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Out of sight, out of mind!  When it comes to waste going down the drain and through the sewer system, the saying, “Out of sight, out of mind,” might be what you are thinking.  Until there is a problem, most homeowners don’t give the drains and sewer system a thought.  Sewer line backups are plumbing emergencies waiting to happen.  Once there is blockage, you might quickly smell the foul odor or see water leaking.  By then you certainly are aware that there’s no time to lose.  A broken sewer pipe repair can cause an ugly mess and be expensive to fix.

Luckily there are signs to tell you if you have a potential clog in your sewer pipes.  Blockage of your sewer lines, bathroom drains, or kitchen drains is one of the most common problems in plumbing.  Food waste, hair, sand, paper, and more can get clogged in a drain, causing the sewer line to backup or crack.  If you have kitchen and bathroom sink drains or toilets that are slow to flush or need regular plunging, this is a sign of blockage in the pipe.

You can also do a test to check for blockage in the toilet.  Turn on the faucet nearest the toilet and let it run for a bit.  If you see bubbles percolating up in the toilet bowl you have air in the line.  The bubbles of air are a sign of a sewage line backup or a cracked sewage line pipe.

Once you suspect clogging, don’t wait for the problem to get worse.  If you recognize one of the above signs, you can try to flush the drains to clear them.  Here are some ways to flush the drains to keep your sewer pipes from clogging.

  • An effective home remedy of vinegar and hot water can be flushed down the drains to unclog waste and debris in your pipes.  Adding baking soda along with the vinegar and hot water can also help clean the drains.
  • Chemical drain cleaners are widely available and can be flushed down the drains to unclog waste and debris.  However, these cleaners are not as effective in reaching beyond the immediate drain opening.  In addition, chemical drain cleaners are acidic, causing them to react with metallic pipes.
  • A plumber’s snake provides a mechanical force with an electric motor to unclog your pipes.  The plumber’s snake can be a little costly and has limitations because of its weight and the ability to control it when cleaning the pipe.
  • Use sewer jetter nozzles, a high pressure flexible hose with a jet nozzle on the end.  The jet forces pressure in both forward and backward directions as you push and pull it along the drain.  A sewer jetter nozzle is usually cheaper than the electric cleaners but can be messy and requires eye protection to prevent contact with fluids coming out of the sewer and drain while you are cleaning it.
  • Use air burst drain cleaners to unclog the drains and sewer lines.  Air burst drain cleaners use compressed gas to force air and carbon dioxide to break up the clogged waste and debris.  These cleaners work fast but do require some protection against eye hazards and gases.

These methods to unclog drains and pipes are good for preventing a suspected problem from getting worse.  But if you are not sure you have a problem, the best way to prevent drainage problems is with regular inspections.  A professional plumber can do a sewer inspection in your home and recognize problems with your sewer pipes before they rupture.  They know what to look for based on training and experience.  And if the problem is out of hand, the sooner you call a plumber the more likely you are to stop the issue from getting worse.

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