Sewer backups show no concern for floor coverings—they contaminate Oriental rugs as thoroughly as bath mats. People intuitively understand that the dense structure of carpeting can provide a breeding ground for bacteria. This makes sewage and carpeting a troubling combination.
Not all backups are identical, of course. Sewer backups can range from clear water to raw sewage. Also, carpets vary in their construction and method of installation.
Can sewage-contaminated carpet be restored to its original wholesome state?
There are some germicidal treatments available to eliminate sewage-borne bacteria. When combined with proper cleaning techniques, these germicides may restore many carpets to safe and attractive use. To be effective, however, the germicidal and cleaning procedures should fully saturate the carpet. Unfortunately, treating the carpet surface alone will not provide adequate protection.
This is good news for Oriental rugs, area rugs and wall-to-wall carpet installed on tack strips. These can be treated in a rug-cleaning plant with excellent results. But it is bad news for direct glued-down carpet, carpet tiles and wide expanses of carpet, which do not lend themselves to in-plant treatment. Contaminated carpet cushion (padding) cannot be effectively treated and should be discarded.
What if the water was clean?
Even water that looks clean and clear can carry harmful bacteria. If it came out of a sewer, it should be presumed to be contaminated.
Saturation cleaning and germicidal treatment of carpeting are difficult to perform at the damage site. Both sides of the carpet must be cleaned and treated along with the floor and baseboards, all without cross-contamination. On-site treatment is most effective when just a portion of the carpet has been exposed to contaminants.
How can I be sure the treatment is effective?
The principal indicator of contaminated sewage is the presence of bacteria from the family E. coli. Germicides used after sewer backups should be designated to be effective against E. coli. Swab samples can be collected at the site and incubated in a growth medium to indicate whether wholesome conditions have been restored.
Economics also plays a part. The age, condition and replacement cost of the carpet will influence the cost-effectiveness of restoration. With so many factors to consider, the best assurance of satisfaction is to retain an experienced professional.