Anytime you turn on the sink, run the washing machine or flush the toilet, that water runs out of your sanitary sewer line and into the city sewer or your septic tank. If it gets clogged, all of your drains and toilets will get backed up, too. Avoid an unpleasant plumbing problem or an expensive replacement by preventing clogs in your sewer line.
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Note: If you live in an older house with a clay pipe sanitary service, it will be more prone to backing up because roots can penetrate the pipes, so you’ll need to be a more vigilant.
Flush and drain intelligently. One of the best ways to avoid sanitary sewer line clogs is to be mindful of the items that pass through it. Avoid putting any type of grease, oil, coffee grounds, egg shells or animal fat down your drain. Also avoid flushing items like diapers, tampons, cleaning wipes or paper towels down your toilets. All of these items can create a clogged sanitary sewer line if they get stuck in the pipe.
Locate your sanitary sewer line. You only need to determine the general area, not the exact path of your line. If you have a sewer line cleanout (this is a capped pipe sticking out of the ground about 20 feet from the house) line up its location with your city sewer line or septic tank. That’s where your main line runs. If you don’t have a cleanout line, find where your sewer line exits the house (this will generally be in your basement or crawlspace) and make a note of the direction it’s going. That will be the same general area that your sewer line runs.
Check the ground above your sanitary line for roots. Another big cause of main sewer line blockages is tree roots and rocks breaking into the pipe. Again, this is most common in older pipes made from clay, but it can happen to any type of pipe. If there are a lot of trees around your sanitary sewer line, it’s a good idea to have your sanitary sewer line cleared every 2-3 years. You can do this yourself, or you can hire a professional contractor. This will generally cost $100-$300 depending on how much blockage you had, but they’ll usually do a more thorough job than you can do yourself. Be sure to ask the contractor how backed up your line was – if it was minimal, you can wait longer before getting it cleared again.
If you’ve had a clog, be proactive. If you’ve had a problem with your sanitary sewer line in the past, you’re likely at risk for issues in the future. If you suspect roots are causing the problem, try using a root killing product like RootX or Root Clear a few times a year. If you continue to have consistent problems, consider contacting a plumber to investigate the issue further. A large repair or replacement may be required, but this is often the most cost-effective long term strategy if you’re plagued by sanitary sewer line backups.