A Blog

A Blog

Egg Shells and Coffee Grounds in the Dishwasher

Standing water, along with debris, such as egg shells and coffee grounds in the dishwasher could be from one of two reasons.  The debris either got there from not thoroughly rinsing dishes while depositing trash in your dishwasher.  Or, the discarded particles may have arrived in the bottom of your dishwasher through the drainage piping for the sink.

Familiarize your self with the components by opening the cabinet beneath the sink, look at the piping.  You will notice some tubing attached to the side of the tailpiece directly beneath the strainer basket in the sink's drain assembly.

dishwasher tailpiece
When water is carrying debris or, let's say it is just plain water, 9 times out of 10 the tubing on the side of the tailpiece is where water and debris find a path to the dishwasher.  That is your dishwasher's discharge line.

The discharge line is there to carry the grey water from a dishwasher to the sanitation piping and on to the sewer.

If you have a garbage disposer, the discharge hose is attached high on the garbage disposer.

dishwasher to garbage disposer
One thing you can check is to be sure the knock out plug on the disposer is removed. (This would be a step in diagnostics for a new or recent disposer installation) If not, the knock out plug will not allow discharge from the dishwasher to enter into the sinks drainage system.  Also, see if the discharge line is secured above the drain under the sink.  If it is not, then, any liquid carrying debris from the sink can be diverted to the discharge line and gravity does the rest to lead waste water to the dishwasher.

dishwasher plumbing diagram
People who discover this condition in their dishwasher usually say they do not use the dishwasher very often.  This is why they will occasionally  notice standing water at the basin of the dishwasher.  The water has had an opportunity to exceed the level of the internal pumping chamber where it makes it's appearance.  Some people will say it is stagnate and has a foul odor and dark color.  Again, water that has had time to accumulate and is carrying organic waste will do that.  Need help, give Anchor Sewer and Drain Cleaning a call in Rhode Island and S.E. Massachusetts

What is a Cleanout?

A clean out gives access to a plumber or sewer and drain cleaner in order to relieve a clogged sewer from a blockage.

The sewer cleaner will need to be sure the sewer is not holding sewage at the cleanout before he opens it. When it is determined the sewer, at the location of the cleanout is not going to allow sewage to escape when the cleanout cover is removed, the sewer and drain cleaning technician will set up his equipment in that area.

Prior to removing the cover, precautions should be made to be certain no sewage escapes. Have a bucket placed under the cleanout. Maybe even a tarp on the floor, depending on the work space. Occasionally, buildup will be found in the mouth of a horizontal cleanout. Rather than send this down the sewer, pull as much of this out of the sewer as possible in order to prevent a sludge blockage that is difficult to clear unless high pressure jetting is used.


The sludge (BUILD UP) extracted in this cleanout was pulled out by inserting a cable for the purpose of cleaning roots from the interior. The roots had been creating a blockage for so long, organic material became sludge in the line. The line could not be cleared by using a cable. The sludge had to be flushed with high pressure water jetting.

If the plumber or sewer and drain cleaning service can not locate a cleanout inside the building, where sewage is not going to escape the sewer system, the sewer and drain cleaning service will need to "bleed" off the sewage into a bucket and transfer it back into the sewer after the sewer is able to conduct sewage. The sewer and drain cleaning technician should be prepared to bleed off several gallons of sewage before the cleanout cover can be completely removed.

As shown in the picture above, cleaning a sewer can not always be done with a sewer snake or main line sewer cleaning machine. If the cleanout is inside the home, jetting may not be possible from this location, without risking a tremendous amount of back wash into the home or place of business. In the photo above, the jetting was done through a cleanout located in the garage floor.

Location of a cleanout is also a very important consideration. Suppose you have a cleanout in the garage floor or driveway. If vehicles are constantly running over the cleanout, what could happen, is the vehicle will force its weight down onto the cleanout. The cleanout will be forced to bare the vehicle's weight or cause the vertical riser beneath the cleanout to sink into the plumbing below. This would create a blockage that could not be relieved without excavating the broken pipe fittings below.
Here is an image of a cleanout located in a driveway, where vehicles stand a good chance of running over the cleanout.

Unclog My Sewer

Cabling a sewer is not something an inexperienced person should attempt.  However, rental facilities and home improvement stores encourage people to venture into performing such task.

Questions you will want to ask yourself before you attempt to clear a blockage from your sewer line  are:

  • Are you on a septic system?
  • Do you have a back water valve on your sewer line?
  • Do you have a house trap on your sewer line?
  • Do believe you have roots in your sewer line?
  • Do you have a lift station in line with your sewer?

If you are on septic and not city sewer, you should first perform a visual inspection of your septic system to be sure your septic tank is sending effluent to the leach field.  If not, put cabling your sewer on hold until you have an understanding as to why your septic system is failing.  If you attempt to cable the main sewer line from inside the house, you must know if you remove the cleanout plug without caution, you could find yourself standing in a lot of sewage.

Running a cable downstream, toward a septic tank can cause you problems.  For example if your send your cable too far out into the tank, the cable can get tangled in the tank.  Chances of getting it out without having to go in the tank and retrieve it are slim.  So, be careful as to how far out you allow your cable to travel.  Most of the time, cabling a sewer line can be done from the tank to the house.

If you have a back water valve:

back water valve

attempt to discover where the blockage is on the sewer line.  The back water valve itself can hold debris and cause a blockage.  If the blockage is in the back water valve, this takes patience and skill to relieve the blockage.  Do not push a cable through the back water valve.  Especially if there is no access to service the valve.  You may not be able to retrieve the cable without excavating.

If you determine the blockage is downstream of the back water valve or in the back water valve, find an access point on that end and attempt to cable from there.  A safe and effective method for relieving a blockage in the back water valve or down stream of it, is by using a sewer bladder.  A sewer bladder is used to create positive pressure on the blockage.  Attach a garden hose to a hose bib and the female threaded end of the sewer bladder to the male end of the hose.  Insert the sewer bladder in to the pipe so that no part of the bladder protrudes over an opening or a branch fitting.  The bladder expands with water pressure.  If the bladder does not have equal pressure on all sides of the bladder, the bladder can over inflate and rupture.

Another tip in using a sewer bladder is, there should be no branch line downstream of the bladder.  If there are branch fittings (meaning, drain lines pouring into the line you are working on), attempt to get the bladder past the branch fitting.  Or, find an access point where you know there are no other openings for the pressurized water to be diverted to.

If you are pressurizing a sewer line, and there is an opening between the bladder and the blockage, the pressurized water will divert to the fixture that open drain line serves.  You may still be able to clear the blockage with the head pressure you are creating.  However, be careful because the water may overflow a sink or shower elsewhere.

Roots are another issue that can cause a cable to become stuck in the sewer line.  Again, here is another opportunity to spend thousands of dollars having the line excavated.

If you have a lift station, your cable can get entwined with electrical cables, chains and rope all found in the holding tank of the lift station.

House traps present their own problems.  If your sewer has a house trap also known as a main line trap, you should understand where to cable from, what direction the cable will travel and how to avoid having to put a lot of force on the cable.  You don't want to force the cable.  Especially if the reason the cable is not going anywhere is due to the possibility of your cable sitting against a cleanout cover on the trap.

The Roll of the Sewer Vent

Sewer vents are a hit and miss problem among plumbers and drain cleaning services.  For one, an occluded pipe cuts off the flow of air from the roof vent when water is inundating the sewer line.  So, even if the pipe occlusion is in the drain arm, the ventilation will be a problem.  However, the problem does not necessarily get solved through the roof vent.

Another reason sewer ventilation is difficult to finger as the culprit for a slow drain is a lot of preparation is needed to scale the roof to perform a visual inspection of the roof vent to confirm it is clear or blocked.  Most people would rather try their hand at cabling the line first, than to go on a roof as part of the diagnostic protocol.


roof vent

There are a few signs to follow in order to know if you are having a vent problem. If you are draining the tub, and you can hear gurgling in the sink in that bathroom or nearby fixtures, you have a ventilation problem.

If you drain a fixture higher in elevation than another, and the water slowly leaves, only to arrive in the lower elevated fixture, then quickly drains from the lower fixture, you have a vent problem.

If your roof vent is totally blocked, you won't even be able to flush the toilet.  Unless you inspect the roof vent, you may be lead to believe you have a blockage in your main sewer line.

My Dishwasher Won’t Drain!

Oddly, you may find standing water at the basin of your dishwasher. Do not be too worried, yet.  There are a few common causes which may lead to a quick fix.  Calm down, put on your thinking cap and set aside ideas of costly repairs or replacement.  (For standing water but the water drains out when you set the dishwasher to drain, see Coffee Grounds and Egg Shells in My Dishwasher)

If your dishwasher will not drain, try manually setting the dishwasher to rinse.  The dishwasher should drain and refill.

If manually setting the dishwasher to drain does not get the pump to discharge and allow the dishwasher to refill, try clearing the float.

Dishwasher float

The float switch tells the dishwasher when to interrupt the fill cycle and not allow anymore water into the basin of the dishwasher.  However, it also serves for another purpose, that is to tell the pump to discharge and empty water from the basin.

The float switch may be described as what appears to be an upside down cup.  Often, this switch gets jammed with food particles or other debris that did not make it to the garbage can or garbage disposer.  In order to clear the float, some rotate and allow you to remove the cover.  Others rotate and or lift up and down.  Try clearing the float.  If this does not work, there may be a problem with the pump or some other aspect of relaying the message to discharge water.  You will then need to call an appliance repair man.  Calling a repair man is not very expensive. Most will diagnose and give you a free estimate to make the repair.

When attempting to get an appliance repair person to give you a free estimate, do ask over the phone if they offer free estimates before the technician is dispatched.

Diagnose a Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposers are among the worst offenders when having kitchen sink back ups.  This is usually the result of an object, inadvertently being washed into the kitchen sink drain and impeding the grinding chamber. (NOTE: Garbage disposers are intended as a companion to the dishwasher.  Therefore, garbage disposals are to dispose of small food particles and biodegradable organic matter that arrives in the sink while rinsing dishes. Exercise caution.  If you feel you need help, contact Anchor Sewer and Drain Cleaning Service 508-838-9645 in S.E. Massachusetts or Rhode Island)

Normally, before the garbage disposer will overheat and self destruct when the grinding chamber is ceased, the circuit will trip and stop the flow of electrical current to the disposal.  If your disposal does not make a sound when turned on, the internal circuit breaker has tripped.  Do not attempt to reset this until you have determined why the circuit has been interrupted.  Resolve the cause first.

Though the circuit breaker is tripped, be sure the switch supplying power is in the off position.  You may even want to disconnect power from the main circuit panel as an extra safety precaution.



Here are the steps to trouble shooting the garbage disposer:

  1. Before looking into the disposer, be sure power is disengaged and there is no way anyone will inadvertently supply power to the garbage disposal while you are working on it.
  2. Use a flashlight and peer into the grinding chamber of the disposer.
  3. If you see an object that would obstruct the ability for the grinding chamber to move, look for a 1/4" allen wrench. Most garbage disposals come with a 1/4" allen wrench.
  4. Beneath the garbage disposer, in the center, you will see a hexagonal hole.  This is where you will use the 1/4" allen wrench. Turn the kitchen sink faucet on, if the sink still drains.   Insert the allen wrench in the hexagonal hole beneath the disposer.  Begin working the wrench clockwise and counter clockwise.  This should help work the obstruction loose.  When the chamber feels it is moving more freely than when you first started working with the wrench, turn the faucet off.  Reach into the disposer (all power off) and remove the obstruction.
  5. Back to the bottom of the disposer, find a button.  This is the internal circuit breaker for the garbage disposal.  Push it.  Resupply current to the garbage disposer switch if you turned it off at the breaker panel.  Turn the water on, then the switch.  The garbage disposer should work if it has not burned itself out.  If there is still debris left in the grinding chamber, you will need to repeat these steps.

Avoid using a plunger.  Only plunge the disposer as a last option.  Plunging could force the seals in the disposer out of place and create leaks.

Clogged Sink Drain in Cold Weather

Northern winter temperatures effect drainage, as well as water piping.

You are washing dishes and pull the plug to allow the water in the sink to drain. Suddenly, the drain stops. You try drain opening chemicals. You plunge the sink. You attempt to use a drain auger (cable or snake). Nothing is working.

Screenshot (6)

As you attempt to restore flow to the drain, you will notice one of two conditions. You cable so far, and your cable seems to have hit a brick wall. Or, you cable until you have no cable left and have not encountered any resistance and still no drainage. Aside from having grease buildup or food blocking the drain line, frozen drain piping may be the reason your sink will not drain. In the illustration above, freezing occurs two ways.

If your sink is on  an outside wall, as water is run through the drain, over time, layers of ice build with every use of the sink.  Water runs in and settles at a point where the temperature inside the wall is freezing or below.  Each time the water is run, another layer of ice builds on top of what was previously formed.

If you have a garbage disposer (garbage disposal), you will actually accelerate the process of creating a blockage.  What you are doing when using your disposal during freezing conditions is not just adding water to the drain as it is building the restricting layers of ice.  But, you are adding density. Build up occurs faster.  So, in freezing weather, avoid using the garbage disposer.

In addition to the description above, another way for blockage to occur is by restricting air flow.

Vapor from sewer gas or steam from hot water rises and settles against the interior of the vent pipe.  Given enough time, the vent becomes restricted with a buildup of frost, formed by vapors and or steam.

How to thaw your frozen drain.  First, be sure the vent is not the problem.  If you are cabling your sink drain and encounter no resistance, know your vent is within 6 ft. - 8 ft. from the trap and you have put 10 ft. to 15 ft. of cable in the drain line, you may have restriction in the vent.  Go up on the roof and look down the pipe that is smallest and comes through the roof, closest to your sink location.   If you see frost, in the pipe, run water from the garden hose down the vent.  If the vent overflows, push the hose down the vent pipe as far as it will go.  Chances are, you are now getting the warmer water directly onto the spot where the vent pipe is restricted with frost.  When the water begins to drain, congratulations, you have now restored the vent and may now have a functional sink drain, providing you do not also have a frozen drain in the wall.

If your drain arm in the wall has frozen, allow heat to the cabinet where the pipe disappears into the wall.  Now, you are going to have to go through a long process of running scalding hot water until the sink backs up, vacuum the water completely out of the sink and the drain line.  Repeat the process.  Eventually, the ice will melt and you will have to minimize the use of that sink until the weather returns to normally expected temperature.  I did this recently and it took over two hours to restore flow to the drain.

Drain, Vent & Waste

Kitchen Sink Dwv


This kitchen sink drain diagram illustrates inefficient piping.

  1. Too many elbows
  2. Length of the drain line
  3. Inside diameter of the pipe for the application
  4. Poor venting

From the kitchen sink, the piping generally disappears into the wall behind the cabinet.  The piping will run horizontally to a tee.  From the tee, the pipe will become vertical.  Gravity will lead water down from the branch of the tee.  And, air will flow in from above the tee, through the sewer or plumbing vent.

Proper installation of the plumbing system will determine problems or efficiency in the use of the drain.  In the diagram above, the vertical pipe from the tee leads down to a 90 degree bend.  The pipe travels horizontally for a short distance and then drops from a second 90 degree bend.  Following the drop, there is a third 90 degree bend then the pipe is horizontal until it runs over to the stack and meets a 45 degree bend and then drops into the sewer.
The use of 90 degree bends should be avoided where possible.  Limit to necessary use.  What occurs is, the grey water from the kitchen sink becomes vented when it drops through the branch of the tee.  However, the ventilation is lost as soon as the waste water piles in the 90 degree bend after dropping from the tee.  From there, the grey water, levels out and is now vented from the air in the sewer.  But, then there is a second horizontal drop where the water meets another 90 bend.  The water will level off and then travel to the sewer.
You may be wondering why the 90 degree bends are a problem.  The answer is, the vent is choked off, water stops flowing until the air inside the pipe can vent it.  The waste water may carry debris that will lodge itself in the bends of the pipe or in imperfect pitched pipe.  Once this occurs, the build up will become a restriction and then, eventually a blockage.

Where possible, use 45 degree bends to move the sewage through vertical to horizontal transitions.  This allows the vent line to be maintained.  Also, determine the amount of volume that will pass from the sink.  The standard for drains found in a home is based on a 1 1/4" to 11/2" drain from the fixture.  Your drainage line should be 11/2" to 2" diameter, depending on the use.  If you are piping a bathroom sink drain, you can reliably use 11/2" drain pipe to discharge water from the sink to the sewer.    If you are piping a kitchen sink with more than one compartment, be sure to drain each compartment to an 11/2" pipe then to a larger pipe when branching to the other compartments.  This will allow air flow to continue when two compartments drain simultaneously.

Questions?  Contact us.  Anchor Sewer And Drain Cleaning - 508-838-9645