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Sewer Drain Cleaning:
How to Clear a Clogged Sewer Line


Sewer drain cleaning requires a diagnostic approach to successful clearing of a clogged sewer drain.


Sewer Drain Cleaning



Basic knowledge of how sewers and building plumbing works is required to do a proper sewer and plumbing drain cleaning.


Home Sewer SystemTypical home sewer system layout


Sewer drain cleaners start their diagnostic by:

Roots Found While Sewer Drain CleaningRoots clogging sewer

  • Locating the floor drain or fixture with the symptoms of a clogged sewer

  • Find the fixture that serves the blocked sewer pipe

  • Ascertain if the blockage is in a trunk or a branch line

  • Find the best location to start rodding

  • Where is the largest sewer clean out?

  • Which sewer clean out will give access to the largest drain pipe

  • The sewer clean out will give access for the cutter head to break through the blocked sewer pipe

  • Ascertain if an assistant is needed with rodding and to prevent damage or injury of property or technician

  • Oops, you meant sewer roddingOops...
    you meant sewer rodding NOT hot rodding!
    Select the best rodding machine and cable

  • See if the sewer needs draining prior to accessing the sewer clean out to prevent any water damage

  • Start the machine to start sewer pipe cleaning

  • Measure the distance to where the sewer pipe opens

  • Measure the distance to where the sewer rodding cable meets resistance

  • Rod all the way until the trunk line or city main is reached

  • Rewind the cable taking notes of distance when hitting hard spots
  • If a hard spot still exists, work the cutter back and forth until it’s cleared

  • While removing the cable, note the type of debris being removed from the sewer; this may be a clue to other potential problems

  • Seal the sewer clean out plug and pressure test

  • Test the line to see if the drain pipe remains open

  • If the blocked sewer is un-clogged, and remains so for several days then consider the operation successful

If the pipe clogs shortly after sewer drain cleaning it may be for two reasons:

Using a Sewer inspection Camera after a Sewer Drain CleaningSewer inspection with camera

1The debris or roots in sewer lines were not entirely cleaned out. It is nearly impossible to know if all the debris has been cleared without following up with a sewer inspection camera. A camera inspection system will help determine if the job has been completed or if the sewer pipe requires further work. A video sewer line inspection should only be done in the event of recurring clogged sewers, otherwise the time and cost is excessive.


Sewer Jetter used in Sewer Drain CleaningSewer jetter used in sewer drain cleaning


A recurring clogged sewer drain may indicate a larger and more complex problem that may not be solved with a conventional rodding machine and may require a sewer jetter.

Keep in mind that sewer and drain lines have a limited useful life. Unfortunately sewer pipes break for many reasons and occasionally need complete replacement.

If the drain and sewer piping is old and improperly installed the rodding procedure may take a long time. While the cable follows the sewer pipe downstream, it may suddenly stop indicating an improperly installed sewer line.

Sewer pipes will accumulate lots of debris and even roots in the sewer line that may require many attempts to break through and remove the debris. Even so, after sewer drain cleaning is successful,  there is no guarantee that clogged sewer drain occurs again.


Clogged sewer drain

Sewer drain cleaning will expose any pipeline problems during the rodding operations. Recurring blocked sewer drains cannot be solved by sewer drain cleaning procedures only - they require a full diagnostic, including a sewer line inspection, and possibly a sewer drainpipe replacement.


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Sewer Drain Cleaning

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