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My bowl runneth over, now what do i do?

Posted 05-26-2009 at 05:54 AM by faucetman886

A discussion group forum posting over the weekend reminded me of a problem that my ex-wife and I had many years ago. Well we had a lot of problems that why she is my ”EX” but this blog is not about marital advice because on that I’m no expert, just ask her! The problem I am talking about was what happens when your toilet bowl over flows due to a clog or mechanical malfunction. I have blogged before about how to unclog a toilet bowl as well as what some of the causes of clogs and mechanical failure might be and how to repair them but what do you do about the mess created? This particular thread was an apartment dweller dealing with the maintenance department. Their toilet had over flowed while they were out and had run for some 2+ hours so not only did they have water and effluent damage to their carpet but of course it had seeped through to the neighbor below. The maintenance folks had come in with wet vacs and fans and had soaked up the water and dried the carpets but was that enough? Her concern was mold and mildew under the carpet and she was certain that she could still smell something but couldn’t identify its origin. Well lets start from the beginning, The bowl over flows and probably some amount of waste material spilled out followed by lots of clear water, if you’re lucky and the clog was localized to the toilet, i.e. the toilet clogged when you flush it and what was in ot that you were trying to flush doesn’t go down and for some reason the toilet doesn’t stop trying to refill. If you were to have a mainline clog the sewage can back up and eminate from the lowest point in your plumbing system then spill out and over your house. In this latter example your home is then badly contaminated with raw sewage and you have a major problem. This is the type of situation my wife and I experienced. We were living in a basement apartment while building a new home and the building main drain clogged backing up everything from the apartments above us into our apartment. Because we had only planned to stay there a brief amount of time we had most of our belongings packed in cardboard boxes which also soaked up the sewage and ruined many things in them. Needless to say simply drying the carpet wasn’t sufficient to clean up the mess although the apartment management company seemed to think it was which resulted in a major battle between us. Fortunately for the forum writer her situation wasn’t that bad but many things still could have been overlooked which could still cause a long term problem. Because the over flow could have caused some sewage, even if it were small amount heavily diluted with clean water, simply drying the carpet wasn’t enough, the carpet needed to be cleaned thoroughly utilizing a “steam” type cleaning service. Secondly when you have that much water in your home anything touching the floor soaks up water. Most people fail notice that their draperies that touch the floor, the bed spreads, upholstered furniture, throw rugs and many other things thorough out the house are capable of wicking up the contaminated water and will all have to be cleaned thoroughly. Any of these things missed in the cleaning operation can result in mold and or a residual smell. People also forget about the carpet in closets as well as clothes that may be on the floor. Mildew can be a long term problem also and requires 3 things to exist…moisture, still air and darkness (think basement). Any carpeted areas not thoroughly cleaned and dried can result in ling term mildew growth causing damage and that familiar mildew musty smell.
The bottom line is that if you have a serious flood, caused by a plumbing problem, make sure you do more than just simply dry the water up. Clean everything that the water has come in contact with.
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