How To Unclog A Main Sewer Line Blockage Yourself
Plumbing issues can be tricky – and a clogged sewer line or drain problem is one of the most common “big” things that homeowners face.
Normal drain clearing can be an easy fix, but at other times you may need to call in a professional if a sewer line cleanout is required.
This can get expensive, so let’s cover some basic troubleshooting on the DIY front.
This post will help you determine if you are dealing with a slow drain that can be resolved on your own, or if severe clogs in the main sewer line exist.
Clogged sewer line cleanouts typically require professional help due to the need for a camera inspection and special equipment. The average drain cleaning product or snake won’t cut it.
Even though we are a plumbing company, we realize that people also want to avoid a large bill that often comes with an emergency service call.
We often recommend some basic troubleshooting on your own before making that call.
So let’s discuss how to evaluate a blocked drain and then how to clear a main sewer line clog yourself.
What’s the Sewer Clog Location?
Determine if it’s a slow sink, floor drain, or a clogged main sewer line.
Basic Sewer Clog:
The most common and “fixable” blockage occurs in the pipe near the plumbing fixture itself. This could be a kitchen sink, toilet, or shower drain.
A store-bought chemical drain cleaner or plunger will often resolve basic problems like this. Don’t be afraid to remove drain covers to remove hair and other debris. It’s gross, but this will often resolve slow drain issues.
You can even make your own natural drain cleaner to dissolve basic grease and fat buildup. If this approach doesn’t work, you’ll need basic a plumbing service which is discussed next.
Stubborn Sewer Clog:
A clogged drain that is harder to reach, or that has developed and grown over time, will need the extra firepower.
The DIY inclined can attempt this of course if they have the right tools and know-how. If not, a plumber will always bring tools such as a drain snake or auger that has the reach and power to dislodge items further from the drain opening or near the sewer cleanout.
This is the most common method used by a drain cleaning service in nearly every state.
But if this isn’t able to resolve the issue, you likely have a clogged sewer line in need of a professional cleanout.
Sewer Line Cleanout:
Your sewer pipe, also called the main drain line, begins where the pipes exit your home and travel to the city sewer pipe or your septic tank system. It’s important to understand who is responsible for the sewer service.
A sewer main line clog is more serious for several reasons and requires professional plumbing help.
First, you’ll need a camera inspection in the sewer line to identify what type of clog is present. Tree roots in sewer pipes need to be approached differently than a deteriorating line that needs replacement.
The inspection will also pinpoint exactly where the problem is located. This is crucial to a successful sewer line cleanout.
Barring a broken main sewer line needing CIPP relining, most clogs will be easily resolved using a hydro jet cleaner operated by an experienced technician.
These powerful water jets cut through roots and debris, and leave the sewer line in “like-new” condition after cleanout.
It’s possible to rent video inspection equipment as well as powered drain augers, but the experience will be a key factor.
Knowing what to look for is important, and you certainly don’t want to cause more damage by clearing a main sewer line clog yourself if you’re not up to the task. So, be cautious.
Do Not Ignore Clogged Sewer Lines that Need a Cleanout
One of the biggest reasons clogged sewer lines need attention is to avoid sewage backup into your home.
A sewer cleanout will help you avoid property damage inside your home from back-flowing sewage, avoid further problems with the city, and help preserve your septic system if you’re on rural land.
It’s best to address this issue, whether you call a plumber or learn how to unclog the main sewer line yourself.
Know the Signs of a Main Sewer Line Clog
Before you bring out the pipe snake or try to fix anything yourself, it’s important to know the signs of a clogged sewer line.
The location of the clog will determine how you address it from the sewer cleanout or from another spot, and ultimately whether or not you’ll need to call a local drain cleaning company for help. Here are the signs to look for:
- Backed up sinks and showers
- Discolored, smelly water
- Toilet drainage in the shower or tub
- Persistent wet areas in the lawn
How to Clear A Main Sewer Line Clog Yourself: Basic Approach
We are now going to talk about the mechanics of how to clean a main sewer line clog yourself.
Some homeowners are inclined to first attempt a cleanout, or simply want to understand what is involved when a plumber is called.
Sewer Line Cleanout Video:
What You’ll Need for Sewer Cleanout
Before you get started on your sewer cleanout, you’ll need to gather the supplies listed below.
As a side note, you’re going to want to use a professional-grade pipe auger – not the small ones you get from the local store.
Main line sewer clogs usually require heavy-duty suction and a long drain snake to reach the problem area.
Luckily, you can rent a professional grade plumbing snake like the one discussed from most hardware stores.
- Waterproof work gloves
- Garden hose
- Plumbing snake/pipe auger (can be rented at most hardware stores)
- Pipe wrench
- Waterproof shoes/boots (recommended)
Steps For How to Clear A Main Sewer Line Clog
1. Loosen the Main Drain Cleanout Cap (aka Sewer Cleanout Pipe)
The first step is to find your main drain cleanout location. Look for a small white pipe that sticks a few inches out of the ground. It is often located near a flower bed.
Use the pipe wrench to loosen the main drain cleanout cap. Do it slowly, and allow it to sit for a few seconds before you remove the cap entirely. This will help you avoid any sudden sewage or water spillage.
Be ready to step away!
2. Remove Cleanout Cap, Allow Water to Backflow to Opening
Once you remove the cleanout cap, step away quickly. The clog will probably have caused waste to build up. Once you remove the cap, it may come spilling out quickly.
Allow the clogged sewer line pipe to drain excess water completely before you try to do anything else. This is where the waterproof boots and gloves will come in handy!
3. Insert the Snake into the Sewer Line Pipe Opening
Once the pipe has finished draining, begin to gently feed the auger into the opening. Make sure to read the instructions before you begin; each pipe snake will have slightly different instructions.
Augers are common tools used by Arlington drain cleaning professionals. If you don’t have one, consider renting from a hardware store for one-time use.
Feed the auger slowly into the pipe until you reach the sewer line clog. You’ll know you’ve hit it when the snake becomes hard to move. There might be more than one clog, but work your way down the sewer line to fully clean it out.
4. Run the Tool Until All Clogs are Gone
Run the auger until you don’t feel any more resistance, and the water build up in the pipe is gone.
This indicates the blocked pipe is clear. Continue to run the auger even after the clog is gone, as there could still be small clumps of debris after the drain clog has cleared or broken up.
5. Clean Up and Replace Sewer Cleanout Cap (Don’t overtighten.)
After you are done, leave the auger in the pipe and hose it down with water.
Make sure the nozzle is on full blast and give everything a thorough rinse – as this will help clear out any leftover junk that could cause another clog.
Afterward, you’ll also want to hose down the pipe snake before you put it away.
Replace the sewer cleanout cap, being careful to catch the threads and avoid stripping it. Also, do not over tighten the sewer cleanout cap as this can cause damage to the pipe as well.
Congrats, this is how to clear a main sewer line clog yourself!
Is Your Sewer Main Sewer Line Pipe Still Clogged?
If after following those steps your main drain line is still clogged, you might need to use a hydro jetting service that has more power and the ability to reach the clog. It’s also possible that your sewer line pipe is damaged in a place you cannot see, or that roots and debris are present.
We appreciate the DIY spirit in learning how to clean a main sewer line clog yourself, but there are times we all need professional assistance. This is the time to call a licensed plumbing company to help.
More severe and costly plumbing issues can present as a sewer backup. If left untreated they can result in thousands of dollars of damage down the road.