A clogged sewer line is a hazardous situation that can have a negative impact on the health of your and your family. If your sewer line is clogged, then there are a few things you can do to try and fix it yourself without needing to involve a plumber. In this blog post, we’re going to talk you through 10 steps to take in order to fix a clogged sewer line.
If you’re not sure whether or not your main sewer line is clogged, call us at (626) 448-6455 and we can talk to you about your options.
Note: This blog post is for homeowners only! If you live in an apartment or are attempting to service a commercial building’s main sewer line, stop and call your property manager. Residential sewer main lines and commercial/apartment lines are built totally differently, and you may end up causing extensive damage.
Things you will need:
Before you get started, make sure you have these tools handy. You may not need all of them, but they won’t hurt to have at the ready!
- Work gloves. A good pair of heavy-duty canvas work gloves goes a long way, especially when you’re dealing with sewage and wastewater.
- Safety glasses. Unclogging a main sewer line can get… splashy. Unless you like the idea of getting wastewater in your eyes, we recommend wearing safety glasses.
- Water-proof work boots. Your shoes are probably going to get wastewater on them, so now is not the time to flex those brand new Adidas you got for Christmas. Get some good, durable, and most importantly, waterproof work boots and throw them on – things are about to get messy.
- Pipe wrench/plumbing wrench. Sewer cleanout/access pipes are typically pretty tight, and unless you’ve been hitting the gym with The Rock, you’re probably going to want to have a wrench handy.
- A sewer line auger. You can rent one of these plumber’s augers from any home improvement store, or buy one for yourself so you have it next time you need it.
- A garden hose with a high-pressure nozzle. This will help you clean the inside of your sewer cleanout pipe, as well as rinse off the sewer line auger.
How to fix a clogged sewer line in 10 steps:
Step 1: Locate your main sewer line access pipe.
Your main sewer line access pipe can usually be found in your front or backyard, near the street. It’s a good idea to take some time to familiarize yourself with its location before you need it, so you don’t spend precious minutes scrambling around in the dark at 11 PM when your tub is overflowing with sewage.
For help locating your sewer line cleanout, check out this blog post by The Original Plumber.
Step 2 (optional): Call a plumber for a video camera inspection.
It’s always a good idea to identify the problem before you attempt to go in and fix it. Imagine going in for surgery and asking about the procedure and you hear:
“I’m not sure, let’s crack you open and find out what needs fixing!”
You’d probably run for the hills. So, why should it be any different with plumbing? You want to know exactly what you’re fixing before you attempt to fix it. It could be tree roots, a damaged pipe, a clog – there are a million things that could be wrong with your sewer line.
The only way to know for sure is to have a plumber do a video camera inspection.
Of course, you could just have a go at it without a video camera inspection, but we always advise that you have one done beforehand. We offer free sewer cam inspection services with any drain cleaning purchase, so don’t hesitate to give us a call at (626) 448-6455.
Step 3: Use your pipe wrench to loosen the sewer line’s access pipe cap.
As we stated above, this cap is going to be on there pretty tight – so you’re going to want that pipe wrench handy. It’s good to loosen it little by little so that the built-up pressure inside of your sewer line doesn’t suddenly blow the cap off and spray wastewater all over the side of your house (& your face!).
Step 4: Pry the cap off from a distance and let the built-up wastewater drain.
Remember when we told you not to wear your brand-new Adidas when fixing your clogged sewer line? This is why.
When you remove the cap from your sewer line access pipe, it’s most likely going to overflow. In fact, you can count on it overflowing and spilling into the ground around you. The reason you’re going to want to do this from a distance is that the water may gurgle & spurt around for a few seconds while it’s draining.
This is normal, so be patient and wait for it to stop.
Step 5: Hose down the exterior of the pipe & surrounding area.
If you’re not squeamish, you can skip this step.
But if this is your first rodeo, then it’s a good idea to hose down the exterior of your sewer access pipe as well as any surrounding areas that have been splashed so you don’t have to touch them and get wastewater/sewage on you.
If your access line is near the street, then it’s a good idea to try to direct all of the sewage into the gutter and towards the direction of a street sewage drain.
Step 6: Get your plumbing auger and feed the cable end into the drainpipe carefully.
Before you rent or purchase a plumbing auger, make sure you read the instructions and watch any video tutorials about how to use that particular auger. Each auger is different, so you want to make sure that you know how to use yours correctly before attempting it.
Generally speaking, though, the goal of using a plumber’s auger is to keep forcing it into the pipe until it hits something. When you hit something, stop, and continue to the next step…
Step 7: Continuously run the auger back & forth to clear the clog.
Now that you’ve hit the clog, jiggle it back and forth using the cranking mechanism attached to the auger. This will loosen the clog and, hopefully, clear it. You will know that it’s clear when the water level in the sewer access pipe begins to go down. Don’t stop running the auger back and forth until this happens.
If it doesn’t happen, and you’ve been running the auger for over an hour with no results, then we have bad news – there are probably some tree roots that have decided to turn your main sewer line into their vacation home.
Give us a call and we can help you evict them with a good hydro jetting service.
Step 8: When you’re confident that the clog is cleared, remove the auger.
Remember when we said things were going to get… splashy?
Go and get your garden hose with a high-pressure nozzle attachment on it. With the hose in one hand and the other hand on the auger’s cranking mechanism, slowly pull the auger out of your sewer pipe while making sure to spray it down as it comes up the access pipe.
This step is necessary so that you don’t put the auger back into its reel with sewage debris all over it… which, if you’ve rented it from a home improvement store, is always a good idea.
Step 9: Spray down the inside of your sewer line access pipe.
With your high-pressure nozzle, spray the inside of your sewer line access pipe to clear away any leftover sewage or wastewater from the inside of the access pipe itself. You don’t want that stuff hanging around for the next time someone needs to pop the lid off of that access pipe.
Step 10: Replace the cap & hose down any debris from the surrounding area.
Use your hands (hopefully not your bare hands, we’re assuming that if you’ve made it this far that you have work gloves on!) to hand-tighten the cap back onto the top of the sewer line access pipe. When you can’t tighten it by hand anymore, use the plumbing wrench to tighten it as much as you can.
Now, with your hose & high-pressure nozzle, spray down the surrounding dirt, mud, grass, concrete, or asphalt where the access pipe is located so you don’t have sewage and wastewater drying in that area. If your access pipe is located near a street, direct all of the debris into the cutter or towards the public sewer drain.
Make sure to call Western Rooter & Plumbing if you’re in the San Gabriel Valley or Los Angeles County of Southern California!
We don’t recommend trying major plumbing fixes without first calling a plumber. That being said, we feel that this particular fix is somewhat more accessible to homeowners, since everything needed can be rented from a home improvement store, and as long as you follow this blog post, there’s not much of a possibility of causing damage to your plumbing pipes.
If you’ve made it this far and your main sewer line is still clogged, give us a call at (626) 448-6455 for help and we can give you an estimate at your home!