How to Clean a Sewer in 7 Simple Steps

If your toilet isn’t flushing properly or you can smell sulphur in your shower, the chances are you have a sewer problem.

How to clean a sewer isn’t something most of us have ever had to learn. But it isn’t difficult and knowing what to do can save you the trouble of calling out a professional plumber.

With the right equipment and a willingness to smell some things you never really wanted to, you can clean out the blocks in your sewer lines.

To help you handle this dirty job in the right way, we’ve put together the 7 simple steps you need to follow.

Read on to become a “pro” sewer cleaner

1. Identify That You Have a Problem

The first step in learning how to clean a sewer is to work out that you have a sewer problem in the first place. There are some common and easy ways to tell if your sewer is blocked.

If your shower floods or doesn’t drain properly you probably have a blocked sewer line. If you can hear gurgling in your water pipes it could well be the sewer. If your toilet doesn’t flush as it should, it could well be time to clean the sewer.

Cleaning a sewer is only recommended when you think the blockage might be caused by a simple block in the line. These blockages usually come from flushing things other than toilet paper and waste down the toilet. If you think this is what you’re dealing with then taking on the cleaning project is something you can do.

If you are concerned it might be something else, you’ll need a professional. One of the most common, but serious issues is when a tree root cracks a sewer pipe. Look for trees near or over where you think the sewer line is.

Once you are confident your block is caused by something simple you can take on this “lovely” job yourself.

2. Locate the Drain Pipe Cleanout

Depending on how old your house is, the drain pipe cleanout could be inside, outside, or not exist at all. If you have a basement check near the wall where you think the drain comes in. Outside, look for the drain pipe raised above the ground.

Once you’ve located it, it’s time to get yourself ready for this dirty job.

3. Protection and Equipment Are Crucial Parts of How to Clean a Sewer

You’ll want some heavy-duty gloves. Wear old clothes you don’t mind getting a little dirty, too.

Rent a plumbing snake from a DIY store. These aren’t cheap to rent but they’re much cheaper than buying one or paying a professional.

You can even rent a sewer cleaner that comes with its own truck. For most jobs that don’t need a professional, you should be ok with a gas-powered cleaner, though.

4. Remove the Drain Pipe Cap

Now you know where the drain is and you’ve got your equipment and protective gear, open up the drain cap.

Loosen the cap a bit first. When you’re ready, quickly remove the cap completely and step back out of the way. There’s a good chance that any backed-up sewage will bubble out of the top of the drain.

Let the sewage spill out and stop before moving on to the next step.

5. Enter the Plumbing Snake

The plumbing snake you have rented will have a long hose and claw-type end. Feed this hose into the drain. Push the hose down into the drain until you feel resistance.

That resistance is, hopefully, the clog that is blocking your sewer line. When you feel resistance, carefully push the plumbing snake through the blog as much as you can.

6. Run the Plumbing Snake

Once you’ve got your plumbing snake into the clog, run the engine. Allow the plumbing snake to run until the clog is completely removed.

When the clog is gone, the water in the drainpipe will start to go down. The water will drop until you can’t see it in the drainpipe cleanout anymore.

Keep running the machine even after the water has dropped. the hose will continue to work its way down the pipe. It might find other clogs and remove those, too.

7. Remove the Plumbing Snake

Once you are sure the blockage has gone, slowly pull the hose back out of the drainpipe. As you do this, clean the hose off with a garden hose. Run the water over the plumbing snake as you wind it back on to the rented sewer cleaner.

Once you have the plumbing snake out of the drainpipe, spray the garden hose at full blast down the drain. This will help remove any debris that the plumbing snake has pulled back with it as you pulled it out.

Put the drainpipe cleanout cap back on and close it tightly. You don’t want any fumes coming out of the cap. A tight seal will also help drain water from your sinks, toilet, and shower.

Learning How to Clean a Sewer Can Save You Money

Knowing how to clean a sewer can save you from having to hire a professional. You’ll save money and you should have your drains running once again.

If you don’t notice an improvement, you might have a more serious issue, such as a broken pipe. In that case, you will need to call a plumber in to make sure.

Follow the steps in this guide. Make sure you are prepared and have the appropriate clothing and equipment. Take your time and you’ll be able to make sure the sewer pipe is cleared out and ready to go again.

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