many pathogens can remain active on surfaces for days or weeks, creating ongoing exposure hazards for your family.


For your safety, it is best to call in a professional water-damage restoration contractor to handle the clean-up.  Most toilet overflows and sewer system back-ups may be covered by your insurance.  So, don’t worry too much about the cost. 


Keep in mind that the wastewater will soak into and work its way under everything in the flooded region.  Typically, wastewater will soak into the flooring, wall board, and wall insulation. It gets under the cabinets, under the bathtub, and into the next room by soaking under the wall.  So, mopping up the mess and placing fans is not adequate.  It is usually necessary to seal-off the affected area and to remove “soft” materials that became saturated.  Also, it is necessary to gain access under the cabinets and tub so that cleaning and sanitizing can be conducted.  Anyone working on such a project needs to be wearing proper personal protective equipment.  And if the home is “older”, other concerns such as asbestos and lead-based paint may need to be evaluated before damaged wallboard or flooring can be removed.


AirBasics can help in the process of figuring out how to go about the clean-up process.  We can provide professional advice, in writing, that you can present to your insurance company and clean-up contractor.  We utilize industry accepted testing methods to determine the risk category from the water loss.  And through testing, can define the extent of the affected region, taking the guesswork out of planning the project.  We’ll test for indicators of bacteria and viruses, determine the extent of contamination and if it spread, test for asbestos and lead-paint if needed, and produce a written mitigation plan to make sure your home and health are protected.  After the clean-up is complete, AirBasics can return to make sure that all hazards have been properly mitigated by conducting clearance or post-remediation testing.  Once the post-remediation testing has proven the hazards are eliminated, we will provide you with written certification for your records.  Having documented proof of proper mitigation helps protect your real estate value as well as your peace of mind.


AirBasics is a professional environmental consulting firm that specializes in evaluating indoor contaminants.  Our work is conducted by highly trained and certified personnel utilizing state of the art testing methods and in compliance with accepted industry standards.  Feel safe by having an environmental scientist looking out for your best interests.