The other day, I was watching a Sacramento Kings game with my next door neighbor. It was a close matchup, and he was on the edge of his seat for every play. I guess I must not have been reacting quite as strongly as he was because at one point my neighbor turned to me and asked, “How can you remain so calm during such an intense game?!?!?”
I told him that in my line of work as a plumbing professional, one of my clients is always experiencing one urgent pipe emergency or another, and I pride myself on staying calm so I can take care of the situation efficiently and effectively. Now, the homeowners with toilets backing up or drains refusing to drain are usually another story—but nothing is as stressful for folks as having to call in a professional to clear a clogged sewer line. That’s why I want to talk about what you should do if you’re ever in that situation, and why it probably means it’s time to stay call and call a plumbing expert.
What Should I Do First If My Sewer Line Clogs?
This may sound silly, but the first thing you need to do if you think you have a clogged sewer line is to stay calm—just like I stayed calm during that really intense Kings game that had my neighbor all riled up. You see, in all of the years that I’ve spent dealing with plumbing emergencies, I can honestly say that getting worked up doesn’t make the situation any better. In fact, it can actually make it worse.
As with any plumbing emergency, it’s a good rule of thumb to start by trying to figure what is actually going on. This means paying attention and looking out for the three warning signs of a sewer line clog. Typically, if you’re noticing any or all of the following, there’s a good chance that something is obstructing your sewer line:
- Water is backing up in your drains
- Multiple drains in your home are clogged
- Standing sewage is in your sewer cleanout
If you’re not sure what the root of all the sewer trouble is, it’s a good idea to call a plumbing pro out to diagnose the problem. I’ve seen many homeowners try and fix some plumbing-related problem or another, only to learn that the real issue isn’t what they thought it was.
How the Pros Clear a Clogged Sewer Line (i.e. Why This Isn’t a DIY Project)
I don’t advise homeowners to unclog their own sewer lines; it can be a messy job that takes a lot of skill to execute safely and properly. I do, however, think it’s important for homeowners to know what it takes to unclog a sewer line so that they don’t attempt to do it themselves. It’s also just a good idea to know what to expect when you call in the experts.
The thing is, how to clear a clogged sewer line depends on what is clogging it. Typically, clogged sewer lines are caused by one of the following:
- Tree roots that have broken through the line underground and infiltrated the pipe
- Substances like grease, oil, facial wipes, or sanitary products getting stuck in the line (Friendly reminder: You shouldn’t be flushing these things down your toilet!)
- Collapsed or broken sewer lines
Depending on the cause of the clog, there are a few commonly used professional methods to clear it, both chemical and mechanical, that can successfully unclog your sewer line, including:
- A power-assisted auger fed into your sewer line to mechanically unblock the obstruction
- A high-power water jet with a powerful stream that blasts out roots and clogs from your line
- Flushing copper sulfate or chemical root-killing foam down the toilet to kill tree roots (Note: Many municipalities in our area prohibit this.)
You likely don’t have a power-assisted auger or water jet kicking around your garage, and I wouldn’t suggest experimenting with harmful chemicals on your own. Some problems are better left to the professionals, and I strongly recommend that you call in a pro to help you with this one.
When to Call in a Professional Plumber to Clear Your Sewer Line
Ultimately, the best way to clear a clogged sewer line is to call a local plumbing professional and have them do it for you. Not only do they deal with clogged sewer lines on a regular basis and have the expertise needed to do so efficiently and effectively, but they also have all the heavy duty equipment needed for the task. They’ll be able to see exactly what is going on in your sewer line using a video camera to peer into its depths. Once they know what the problem is, they can employ the most appropriate tools to fix it safely and quickly—and they’ll stay calm while doing so!
Leaving it too long could cause a lot of damage, rack up an expensive bill, and may even lead to you needing a sewer line replacement…
I know that having a clogged sewer line is not something that any homeowner wants to deal with, but I can promise you that if you call a pro immediately when you start noticing the warning signs of a clog, it won’t be that big of a deal. Leaving it too long could cause a lot of damage, rack up an expensive bill, and may even lead to you needing a sewer line replacement, so it’s better to deal with it swiftly. Above all, just remember: Keep calm and call a Bell Brothers pro!
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Image courtesy Unsplash user Nick Karvounis