When Poop Hits The Fan

How to Clean Up a Stinky Mess

Try not to step in liquid. If you have them; use plastic disposable booties.

Then do the following:

  1. Shut off the water source (toilet, etc.) first.
  2. Seal off the area from people and pets. Both can get sewage on their feet and track it throughout your office or home.
  3. Call a professional to do the gross removal.  These contractors work 24/7. Most all contractors listed have drying equipment and training to use it.

The sooner the sewage impacted water is cleaned up and professional drying started the less chance you will have of mold growth. Drying needs to begin 24-48 hours or sooner after the sewage spill.

After cleaning up a sewage or black/gray water spill, it’s important that you have professional E. coli bacteria clearance testing done. This should occur in the area before access is given to your family or the public.

Here’s a good example of such a situation: We were called by an insurance adjuster to confirm a sewage cleanup that had spilled in a common hallway of a multi-family building. Our testing confirmed the area was safe for reoccupancy, saving the occupants displacement and possible sickness, and the property owner and insurer potential liability.

My professional opinion is that you never want to take a chance, whether it be for your family’s or business’s health and safety by opening the area up before bacterial levels have been tested and found acceptable.

How Dangerous is Poop?


Human fecal waste contains E.coli but there are lots of different stains of E. coli. Normally in cities we do not find the potentially fatal strain of E. coli O157 that is usually found in cows.

Downstream farm irrigation water sometimes contains this strain, which can be passed human to human. People that have contact with cows and sewage spills containing E. coli 0157 can and do transit E. 0157. However, not many of us living in the Bay Area don’t come in contact with manure.

E. coli 0157 can be found in crops that are grown next to a water source that has cows – cow poop – upstream.


The IICRC S500 is the national standard for cleaning up water (sewage – bacteria) events. 

This ANSI Standard classifies water spills according to what is in the water and how long it has been standing in the area. 

Water evaporates over time. 

Mold growth occurs over time.

  • Class 1 Water Event is less than 5% of the combined floor, wall, concrete, and porous materials that have been affected.
    Water is from a sanitary water source and usually does not pose a substantial risk.  Example: water from a broken water supply line, sink or tub overflows, appliance water line failures, melting ice, snow, rain water. Also included are broken toilet bowls or tanks with no cleaning additives.

  • Class 2 Water Event is between 5% and 40% of the combined floor, wall, concrete, and porous materials that have been affected. Water contains significant bacterial or chemical contamination and poses risks to humans through consumption or contact. Examples: overflow from dishwashers or washing machines, toilet bowls with urine but no feces. Water events become Class 3 if not abated quickly.

  •  Class 3 Water Event is over 40% of the combined floor, wall, concrete, and porous materials that have been affected.
    This would be a grossly contaminated spill, whether from sewage or waste line, regardless of the color of the water, backflows, flooding from seawater, rivers or streams, or floodwater that contain hazardous materials or toxic organic material.



  • Class 4 involves a water spill in an area that has little to no available ventilation. Drying will probably require longer drying times, dehumidification, and other special methods.
    Example: Hurricane Katrina with all that flood water trapped inside buildings for 28 days. 

Professional sewage clearance testing tests for E.coli and Coliforms, which are found in dirt and are in indicator the area is not clean.


Sewage Testing

Sewage Blog

IICRCs500 – National Standard for Sewage Cleanup

Remember: If you can smell it you’ve got it – You only need clearance testing after the cleanup to confirm the area is clean before people and pets are allowed into the affected area.