Is there a clog in my main sewer drain?

Is your toilet emitting strange burbling noises? Does water bubble out from your shower while running your washing machine. You can rest assured that your house is not haunted. These are amongst the signs that indicate you might have a choked main sewer drain line, which is a severe plumbing problem. The plumbing all over your house can be impacted by a clogged sewer drain line. In extreme scenarios, you may end up with raw human waste backing up out of your drains.

What leads to a choked sewer drain line?

In the majority of cases, especially in old houses, the smooth operating of your sewage system can be hampered by tree roots. Tree roots attracted to the moisture and warmth of a sewer line, creep in through loose joints or tiny cracks in the plumbing. These roots, feeding on the abundant nutrients over there, grow and block the sewer line. Eventually, other debris including toilet paper gets trapped by the roots, preventing water from flowing freely through the main sewer drain line.

Flushing sanitary products, like extra-thick toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, facial tissues, or even paper towels, can clog your sewer line too. However, these problems are limited, considering that sewer pipes are typically 6″ in diameter. In other words, clogging the drain requires a lot of loose material.

Signs of a Clogged Sewer Line

Check for these early cautionary signals of a clogged sewer line, so that you can fix the problem before it escalates into a costly emergency.

All of your drains are draining slowly, despite your best efforts to unclogged them. The chances are that the blockage is in your sewer line if you have unsuccessfully attempted all of the DIY unclogging pointers in this list sans any solution.

Several plumbing fixtures are clogged simultaneously. If your shower, tub, kitchen sink, and toilets are all backed up, chances are you have a blocked sewer line. Toilet outlets have the biggest drain line and the most direct route to the sewer. Your toilet will be first affected in case the clog is in your sewer line. In case your toilets are working fine, but the other fixtures in your home are still draining slowly or are backed up totally, your main sewer line probably does not have a block.

Does water back up into or comes up in the shower or tub when you flush the toilet? This happens when the sewer line is clogged, preventing water from flushing down the drain. On the contrary, it flows back up the pipes and surfaces at the lowest point… typically the shower drain.

Do your toilet gurgles and bubbles when you run water in the bathroom sink? This happens due to air trapped in the plumbing system. Run water for about a minute in the sink closest to the toilet. You may have a clogged sewer line if the toilet gurgles or if the water level rise in the toilet.

Does water backs up in the shower or tub or does the toilet overflow when your washing machine drains? You probably do not have a blocked sewer line in case your toilets are flushing correctly.

How to Unclog a Sewer Line

Thankfully, you can restore your plumbing system to pristine condition by taking prompt action.

Release the pressure:

Turn off the water supply from the main supply when you first observe symptoms of a clogged sewer line. Survey your roof, basement, or yard and see if you can locate your sewer cleanout line. This is typically a 3 or 4-inch diameter short white pipe, sealed with a screw-on cap. Remove the cap after identifying the cleanout line. This ought to release the pressure in the sewer line and force any backed up water into your home to drain.

Chemical drain cleaning:

You can use chemicals to remove the clog in your sewer line if they are caused by tree roots. Certain plumbers suggest killing tree roots by flushing copper sulfate down the toilet; however, this substance quickly flushes away, implying that you may have to repeat the process several times to clear the clog. Be aware that certain municipalities prohibit the use of copper sulfate. Also, it is not safe for septic systems. Try flushing down a root-killing foam that contains the dichlobenil (an herbicide) down your toilet in case copper sulfate is not a suitable option for unclogging your sewer line. Its foam adheres to the pipes and eliminates the tree roots in a couple of hours. However, it may still require a couple of months for dead roots to be eliminated from your sewage system.

Mechanical cleaning of drains.

Professional sewer cleaners possess tools for removing clogs from main sewer drain lines. One of the most popular tools is a flexible and specially designed cable known popularly as a drain snake or an auger. This tool is often used electricity to run. A few of them are truck mounted and are fed bit by bit into the sewer line until the plumber can reach the clog and break it apart. Plumbers may also employ a high-pressure water jet to blow away other debris and tree roots down the sewer line. While you “can do this job yourself by renting these tools, both of them can damage your pipes if misused.” according to the Arizona plumbers at Therefore, it is best to leave this cleaning job to a professional.

Camera Inspection.

You can request for a visual (camera) inspection to find out the cause of the blockage if the water jet or auger does not unclog the sewer line. The miniature camera can reveal breaks and cracks in the sewer pipe, as well as other issues in the line that may require the attention of your local sanitation department.

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