Drain Cleaning Tips
Near the town of Kusadasi, Turkey, lies the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus. It’s history dates back to 2000 B.C. – about 4,000 years ago – give or take. What we think makes Ephesus so interesting is that its ruins are so magnificent. The two-story facade of a library that once held thousands of scrolls is nothing less than awe inspiring to view. Marble roads and solid granite columns abound. A most elegant mosaic covered sidewalk remains fully in tact. The shop of a spice vendor can be viewed just as it was when it was open for business twenty centuries before Christ walked the earth. Unbelievable! Even the “user friendly” portion of a public bathroom remains fully in tact. Open trenches lay beneath solid stone benches (with strategically placed holes in them). Both men and women used them – together – all at the same time. How’s that for real community living? Since they didn’t have toilet paper, they used a sponge dipped in water instead. The sponge was rinsed and reused. Actually, if you think about it it meant that the Ephesians didn’t have to worry about toilet paper clogging up their sewer system.
Who ever it was that said that “we’ve come a long way baby” probably wasn’t referring to the frustration associated with cleaning a clogged sewer line. Here it is 4,000 years later and when a sewer decides to back up it can stink up a storm just as much as ever. However, unlike the Ephesians we have “the sewer auger” a snake-like tool made of ultra-modern coiled spring steel that is designed to travel within a sewer pipe – in line and around corners – to dislodge obstructions down the way – even sponges.
The snake is inserted into the sewer line in one of two ways:
- Through an outlet adjacent to a fixture.
- Through a removable cap known as a cleanout (a flat cap with a hex nut in the center).
Either method is acceptable depending on where a clog exists. Sometimes the cleanout is best and other times removing a fixture (such as the toilet) or the fittings adjacent to a fixture (such as the sink trap) can be better. It all depends on which access point is closer to the clog and easier to access. And remember; always start cleaning closest to the point of the backup. Generally speaking if only one fixture is clogged it means that only the line near that fixture is blocked. Cleaning down line or at the main line when a “branch” (or secondary) line is clogged could prove to be an effort in futility – beginning to clean beyond the obstruction just doesn’t work. Regardless of HOW you attempt to access a sewer line there are some common-sense rules that should be followed to make your cleaning attempt a most successful one. Follow these rules and chances are you will come away from this task smelling more like a rose.
Backed up sewage can exist beyond (uphill from) the point you intend to access for cleaning. So this is our first precaution – before opening a cleanout be sure to prepare for a flood of sewage. You’ll need towels, buckets and maybe even some plastic sheeting. As for you, be careful not to be in harms way when the cleanout cap is removed. Be up hill and to one side. If you can’t be up hill then be on the other side of a trench or mote (dig one if you need to) that will help to keep you dry should there be a sufficient amount of sewage to flood your surroundings. Also, keep in mind that sewage can be unbearable to breathe. You may want to wear a breathing mask. If the clog is on a second story then chances are very good that a massive flood will occur if an attempt is made to access a lower level cleanout. Always try to dislodge a clog on an upper-floor from that level. After the clog has been dislodged you can then travel to a lower level to attempt a more complete removal of the debris causing the clog.
The teeth at the tip of the auger can tell you a story about what’s causing the problem. For example: small shreds of roots can indicate that a tree root has found its way into your waste system. No matter what you do to eliminate this problem you are destined for a replacement of the affected pipe. It’s either that or having to deal with constant clogs – and backups. Once a tree roots itself in your sewer it’s over. Just as bad is if the tip comes back covered with mud – something you definitely don’t want to see – your pipe has probably been crushed and there is a 95% chance that it will need replacement.
If a small auger doesn’t do the job a large power auger can be rented. However, take heed here. A power auger in the hands of a novice can end up becoming a pipe shredder. Be sure that you are relatively competent before taking this task to hand. It may be worth calling a plumber and putting up with the infamous “butt-crack” just this once.