How To Unclog A Sewer Line

As homeowners, the sewage pipeline or main sewer line is a critical component of the plumbing system that transports wastewater and sewage away from our households. Unfortunately, main sewer line clogs can occur. When we detect a sewer line blockage, the first instinct may be to reach for a plunger or chemical drain cleaner. However, severe sewer clogs often require professional drain cleaning services to fully unclog the line and prevent recurrence.

In this guide, we’ll explain the common causes of blocked main drains, signs of sewer line trouble, and effective methods to unclog a main sewer line without using harsh chemicals or causing pipe damage.

Reasons A Main Sewer Line Can Get Clogged

Several common culprits lead to nasty clogs in the main sewer line that connects your home to the municipal sewer system:

  • Buildup of debris, grease, sludge: Over time, drain pipes accumulate grease, soap scum, hair, food scraps, and other debris. Excess debris eventually sticks to pipe walls, narrowing the sewage flow pathway and creating clogs. Grease and soap buildup are especially problematic, solidifying into blockages.
  • Intruding tree roots: Exposed main lines or cracks enable tree roots from your property or the street/sidewalk nearby to infiltrate pipes. Roots continue expanding inside, forming entanglements that trap waste and clog drains. Roots in sewer lines is a serious issue requiring professional removal.
  • Collapsed/sagging pipes: With ground shifts or aging infrastructure, sections of main drains may sag or collapse inward, blocking adequate flow.
  • Sewer vent obstructions: Ventilation pipes allow air pressure equalization so wastewater flows freely. Clogged vents prevent relief of air pressure, especially during heavy usage, resulting in clogged drains.

Each scenario requires drain experts with specialized tools for cleanouts, jetting, cutting intruding roots, even replacing severely damaged sewer lines if necessary to resolve obstructions.

Signs Of A Clogged Main Sewer

Detecting the main sewer line clog symptoms promptly lets you take action before backups spread sewage through bathrooms and home pipes. Be alert for:

  • Slow-flowing sinks/drains throughout your home, especially toilets that take longer to flush waste down.
  • Gurgling noises from toilet bowls or drains, signalling sewage and air struggling to pass a restriction.
  • Pooling water appearing around indoor/outdoor drain access points when large volumes of wastewater overwhelm the narrowed pipe.
  • Strong sewage odors in your basement or home emanating from sewer vents as backups find any outlet possible.
  • Water bubbling upward from floor drains in basements.

If you confirm one or more symptoms above, immediately minimize household water usage to avoid backups until the main drain blockage gets cleared. Hire an urgent sewer cleaning service for effective ways to unclog the main sewer line.

Methods To Unclog Main Sewer Line Clog

Drain cleaning specialists have commercial-grade equipment and technology to clear extreme sewer line obstructions that regular snaking or plungers cannot relieve. Common techniques include:

  • Hydro-jetting: Trucks with powerful water jet nozzles emit pressurized streams that scour full pipe lengths, blasting away years of grime. Helpful for routes otherwise challenging to access physically.
  • Robotic cutters: Remotely-guided rotating blades or chain flails fed through lines shred hair/root masses or scrape deposits loose.
  • Sewer augering: Large mechanized snakes with attack heads drive from cleanouts or toilets to skewer, pull out or grind stuck contents. Useful for lines up to 100 feet long.
  • Hand rods: Manual snaking feeds rotating cables tipped with bladed heads into floor or wall drains to cut out soft obstructions.
  • Sewer video inspection: Pinpoints obstruction locations so crew knows which equipment suits best. Also checks overall pipe condition.

Environmentally-friendly techniques like pressurized water jetting prevent introduction of caustic chemicals that could weaken aging pipes further. Experts also assess if sections of deteriorating sewer lines themselves require repair or full replacement to prevent recurrence of chronic clogs or backups.

Unclog Your Main Sewer Line Without Harsh Chemicals

For minor household clogs, we can attempt DIY drain cleaning before calling pros. However, corrosive store-bought chemical drain openers for severe main sewer obstructions often do more harm than good. Safer preliminary alternatives include:

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Pour a box of baking soda fully down the toilet, followed by two cups of vinegar (citric acid). Close the lid so expanding fizz permeates pipes to help disintegrate grease and hair masses naturally. Flush a few times afterwards.

Salt and Baking Soda

Mix 1⁄2 cup salt with 1⁄2 cup baking soda and pour down the toilet, followed by six cups nearly-boiling water to dissolve the gritty mixture that acts as an abrasive cleaner scraping the drain walls.

Mechanical Drain Snakes

Use a hand-crank auger to churn through the clog, available to rent if you don’t own one. Send the rotating metal snake down your toilet or stubborn sink drain to break up troublesome masses and pull out hair/debris. Take safety precautions when using any powered mechanical drain cleaner.

Pressure Washer

In adire backup emergency, carefully attempt blasting standing water clogs from outdoor access cleanouts using a heavy-duty electric pressure washer on a low setting. Don’t aim directly into the drain opening or exceed 500 psi nozzle pressure to avoid pipe damage.

Trying these methods before calling a plumber can provide relief for minor toilet/sink backups. However, recurring main line sewer drain clogs shown by multiple affected drains/fixtures will necessitate professional hydro jetting or rodding with commercial electric drain machines powerful enough to purge the deeper blockages.

Tips To Prevent Future Main Sewer Line Clogs

While imperfect infrastructure or intruding tree roots can create sewer system headaches mysteriously, we can help minimize avoidable main line clogs through attentive household habits:

Install Mesh Drain Screens

Fit sink, tub and washing machine drains with fine mesh stopper baskets to catch hair and debris before entering pipes. Check monthly and empty out material that would otherwise accumulate. Hair strainers are vital for homes with several long-haired occupants.

Manage FOG Properly

All cooking oils, fats and grease (FOGs) should get disposed properly into trash cans after solidifying, rather than poured hot down drains that can coat pipes with thick gunk over time.

Use Enzyme Cleaners Monthly

Active bacteria digestors like septic system enzyme cleaners help continuously devour organics and paper/plant debris that might otherwise stick to old pipe walls when multiple people occupy the home.

Don’t Flush Wipes!

Disposable cleaning or personal wipes commonly clog main drains and sewer pumps even when labelled ‘flushable’. Throw them in the garbage instead to avoid masses that snag and accumulate.

With attentiveness to our in-home habits, we can help minimize hair, grease and all manner of debris that commonly plague residential main sewer systems after decades of use. But when unusual gurgles, odors or slow water flow arise signaling drain trouble, quickly enact plumbing investigation and cleaning to get main lines cleared before severe backups occur. Stay observant to nip problems in the bud!

Contact Southeast Water Restoration for professional sewage cleaning services.