There are some tell-tale, early signs of a clogged sewer line that can lead you to address the problem long before it becomes an expensive emergency.

Teach everyone in your household to be on the lookout for these early warning signs so you can keep your pipes clear, and your wallet safe.

  • Slow running drains. If it takes a while for your bathroom sink or bathtub to drain after use, you may have a clog.
  • Multiple plumbing fixtures clogged all at once. If you find your kitchen sink, tub and/or shower, and toilets are all backed up, chances are you have a clogged sewer line.
  • Water coming up through the bathtub drain. Your shower or bathtub drain is the lowest point in your plumbing system, so when you have a blockage and water can’t go down the drain, it flows back up to that lowest point.
  • Toilet bubbles and gurgles when you run water in the bathroom sink. If you notice your toilet water bubbling or gurgling when you run water in the sink, it can be a sign of a clogged sewer line. 
  • Toilet overflows. This can happen when you drain your washing machine.

What Causes a Clogged Drain?

There are several different reasons behind why you might be experiencing a clogged sewer drain. A few of these include:

  • Tree roots growing into pipes
  • Flushed sanitary products
  • Extra-thick toilet paper
  • Baby wipes
  • Items not meant to go down the drain (i.e. kids toys)

Surprisingly, tree roots are the number one problem behind many clogged drains, especially in older homes. Roots search out nutrients and warmth and are often attracted to plumbing systems. They will search out small cracks in your pipes and feed on the nutrients, which will lead to them growing and overwhelming the pipes. Add a bit of toilet paper to the mix and you will start to see your toilet backing up more often or even water coming up through the bathtub drain — both signs of a clogged sewer line.

Flushed sanitary products, too much or too thick toilet paper, baby wipes and foreign objects are all other causes of a clogged drain. This is why you often see signs in public restrooms asking you to not flush anything down the toilets aside from toilet paper. Most adults are aware of this, but young children may need some teaching. Make sure to teach any children in your home to never flush anything besides toilet paper down the toilet, and maybe even show them a proper or ok amount of tissue that can be flushed without any water backing up or clogging the drain.

How to Unclog Main Sewer Line with Chemicals

If you catch a clogged sewer line early on, you can do a few things on your own to help alleviate the problem before having to hire a professional. One of the best ways to get rid of a clog is by using chemicals you can buy from your local grocery store. Learn how to unclog a sewer line with chemicals from these steps below:

  1. Turn off your water at the main supply, and then look for your sewer cleanout line. This is usually a short pipe sealed with a screw-on cap. Remove this cap.
  2. Apply the chemical by flushing it down the toilet. Do this until it’s unclogged. You can use a chemical drain cleaner several times during the year to keep your system clear of clogs.
  3. If your clog is larger, you may need to find the sewer pipe outside and use a snake tool directly on it. This pipe is usually white with a hole in the middle and sticks out of the ground. Follow the instructions on a sewer snake until you encounter the clog and can pull it out.

The top chemicals to use for unclogging a sewer line are copper sulfate, Dichlobenil, or a citrus cleaner. Stay away from acid-based formulas as they can corrode metal and ultimately do more harm than good for your pipes.

Cost of Unclogging a Drain

The cost to unclog a drain can range from a couple of bucks to a couple hundred, depending on if you need to hire a professional. If you can take care of the problem yourself, you’re looking at about $15 for a chemical drain cleaner plus about $6 for a sewer snake. In all, you could spend less than $30. 

However, if your clogged sewer line doesn’t get fixed despite your best efforts, you may need to hire a professional to come and deal with the problem, and that can cost a bit more (unless, of course, your covered by an effective home warranty). Your total will depend on the severity of the clog along with the location.

Average for snaking a drain

If you’re looking at a kitchen sink, bathtub or bathroom drain, the average runs between $109 and $214. A toilet can range from $109 to $273 and a laundry cost is usually around $151 to $214.

Average for a main sewer line clog

If you are seeing more than one drain or plumbing fixture affected, your main sewer line is mostly clogged. This can cost anywhere from $180 to $400.

Average for hydro-jetting, video inspections or more

Unfortunately, snaking doesn’t always solve the problem, or sometimes it’s not the right approach. Hydro jetting uses a high-pressure water jet to eliminate grease buildup costing around $395. If the clog is really bad and the plumber needs to replace pipes, you’re looking at anywhere from $400 to thousands of dollars. That said, if you’re keeping an eye out for the early warning signs and take care of the problem before it gets out of hand, you probably won’t have to worry about hydro jetting. 

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