Clogged sewers are a major pain in the neck, and the results can be a horrible, wet, sticky, unpleasant mess. In fact, a sewer line clog can cause water and raw sewage to back up in your home. While raw sewage is horrible enough, water can cause structural damage and act as a breeding ground for mold.
Although a clog can happen in any sewer line, there are some strategies for spotting, preventing and cleaning clogs that should be a part of every homeowner’s maintenance routine. You may ask, “How can I tell if I have a sewer clog?” There are some telltale signs that your pipes are clogged, and like most things, catching the problem early is likely to reduce the damage and repair costs. It is best to act as quickly as possible when you notice problems, as even a small issue can turn into a catastrophe.
1. Watch Your Drains
Because you have close encounters with your drains every day, keeping an eye on them is a simple enough task. If water collects in the bottom of the shower or tub while you bathe, this could be an indication that the sewer line is clogging up. The same goes for when you brush your teeth at the sink or wash the dishes.
Toilets are another way to tell if something is wrong with your sewer line. If you flush and hear water gurgling in the bathtub or shower drain, there is probably a blockage somewhere in your pipes. One sure sign that something is amiss is if when using your washing machine, your toilet or shower drain overflows. If several drains in your house are slow, backed up, or are making gurgling noises, it is time to consult with a professional. On the other hand, if you are experiencing problems with a single drain, and the rest of the house is fine, it is more than likely the one drain that is clogged; not the main sewer.
2. The Nose Knows
One of the most apparent signs of a sewer clog is an unpleasant smell. Nothing gets your attention quite like the unmistakable smell of rotting sewage. Because the stench of sewage is so distinct, if you think you smell it, you’re probably right. So be aware, and don’t hesitate to take action if foul odors are pervading your home.
3. Check the Sewer Clean Out
The sewer “clean out” cap is a white, twist-on cap in your yard which provides access to the sewer line. If there is water flowing out of or standing in this pipe, you have a clog. If this is the case, it is time to call in the big guns. Sewer drain specialists will use what is known as a “plumber’s snake” or auger to clean the sewer. If this fails, they usually have an optic camera that they can run through the line from the house to the public sewer system. It is used to assess the condition of the pipes, as well as identify any complications such as leaks, broken joints, clogs, corrosion, broken or collapsed pipes, and tree roots that may have infested the line. Sewer lines are considered to be the homeowner’s responsibility, so unless you are renting your home, you will probably be liable for any repair charges.
4. Sewer Clog Prevention
Since you never want foul water backed up into your home, and because you don’t want the expense of having your sewer line cleaned and repaired, we offer up some tips for preventing clogs, or at least prolonging the inevitable. These tips won’t stop tree roots, but they will help keep your drains as free of gunk as possible.
The best way to prevent drains from clogging is to be careful about what goes down them. There are many things that don’t belong anywhere near the drains. For example: Grease, coffee grounds, and hair are the biggest threats to an unclogged drain. Keep cooking oil in an old can or milk container and throw it and coffee grounds in the trash.
It is best not to flush baby wipes, diapers, tampons, maxi pads, cotton swabs, paper towels, or anything made of heavier material than toilet paper. Even if the manufacturer claims items are flushable, it is good practice just to throw them in the trash.
Also; as a side note, you should always avoid putting solvents, paint, or other chemicals down a drain.
Regular maintenance can make a big difference as a preventive measure. Running hot water through the sinks after each use helps keeps grease and food moving through the drain; rather than collecting on the interior of the pipes. Baking soda followed by hot water is an excellent cleaning material. Pour a cup of vinegar down a drain and let it sit for a half-hour, followed by hot water. Vinegar acts as an organic solvent that eliminates buildup.
If you think that you need a sewer drain cleared, or if you are having any of the issues mentioned above, find a good plumber and schedule an inspection immediately.
There are reputable sewer line clearing specialists that can handle the job. Do an online search for your area, and when you find a couple of likely candidates, check with the Better Business Bureau’s website to see how they handle complaints. You can also check with sites such as Yelp to look for customer ratings and testimonials.