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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

The Surprising Danger In a Flood or Sewage Backup

8/7/2018 (Permalink)

Water from flooding or sewer system backups should be considered very dangerous.

Know What You Are Messing With!

When your property experiences a flood or sewage backup, the greatest danger is not the risk of disease. Instead, it’s the risk of electrocution or explosion. Do not enter a flooded basement or light matches until the utility companies have shut off your gas and electric service.

If floodwater or sewage enters your basement, you must clean it properly to prevent you and your family from becoming sick or injured. Don’t allow children into the flooded area during cleanup.

If you experience a sewage backup, we recommend you call in a professionally trained restoration firm like SERVPRO of Bear/New Castle. If it is a small event and you prefer to do the work yourself, follow these tips:

Cleaning and Sanitizing

  1. Drain all floodwater or sewage by natural draining or pumping.
  1. Remove dirt, soil, and debris from surfaces that have come in contact with floodwater.
  1. Wash down all walls, floors, and surfaces that the floodwater or sewage touched with clean, warm or hot water and a low suds detergent.
  1. Rinse again with warm or hot water.
  • Sanitize by rinsing walls, floors, and surfaces using one of the following mixtures:
    2½ tablespoons (tbs) of Lysol/Pine-Sol per gallon of water used, or
  • 8 tablespoons (tbs) of laundry bleach (i.e., Clorox, Roman Cleanser) per gallon of water used.
  1. Air the area by opening windows or using fans.
  1. Avoid tracking flood debris and sewage into clean areas.


These guidelines should be followed when entering a flooded area with gas or electricity present:

  • Have the utility companies shut off the gas and electricity.
  • Do notouch the fuse box or any plugged-in cords or appliances until the electricity is shut off.
  • If an electrical appliance motor or its controls are submerged under water, do notstart it until consulting with the dealer or service company.

  • Do not relight appliances until checked by the gas company. Make sure all pilot lights are on before relighting burners.

  • Do not light matches until the gas is turned off. If there is a gas leak, it could cause an explosion.

Personal Belongings

Clothing, carpets, furniture, toys, and bedding should be discarded unless they are cleaned and disinfected. Movable objects may be placed outdoors to be cleaned and dried in the sunlight. Discarded clothing should be placed in a tightly closed container until pickup or disposal.

After the cleanup, wash all clothing and parts of your body that came in contact with the floodwater or sewage. Be sure to wash your hands immediately afterwards.

Anyone engaged in cleaning operations should be particularly mindful of their personal hygiene. Contaminated fingers should be kept away from the eyes, nose, and mouth. People are advised against smoking at this time because soiled fingers can carry disease germs to the cigarette and then to the mouth. After cleanup, hands should be thoroughly cleaned using a nail brush and lots of soap.


Foods that are contaminated can make you and your family sick. Follow these guidelines:

  • Destroy and discardall contaminated bottled and boxed foods.
  • Canned goods (including home canned jars) may be kept if cleaned thoroughly. To clean containers:
    • Scrub with soap and water. Use a brush around the rim of home canned jars.
    • Submerge in chlorinated water for 15 minutes (1 ounce of bleach per gallon of water).
    • Air dry to prevent rusting.
  • Food stored in a freezer will keep for two days after losing power if the freezer is full and not opened. Food stored in a half-full freezer will keep for one day.  
  • If your freezer cannot be started in a day or two, store food in someone else's freezer.
  • Meat that has ice crystals may safely be refrozen. If it is only "cool-feeling" it is best to cook it and then refreeze it.
  • Food stored in a refrigerator will keep for 4 to 6 hours after losing power, depending on how warm the room is.Do not open the refrigerator unless absolutely necessary. You may add ice to the refrigerator if you know it will be turned on soon.
  • Throw out anything with an unusual color or odor, or if a perishable food is above 45° F internally.
  • Place discarded food in a tightly closed container until pickup or disposal.

More Sewage and Flood Information   

Every month on the SERVPRO of Bear/New Castle blog, we publish educational articles on how you can protect your homes and businesses from disasters and how to deal with mold, fire, water, sewage, and other damage. Here are a few blog posts that you might find helpful:

Call SERVPRO of Bear/New Castle, DE at (302) 392-6000 for all your water damage, flood damage, sewage damage,  fire damage and mold remediation needs! 

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