What to Do When You Have a Sewer Problem

Occasionally, a blockage in a sewer main or sewer service results in back up of sanitary sewage into a private home. If you have experienced 1 of these backups, you probably have many questions about what to do next. The following information should provide you with a starting point.

What To Do If Sewage Enters Your Home


  • Stop all running water in the building, such as showers, sinks, dishwashers, washing machines, water softeners, etc. If this stops the backup, it would indicate that the building/house sewer is plugged. A qualified plumbing contractor should be contacted to assist in diagnosing the problem.
  • If the backup is still occurring after all running water has been stopped, this would indicate that the city's main line may be plugged. You should immediately contact the City of Muscatine Public Works Department at 563-263-8933 (Mon-Fri 8 am to 5 pm) or after hours and on weekends, please contact the Muscatine Police Department at 563-263-9922 and dial "O" for the dispatcher.
  • If you have doubt what may be causing the backup to occur, the City of Muscatine encourages you to contact us for assistance 563-263-8933.

Wet Furniture

  • Discard upholstered furniture if it has been exposed to water or contaminated material.
  • Clean, rinse, and disinfect wood furniture.
  • Place wood furniture outside in a shady area so it will dry slowly.

Wet Appliances

  • If your hot water heater became wet due to flooding, it should be discarded. The insulation typically can't be replaced and the burner or heating element might be damaged and could cause an explosion or fire if used. If in doubt, consult a service professional before using.
  • If the furnace was flooded, have it inspected and serviced by a professional furnace service before using.

Record Keeping

  • Take pictures of damages for your records.
  • Keep all receipts for all work done.
  • Write a description of the extent of damage done.
  • Record date and time of occurrence and which sewer areas surcharged - floor drain, lower level toilet, laundry tub and the like.

Soiled Clothing or Blankets

  • Line-dry all articles before attempting to clean or treat them.
  • After drying, brush off loose dirt and debris.
  • Send "Dry Clean Only" items to a professional cleaner.
  • Wash clothes several times in cold water. Add up to a cup of bleach per load of wash if it will not harm the clothing.
  • Rinse and dry all items as soon as possible.

Wet Carpeting

  • Pull up waterlogged carpet immediately, to prevent further floor damage. Carpet pads cannot be saved. Remove the pads and throw them away.
  • Attempt to save carpets or throw rugs only if they would be very expensive to replace.
  • Clean and dry your floors thoroughly before re-carpeting.

Wet Floors or Hardwood

  • Remove any moisture or debris
  • Scrub floors and woodwork within 48 hours using a stiff brush, water, detergent and disinfectant.
  • Allow all wood to dry thoroughly.

Large Clean Ups

For large clean ups, you should probably call a cleaning service. Your insurance carrier might have suggestions on which service to use or you can look in the Yellow Pages under "Water Damage Restoration" or "House Cleaning". For smaller areas you can clean yourself, use a solution of 2 tablespoons of chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water. To reduce health hazards, thoroughly clean the areas affected by the backup as soon as possible.

  • Use outside air to dry your home.
  • Open windows and doors and use an exhaust fan to remove moist air from the house.
  • If available, use a room de-humidifier. Empty it often.
  • If your basement is completely flooded, begin pumping the water in stages - about 1-third per day. Make sure that the level of the flood waters is below the level of the basement floor. If so, do not pump the basement all at once because the saturated soil could cause the basement walls to collapse.
  • Wear a mask to prevent inhaling contaminated dust, especially if you have allergies. Consult your physician if you have questions.
  • Open, clean, decontaminate and thoroughly dry cavities in walls to dry from the inside out.
  • Remove moisture and debris from all surfaces and get surface materials dry within 24-48 hours.
  • Release any water or mud that has been trapped in walls, ceilings or floor cavities.
  • Remove all interior wall finishing materials and insulation.
  • Throw out most plaster, wallboard and paneling. Throw out mattresses and pillows.
  • Throw out any opened food or packaged foods that are not waterproof.
  • Commercially canned foods can be salvaged if the labels are removed and the cans thoroughly washed. Wiping the entire surface with a laundry bleach and water mixture and rinsed in clear water should then disinfect the cans. Home-canned foods require additional care. After the jars containing home-canned foods have been washed and disinfected, the food should be boiled for 10 minutes before using.

If you feel that the damage occurred as a direct result of the city's negligence, you can file an insurance claim form with the City of Muscatine.