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Restaurant Kitchen Cleaning Tips After a Sewage Backup

Posted January 21, 2023 by Mike Lewis under Tips

Restaurant Kitchen Cleaning Tips After a Sewage Backup


Sewage backups can be an absolute nightmare for any restaurant. Not only are they messy and smelly, but they also pose a significant health risk if not properly addressed. As a restaurant owner or manager, it’s crucial to know how to safely and effectively clean up after a sewage backup to get your kitchen back up and running.

In this article, I’ll provide an in-depth look at the steps you should take to clean and sanitize your restaurant kitchen after a sewage backup.

Assess the Damage

The first step is to assess the extent of the backup and damage. Here are some key things to look for:

  • What areas were affected? Make note of all equipment, surfaces, floors, walls, etc. that got exposed to sewage. Pay special attention to areas where food is prepared, stored or served.

  • How large is the affected area? A small backup from a floor drain might only impact a small section, while a main sewer line backup could affect the entire kitchen.

  • What materials were contaminated? Sewage can soak into porous materials like wood, drywall, insulation, carpets and baseboards. Non-porous surfaces like stainless steel and tile are easier to clean.

  • How long did the backup last? The longer sewage sits, the more likely it is to soak in and cause extensive damage.

  • Is there standing water? Any standing sewage will need to be pumped out before cleaning can begin.

Thoroughly documenting the affected areas and materials will help determine the cleaning methods, supplies and remediation efforts needed.

Shut Down the Kitchen

Once you’ve assessed the situation, the next step is to shut down kitchen operations to keep the contamination from spreading. Here’s what to do:

  • Stop all food prep and service immediately. This helps prevent further cross-contamination.

  • Throw out any exposed food, especially anything that had direct contact with sewage. This includes produce, dry goods, spices, etc. When in doubt, throw it out.

  • Turn off and disconnect any equipment in the affected area, like refrigerators, ovens, etc. These will need thorough cleaning later.

  • Close off the area to prevent access. This ensures no one accidentally tracks sewage to unaffected areas. Put up signs or caution tape marking the affected zone.

  • Turn off the HVAC system. This keeps sewage odors and germs from circulating through vents to clean areas.

  • Contact your local health department. They can provide guidance on closures, cleaning requirements, and when it’s safe to reopen. Their involvement is mandatory.

Taking these proactive shutdown steps limits the impact of the sewage backup and sets the stage for proper remediation.

Remove Excess Sewage

With the kitchen contained, it’s time to start removing the bulk of the sewage contamination. Here are key steps for this process:

  • Pump out any standing water or sewage. Use professional water extraction and sewage cleanup services for large volumes.

  • Shovel, mop or squeegee sewage into buckets or a wet/dry vac. Be sure to wear proper PPE like masks, goggles, boots and gloves.

  • Remove any porous kitchen materials like drywall or insulation that were soaked. These can harbor germs even after cleaning.

  • Clean and disinfect any tools or equipment used to remove sewage, so they don’t spread contamination.

  • ** Double bag and dispose of all sewage-related waste**. This prevents it from re-entering your space.

Thoroughly removing excess sewage is critical before deeper cleaning, so contamination isn’t spread around. It also removes the bulk of germs.

Clean and Disinfect Affected Areas

Once most of the sewage is removed, it’s time to clean and disinfect. Be very thorough, as any remaining contamination can multiply once operations resume.

  • Clean surfaces with hot soapy water to remove residues. Use a pressure washer for outdoor areas if needed.

  • Rinse surfaces thoroughly to remove all soap residue which can affect disinfectants.

  • Disinfect all surfaces, equipment, tools etc. with an EPA-registered disinfectant proven effective against norovirus, e. coli, salmonella and other foodborne illness causing germs. Chlorine bleach solutions also work.

  • Remain in contact with disinfectants for the product-recommended amount of time. This ensures pathogens are neutralized.

  • Repeat cleaning and disinfection procedures until no sewage residues or odors remain. This takes multiple rounds.

  • Clean and disinfect floor drains, sinks and other fixtures to prevent recontamination.

Proper disinfection eliminates bacteria and viruses remaining after sewage removal and initial cleaning. This helps make the kitchen safe again.

Remove and Replace Porous Materials

Sewage can deeply soak into porous materials like drywall, wood, insulation and fabrics. Even after cleaning, germs can remain in these and re-contaminate the kitchen over time. That’s why removal is recommended.

  • Rip out and replace any porous kitchen materials like drywall lower than flood levels, damaged insulation, etc.

  • Seal any wood like baseboards or cabinets with a waterproof sealant to prevent lingering odors and germ growth.

  • Steam clean any porous, washable materials like curtains or seat cushions. However, replacement is ideal.

  • Follow all local codes and health department guidelines on remediation requirements in food establishments.

Removing contaminated porous materials limits the long-term risks the sewage backup poses to safe food handling.

Bring in Cleaning Experts

For extensive sewage backups, it’s smart to bring in professional cleanup services. Remediation can be very labor intensive and requires extensive specialized equipment and products a typical restaurant won’t have.

Water damage restoration companies specialize in sewage situations like pumping, drying, disinfecting and repairs. They have powerful truck-mounted extraction tools, antimicrobial treatments, and drying equipment far beyond standard restaurant means.

Professional biohazard cleaning services also exist to handle dangerous bacteria and toxin situations. They have extensive expertise in eliminating viruses and pathogens.

Don’t take risks in trying to cut corners and handle major sewage backups alone. The experts can fully clean to meet all food safety standards.

Coordinate Reinspection and Reopening

The final step is coordinating reopening the kitchen with your local health inspector. They will check that:

  • All required remediation outlined was completed.

  • Sewage has been fully pumped out and cleaned up.

  • Affected areas were appropriately disinfected.

  • Any removed materials like drywall were replaced properly.

  • All food contact surfaces were thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.

  • Equipment was adequately cleaned or replaced if required.

  • No lingering sewage odors or residues remain.

Only resume operations once given the green light by the inspector. This ensures due diligence was taken to get the kitchen safely up and running post-sewage backup.

Key Takeaways

Sewage backups require major cleanup efforts to safely resume restaurant operations. Following proper assessment, shutdown, cleaning, disinfection, material removal, and coordination steps are critical. Don’t take risks in trying to reopen until all health standards are met. In many cases, involving waste management and professional restoration services is advisable to fully remediate extensive sewage contamination events. Staying in close contact with local health officials is also mandatory throughout the process. With the right cleanup approach, restaurants can safely overcome even major sewage challenges.

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