5 Steps for Dealing With a Clogged Sewer Line

In many cases, a drain line clog is something you can handle yourself with a plunger. However, if the clog makes its way to your main sewer line, things get a little more serious. Clogged sewage lines can cause major backflow issues and result in damage all over your home. To handle the situation as effectively as possible, follow these five simple steps.

1. Know How to Identify a Clogged Sewer Line

The first step to dealing with a clogged sewer line is simply recognizing when you have one. Unlike a typical drain clog, a clogged sewer line will affect everywhere in your home. You may notice drains refusing to work in your toilets, sinks, tubs, and showers all over the house. If the clog is particularly bad, you’ll end up with multiple drains backing up everywhere. Keep in mind that the drain backup will always start on the lowest level, so it may not occur where you think it should. For example, flushing a toilet on the upstairs level may cause a shower downstairs to start backing up. If your home has the floor drains in a basement or utility closet, you may notice the backup happening there.

A clogged sewer line is not always as dramatic as turning on the shower and suddenly having raw sewage flooding your entire home, though. In many cases, sewer line clogs happen gradually. You may have subtle signs happening around your home for months. Some things to keep a lookout for include:

  • Gurgling or bubbling noises in your drains
  • Drains that take longer than usual to empty
  • Strange rings of discoloration around your drains
  • Bubbling air coming up from the toilet bowl
  • Unpleasant odors coming from drains
  • An unexplained damp or green spot on your lawn

2. Shut Off Your Water Supply and Uncap the Cleanout Line

When you’re having a problem with a clogged sewer line, the first thing you need to do is keep water from going down your drains. If anyone tries to drain water in your home, it’ll back up because there’s nowhere to go. This can lead to flooding and a huge mess. Even if everyone in your house knows not to use the water, you might find it surprisingly hard to break habits. To keep from accidentally running a sink or shower, consider turning off the water supply. Leaving it turned off until you can get a plumber to fix your issue can keep major flooding from happening.

After you shut off your water, look for your sewer cleanout line. This is usually a short pipe about a few inches wide sticking out into your basement, yard, or, occasionally, roof. It’s meant to help plumbers unclog your sewer, and it hooks up directly to the rest of your drain line. Take off the cap, making sure to have a large bucket underneath if it’s located inside your basement. This will relieve the pressure in your sewer line and drain away some of the excess water. It won’ solve the clog, but it can help remove some of the water that may have backed up into your drains.

3. Avoid Using Chemical Drain Cleaners

Many homeowners make the mistake of thinking, “The clog is too far away to reach with a drain snake, so I’ll just dump some Drain-o down the line!” At best, this solution is entirely useless. Usually, by the time any chemical gets all the way down to the clog, it’s too diluted from all the water in your drain. Instead of eating away at the clog, the diluted cleaner may swirl around pointlessly.

However, in many cases using chemical cleaners is actively harmful instead of just being pointless. When your drain line is already full from wastewater, the drain cleaner may splashback when you try to pour it in. These highly caustic substances can cause skin irritation and chemical burns. Another potential problem is that certain chemical drain cleaners, like the copper sulfate some people use to kill tree roots, can damage septic systems or harm certain types of pipes. Therefore, chemical drain cleaners are usually not a smart solution to any clogs you may encounter.

4. Call in a Professional

Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do yourself to manage a clogged sewer line unless you have plenty of plumbing experience. You’ll almost always need help from a licensed plumber. This is because drain line clogs are usually too far down the sewer line to be handled with basic equipment. Instead, you need tools like a hydro jetter or an extra-long drain auger. Using all this specialized equipment usually requires quite a bit of know-how.

Most sewer clogs aren’t as easy to fix as just breaking up some loose toilet paper clumps. Sewer drain lines are fairly large pipes of around 6 inches in diameter, so clogs are more likely to be due to problems like a huge block of built-up grease or a major tangle of tree roots that have broken through your pipe. It would help if you had a professional who can use a camera to inspect your drain and recommend repairing any damage the clog caused to your drain line. Some clogs may even require digging up your yard, cutting away part of the pipe, and replacing your drain line. Whatever the problem and required solution, a professional plumber will know how to handle a sewer clog quickly and safely.

5. Keep It From Happening Again

As you can see, fixing a clogged sewer line can be a major plumbing repair. If you have already had one sewer clog, it’s a sign that you may need to rethink some common household activities. There are certain things you or your family may be doing that could contribute to another clog. The good news is a few basic preventative measures can keep more sewer line clogs from happening.

One of the most important things is to never pour cooking grease down a drain. Instead, let it cool and then scrape it into the trash. It’s also important to avoid flushing any paper products besides toilet paper down the drain. Even if the manufacturer says you can flush them, your sewer line cannot handle paper towels, diapers, “flushable” wipes, or feminine products. If you have a problem with tree roots on your property, you may want to occasionally cut your tree roots or replace your sewer line with root-resistant plastic piping.

Whether you’re dealing with a clogged drain line or want to keep your plumbing system in tip-top shape, Reactive Plumbing is here to help. Our team of highly trained plumbing technicians provides friendly and reliable service throughout the Sydney region. We can help with routine plumbing system inspections, all sorts of plumbing repairs, installations for bathroom remodels, and more. To schedule your next appointment or learn more about how we can help you, call us today.


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