The average homeowner doesn’t spend much time thinking about their sewer line. After all, the sewer is “out of sight, out of mind.” Yet neglecting this crucial part of your home could lead to some seriously messy problems. Find out how often sewer lines should be cleaned, why this task is necessary, tips for keeping your sewer flowing smoothly, and other useful information.
How Often to Clean Your Sewer Line
The general recommendation is to have your sewer lines cleaned every 18 to 22 months. So, if it’s been over two years since your last sewer cleanout, you’re overdue for this service. Regular cleaning ensures you stay ahead of potential clogs or backups, saving you time, stress, and money in the long run. Your plumber can help you formulate a sewer line maintenance plan specific to your household size and usage habits, but the 18- to 22-month guideline is a good starting point.
What Causes Sewer Line Clogs?
Think about everything that makes its way down your drains, and it’s not hard to imagine why sewer lines get clogged. Some of the most common causes of a blocked pipe include:
- Grease and fat: Pouring used cooking grease down the drain is a big no-no. It might be liquid when it’s hot, but grease solidifies as it cools, sticking to the pipe walls and narrowing the passageway as it accumulates.
- Hair and soap scum: Tub and shower drains can also become clogged, largely due to hair and soap buildup. People with long, thick hair may discover their drains clogging faster than those with short, thin hair.
- Foreign objects: Items like paper towels, feminine hygiene products, and even toys can end up flushed down the toilet. These may cause immediate clogs or partial blockages that worsen over time.
- Tree roots: In their search for water and nutrients, tree roots as thin as spiderwebs can infiltrate your sewer pipes. These roots grow and thicken over time, creating a severe obstruction that slows drainage and traps other debris flowing down the line.
- Mineral buildup: Hard water contains minerals that can linger inside pipes as chalky deposits. It takes a while to accumulate, but blockages can form eventually.
- Corrosion: The inner walls of older pipes may corrode, releasing metal flakes that can catch other debris and form clogs.
Collapsed lines: Older or poorly installed lines can break or collapse due to shifting soil or heavy weight from above, partially or fully blocking the sewer line.
How to Prevent a Sewer Line Clog
Proactive measures make all the difference in preventing sewer line clogs. Here are the tips to keep in mind:
- Dispose of grease properly: Pour your pan of cooking grease into an aluminum can, glass jar, or other container. Once the grease cools, dispose of it in the trash.
- Use drain covers: Inexpensive mesh drain covers effectively catch hair and soap scum in the bathroom sink, tub, and shower. Scrape the debris into the trash regularly to keep your drains flowing smoothly.
- Flush only toilet paper: Set a rule to flush nothing but toilet paper and human waste. Keep a trash can in the bathroom for everything else.
- Schedule regular inspections: Hiring a qualified plumber to inspect your sewer system annually helps you spot potential issues like tree root infiltration or mineral buildup that you can address before the problem escalates.
- Install a water softener: Water softeners reduce the mineral content in your water, lowering the risk of deposits in your pipes.
- Rinse your drains monthly: Pouring a kettle of near-boiling water down each drain helps dissolve minor clogs and keeps your lines flowing freely.
- Replace old pipes: If your home is older and still has the original plumbing, consider upgrading your sewer lines to modern, durable materials to prevent future collapse.
Warning Signs that You Need to Clean the Sewer Line
It’s crucial to pay attention when your home sends out distress signals. Identifying the early warning signs of sewer line issues can save you from much bigger problems later on. Here’s what to look out for:
- Foul odors: A lingering sewage smell isn’t just unpleasant—it’s a red flag that your sewer line might be blocked or damaged.
- Drains working too slowly: A slow-draining sink or shower might seem like a minor issue, but it can indicate a growing clog in the sewer line that will only worsen over time.
- Gurgling sounds in the drains: Gurgling noises indicate that air is trapped in the sewer line due to a blockage, disrupting the normal flow of water.
- Frequently clogged drains: Consistent, recurrent, or multiple clogged drains are a sign that something is obstructing your sewer line.
- Water pooling around the basement floor drain: If you notice water around a floor drain, it might indicate a clog further down the sewer line. This could escalate into more significant issues like flooding and water damage unless you act fast.
- Drains interacting with one another: For instance, if flushing the toilet causes water to back up in your shower, this interconnected issue usually means you need a sewer line cleanout right away.
- Sewage backup in the toilet, bathtub, or other drain: If water flows up from any drain in your home, whether dirty or clear, schedule emergency drain cleaning without delay.
How Does Sewer Line Cleaning Work?
So, you’ve spotted some red flags—now what? The process of cleaning your sewer line may seem daunting, but the professionals have it under control. Still, understanding how it works can ease your concerns. Here are the steps involved:
- Inspection: The first step is to send a high-tech video camera down the sewer line to identify the exact location and severity of the clog.
- Mechanical cleaning: Also known as snaking the sewer, this involves using a rotating coil to break up minor clogs. It’s most effective for localized blockages relatively close to the drain.
- Hydro jet plumbing: When snaking doesn’t do the trick, plumbers move on to hydro jetting. A hose with a specialized nozzle sends a high-pressure water jet through the pipes, dislodging and clearing out any obstructions.
- Chemical treatment: Sometimes, eco-friendly chemical treatment is an effective method to break down organic materials in the pipe, like grease or soap scum.
- Trenchless repair: For broken or collapsed pipes, trenchless sewer line repair resolves the issue without tearing up your yard. This saves you the headache of a dug-up lawn, costs less, and is equally effective as traditional sewer replacement methods.
How to Find a Reputable Sewer Line Cleanout Service
You know you need help, but how do you find a reliable plumber for the job? Use these tips to narrow down your options:
- Read reviews: Hop online and read reviews on multiple platforms. This gives you a balanced view of what to expect in terms of work quality and customer service.
- Ask for recommendations: Find out who the people you trust have hired for plumbing work in the past. Neighbors, friends, and family members can provide valuable insights.
- Check qualifications: It’s essential to verify that the company you’re considering is fully licensed, bonded, and insured to protect you from subpar work or liability issues.
- Compare prices: Price isn’t everything, but it’s definitely a consideration. Obtain and compare multiple quotes, being careful not to sacrifice quality for a lower price.
- Ask about methods: Different companies might use different sewer cleanout techniques. Knowing their approaches can help you select a service that fits your needs best.
- Find out about guarantees: Reputable companies stand by their work. Look into warranty coverage before scheduling service.
- Check availability: Sometimes, sewer issues can’t wait. Make sure the plumber you’re considering can accommodate your schedule and provide timely service.
Contact Puget Sound Plumbing and Heating
The need to maintain your sewer line might not always be on your mind, but this task is necessary to promote your home’s long-term well-being. Then, when you encounter problems, you want a professional who can do the job right the first time.
That’s where Puget Sound Plumbing and Heating comes in. Our fully licensed technicians are available 24/7 for emergency services, bringing over 20 years of experience to every job. Plus, our family-owned business delivers unbeatable work and excellent customer service. Don’t let sewer issues bog you down—take control of the situation with help from Puget Sound Plumbing and Heating. Call us today at (206) 938-3219 to schedule sewer line and drain cleaning in the Seattle area.