The main sewer line is a significant part of your home’s plumbing system. It carries away wastewater from plumbing fixtures all over your house, including sinks, showers, and toilets. However, individual drains and the main sewer line can become clogged with grease, hair, soap scum, and other debris. When this happens, it’s necessary to perform sewer line cleaning to prevent backups and maintain a healthy plumbing system. Follow this guide to learn more about cleaning your drains and sewer lines, plus tips to keep things flowing.
Where is Your Main Sewer Line?
Typically, the main sewer line runs from your house out to the street, where it connects with the municipal sewer system or a septic tank. Look for a capped pipe, often found near your property line or within three feet of your home’s foundation. In some older homes, the sewer cleanout might be inside, most likely in the basement or crawl space. The sewer cleanout provides unrestricted access to the drainage side of your plumbing system, allowing you or a professional plumber to snake, jet, or blow out the pipe when needed.
DIY Tips for Sewer Line Maintenance
They say prevention is the best medicine. Here’s how to keep your drains flowing smoothly before any signs of trouble appear:
- Regular flushing: About once a month, pour a pot of near-boiling water down sinks and shower drains to help flush out accumulating gunk. Adding a little dish soap to the water helps break down grease and residue if the drains have become sluggish.
- Preventative cleaning: Mild cleaning agents like baking soda and vinegar can work wonders on minor clogs. Pour one-half cup of each down the drain, let them sit for 15 minutes, and follow up with hot water.
- Drain cleaners: Using drain cleaners occasionally can help with sluggish drains, but be cautious, as overuse can damage pipes and pollute waterways.
- Proper disposal: Watch what goes down the sink, even if you have a garbage disposal. First, never pour grease down the drain because it can solidify in the pipe. Then, dispose of hard, stringy, starchy, and non-biodegradable items in the trash.
- Careful toilet use: The only things you should flush are toilet paper and human waste. All other items—including facial tissues, paper towels, and feminine hygiene products—belong in the trash.
- Root control: If trees grow near your sewer lines, consider using root barriers or pruning the roots periodically to prevent intrusion into the sewer line.
Identifying Signs of Sewer Line Problems
So, how can you tell when your sewer line needs to be cleaned? Watch for these signs that trouble is lurking in your pipes:
- Persistent foul odors: A bad smell wafting from your drains is a telltale sign of buildup in your sewer lines. These odors often result from decomposing organic matter or sewage buildup.
- Multiple drain clogs: When several drains in your home clog simultaneously, it likely points to a problem in the main sewer line.
- Slow drainage: DIY drain cleaning methods should be enough to restore water flow to a sluggish sink if the clog isn’t very deep. However, if slow drainage persists, it may indicate a more significant issue within your sewer line.
- Localized water damage: Observing water damage or persistent moisture near drains or sewer pipes suggests leaks or other issues in the sewer system.
- Aging plumbing system: Older homes with plumbing over 50 years old are more prone to sewer drain problems due to pipe deterioration and corrosion.
How to Complete a Sewer Line Cleanout
Sewer line cleaning involves several steps that homeowners can take on themselves or leave to a professional. Here’s what the process entails:
- Locate the cleanout access and remove the cap: First, find the sewer cleanout access point and carefully remove the cap. You might need tools for this if the cap is tight or hasn’t been opened in a while.
- Inspect for clogs: Look for any visible clogs near the opening. If you can see the blockage, you might be able to remove it then and there.
- Use a plumber’s snake: If the clog is not visible, use a plumber’s snake, also called a drain auger, to reach deeper into the sewer line. This tool breaks up and removes obstructions manually.
- Flush with water: After clearing the blockage, flush the line with plenty of water to ensure the clog is gone and the line is clean.
- Replace the cap: Securely replace the cleanout cap to prevent sewer gas from escaping and reseal the system.
When to Call a Professional
Sometimes, sewer line problems are beyond a DIY fix. If you encounter issues or are unsure about any step in the sewer line cleanout process, contact a plumber to prevent damage or further complications. They can perform thorough inspections using specialized sewer cameras, which is especially important for older or more complicated plumbing systems.
Professionals also have the tools and techniques to handle complex issues safely and effectively. One such technique is hydro-jetting, which uses a special nozzle to rinse the sewer line with high-pressure water, forcing even the most stubborn clogs to break free. This technique even works on tree roots!
If it turns out the sewer pipe is broken or collapsed, plumbers can perform trenchless sewer line repair. This involves lining the old pipe or bursting it to make way for a new one, all with just two small access points, not a long trench spanning your yard.
Contact Puget Sound Plumbing and Heating
If you spot unmistakable signs of sewer line problems but don’t want to tackle the messy situation yourself, turn to Puget Sound Plumbing and Heating. We have served the Seattle area for over 20 years as a family-owned business offering quality service at a fair price. Our skilled, fully licensed plumbers are available 24/7 for emergency drain cleaning and work hard to ensure a positive experience every time. Please call us at (206) 938-3219 today for all your home plumbing needs.