Preventative Maintenance to Ward off a Clogged Sewer or Drain

Sewer and drain line blockages occur due to misuse, wear and neglect. Not much can be done to prolong the life of a sewer line when wear is the culprit for a failing sewer. However, we can address issues of misuse and neglect to prevent having a clogged sewer or a clogged drain.

"Misuse" is using the sewer system to dispose of objects or types and consistencies of fluids for which the sewer and drain lines are not intended to convey for disposal. (Grease, petroleum, cooking oil and dissolved fat).

"Neglect" is when we take the position of 'my sewer is out-of-site, out-of-mind' and it is autonomous and self sufficient.

Both, 'misuse' and 'neglect' will result in a clogged drain or a sewer back up. Even if you do not abuse your sewer and drain lines, a video inspection of the sewer line should be done in order to provide the home owner with peace of mind and time to prepare if it appears the sewer is becoming unreliable due to root intrusion or wear.

Let's start with the garbage disposer (garbage disposal)

Ideally, the garbage disposer is used as a companion to the dishwasher. When we are about to wash dishes, pots or pans, we prepare by scrapping the large amounts of discarded food into the waste basket. Then we rinse those items in the kitchen sink. It is here that you will normally have a strainer to strain off those particles. After rinsing the dishes and cookware, lift the strainer from the kitchen sink strainer basket to empty it in the trash can. The garbage disposal allows us to omit using a strainer. However, in operating the disposer, we should allow for a generous amount of water to rinse the line, even after the garbage disposer is turned off. Using the garbage disposal with large quantities of left over food from a meal or cleaning out the refrigerator constitutes misuse. Also, you should avoid using the garbage disposer to grind rinds or fibrous foods. Fibrous foods such as celery or grapefruit rinds can jam the garbage disposal and simultaneously create an abusive use of the sewer and drain system. (See "maintenance" under Bathroom drains in this article). If your disposer does become jammed, there is the possibility of freeing it up. The garbage disposal should have an internal breaker that will trip under the load. Under the garbage disposer, there is a 1/4" allen key or hex wrench hole. Insert a 1/4" allen key or hex wrench and turn it clockwise and counter clockwise while running water. This should free up the grinding chamber in the garbage disposal. Be sure the power is off. Reach in the mouth of the drain and remove the offending item from the garbage disposer grinding chamber.
There are added issues with a garbage disposer and dishwasher that can be of concern and are potentially hazardous to your property. Overflowing dishwashers that do not get used. The usual suspect here is, improper installation. Water tends to travel from the discharge tube at the connection to the sink drain or garbage disposer and down to the dishwasher basin. This can be prevented if the hose is at some point lifted and secured higher than the connection to the drain. Refer to this post to see a diagram.

Bathroom drains

What can we say about the bathroom sink drain. A lot of unintended misuse occurs at the lavatory to create a clogged bathroom sink. Toothpaste, shaving cream, hair gel...etc. are hard on drain lines. Even if you use hot water to flush it passed the drain line to the sewer line, the water eventually cools and there sits the congealed paste, oil and gel. What we can do to provide maintenance to bathroom drains as well as the kitchen sink drain is introduce a bacteria or prepackaged selection of enzymes formulated for house hold drains. Ultimately, bacteria is the better option since bacteria will produce the correct enzyme to destroy buildup based on what elements the "sludge" is comprised. Bacteria will also destroy odor causing bacteria. See Bathroom Sink Odor.


The bottom line here is, do not flush anything that is not intended to be flushed. Flushable wipes are not going to traverse a cast iron sewer. Anything is "flushable" to a point. Flushable wipes should not be disposed of by any other means than the bathroom waste basket. They will only flush to where they get caught or the water runs passed them. Then, the "flushable" wipes will sit in the line, trapping particulate matter and building sludge. Or, they will certainly trap any other non-flushable items such as feminine hygiene products, paper towels or napkins.

Root Intrusion use Root-X

Root intrusion occurs where the sewer is not sealed and sewage leaks into the earth. During the winter months, it may appear the trees and shrubs are dormant and no growth occurs. However, cold climate produces an arid atmosphere. Trees and shrubs need to absorb water to ensure they do not dry out due to arid air. During the winter months, the ground temperature is a constant 56 degrees below the frost line. If sewage is leaking out, be certain that roots will find there way into your sewer in cold or warm temperatures. If this happens, the roots need to be cut out. However, a root destroying product such as Root-X should be used to prevent growth within and around the sewer after the sewer line is cabled. Even better, high pressure water jetting will be more effective at clearing the roots from the sewer and then follow up with Root-X. Some communities, such as East Providence, Rhode Island will pay to have a member of their community receive a Root-X treatment on a clogged sewer line where the blockage is due to root intrusion.

Chemical Maintenance (Bacteria, Not caustic, acidic and corrosive drain cleaners) -

Chemical maintenance will greatly reduce issues with clogged bathroom sink drains and clogged kitchen sink drains. Chemical maintenance is also very good for ensuring grease and sludge will not build in your main sewer line and create a back up.