How to Unclog a Sewer Line

Have you noticed frequent clogs within your home’s plumbing system? Do your shower, sink, toilet and bath seem to all be acting up within the same timeframe?

If your answer is a frustrated “YES!” then you may be facing a sewer drain clog.

Sewer drains are responsible for taking waste from your home and transporting it to sewer mains that are underground, as shown in the illustration below.

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Image courtesy of www.johnsdrains.com

Here’s the problem with this kind of clog: when it’s left untreated, sewage can begin building up within your pipes, using the openings inside your home as the only means of escape! And that sort of smell, along with the associated cleanup, is no fun.

So what should you look for if you’re wondering whether your home’s plumbing system is experiencing a sewer drain clog?

One professional plumber out of Indiana reminds customers that your home’s plumbing is set up like a tree. The main sewage line is like the tree’s trunk; each of the branches off the tree is a separate plumbing line.
If there is a clog in the trunk, it affects all of the branches, or plumbing lines. But if there is a clog in the branch, that’s the only plumbing line that’s affected.

If multiple appliances sound as if they’re bubbling like a coffee pot would, the trunk, or main sewer line, is probably clogged. Should this be the case, you’ll need to perform some sewer line cleaning to fix it.

If you’re wondering how to unclog a sewer line yourself, here are a few options.

Sewer Drain Cleaning Tool # 1 – Use a Mechanical Drain Cleaner

The first option for do-it-yourself sewer drain cleaning involves using a mechanical drain cleaner to get the job done. Some plumbers call this tool a drain snake or a plumber’s auger.

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Image courtesy of www.colonyhardware.com

Before using this tool, you’ll want to find where the main drain cleanout is located.

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Image courtesy of www.cityofsancarlos.org

The main drain cleanout is usually located outside near a wall, or in your home’s basement. The cleanout could also be located in a crawl space or in the garage. Be on the lookout for a plastic or metal cap, with some kind of square fitting on the top, as shown in the photo below.

 

After Locating the Main Drain Cleanout, Set Up Your Equipment

You’ll want to plug your mechanical drain cleaner into what’s called a Ground Fault Circuit Interpreter (GFCI). This is a specific type of power outlet that will help you avoid dangerous electric shocks.

It’s also a good idea to take precautions that include wearing eye protection and work gloves that are resistant to fluids.

Start by putting the tip of the mechanical drain cleaner into the opening. You’ll want to make sure it’s inserted approximately 12 inches into the opening; once you’ve done that, squeeze the spray wand to send water into the drain.

Expect to notice what feels like a tug – this is normal! This will happen as the nozzle pulls itself into the drain. Keep pushing the hose further into the main drain line while squeezing more water into it at the same time.

 

You may hear what sounds like a surge of liquid – this is a good thing! It most likely means the clog is starting to clear. You may want to step back a few feet just in case any liquid splashes.

If you start to notice that the hose is no longer moving forward, pull it back a few feet, then push it forward again. This will help the hose and water continue to pass through the sewer line.

Finally, pull the hose out of the main drain cleanout – but be sure to release the spray wand before doing that to avoid getting wet. And don’t forget to put the cap back on the main drain cleanout when you’re finished.

To keep your sewer line clean and prevent clogs, plumbers often recommend filling your sinks to the top and draining them one time every month. This water pressure will move any waste that’s hanging around in your pipes.

Hopefully this guide gives you a clear idea of how to unclog a sewer line in your home. If all else fails, investing in professional sewer line cleaning is a great option to explore to get your home’s plumbing back on track as soon as possible.