What Causes a Main Line Sewer Clog

Image of a main line sewer clog

Have you ever run the faucet, flushed the toilet, or taken a shower and wondered where all the water in your house is going? Well, every single one of the drains and pipes in your home feed into the main sewer line.

The main sewer line works incredibly hard all day every day to drain away all the wastewater from your home, but there are a lot of things that can gradually wear away at your plumbing and leave you with a mainline sewer clog.

A lot of people don’t realize that they are responsible for maintaining the sewer line that runs from their house to the sewer in the street. If things go wrong with this line, you must find an experienced plumber to provide plumbing solutions for you. 

It’s also worth knowing how to spot the main line sewer clog and some things you can do to mitigate it. Let’s take a look. 

Signs of a Main Line Sewer Clog

Your main line will clog gradually, but once it’s completely clogged, you will have a really hard time getting it unclogged. So it’s really important to be able to spot the early warning signs of a sewer clog before you experience the catastrophic results of a fully clogged main line.

Dark Water

The first thing that you should look out for is water backing up in your tubs or showers. If you have a clogged main line, the water has nowhere to go when you drain it. The water then begins to move backward, trying to find the lowest point of entry. In most homes, this will be the shower, the bathtub, or the floor drain in the basement.

Of course, this can also happen with other plumbing problems, but the main thing to look out for is the color of the water. If your main line is clogged, this water will not be clear. A lot of waste material is mixed in, it will usually be dark, and have a bad odor. Exercise caution around this water, as it is likely to contain raw sewage. When cleaning up this water, make sure and use proper protective gear and powerful cleaners.

Slow Moving Drains

Are the drains in your house rapidly, or does the water seem to pool every time you run it? Debris accumulates in your drains and pipes over time, which slowly starts to prevent wastewater from moving through them. If you notice that every single drain in your home is starting to slow down, then it’s likely that you have a clogged sewer line.

The toiler drains will usually be the first ones to slow down. If you flush the toilet and the water appears to just linger for a moment before gradually sinking down, then you may have a problem that requires a plumber. 

Toilets are plumbed in directly to the main sewer line, so they’re a good barometer for assessing the health of your pipes and drains. 

Gurgling Noises

If your pipes and drains are not clearing properly, then they’re going to start making some very strange sounds when they’re trying to drain. 

Whenever you run the faucet or washing machine, air bubbles will form as the water drains away, and if it drains away too slowly, it will make a gloopy gargling sound.

Pipes and plumbing run throughout the skeleton of your home, so you’ll likely hear these noises coming from the walls, or maybe even the floors or the ceilings. If you hear these noises consistently, then you should think about getting a plumber in to come and take a look at it. 

Also, pay attention to any hissing or other strange noises that you hear regularly after draining a sink or running an appliance that uses the plumbing.

Clogged Plumbing Fixtures

This is probably the very last and most severe thing that you should look out for to see if need to clear a main line sewer. If your clogged sewer line keeps building up and building up, you’ll start to notice that almost no wastewater will be able to move through the pipe. When this happens, your drains will just flat-out stop working. Whereas before they were just draining slowly, now they are not draining at all, and you have a serious problem.

Remember, all of the pies and drains in your home get connected to the main sewer line. If one line can’t drain to the main line, then everything else will follow suit. You’ve then got a ticking time bomb on your hands and you’re practically just waiting for the inevitable flood of greasy water and raw sewage. Not nice. 

What to Do When Your Sewer Line Is Clogged

So, if you’ve spotted the signs of a clogged main line early, that’s great, it’s the first step in mitigating a giant disaster for your plumbing. The question that remains is: what should you do now? We’ve got you covered. 

Turn Off the Water

First thing first, turn the water off in your home. If you know that your main line is clogged and not draining, then you mustn’t keep fuelling the problem by pumping more water through the system. Turning the water off will also freeze up any of your leaky pipes and prevent them from adding more water to the clogged line. 

In order to turn off your water, you need to find your water main. The water main is the line that supplies your home with all of its water. More often than not, the water main will be located near your water meter, but can sometimes be a little further down your street, depending on where you live. 

After you’ve found the main, you’ll notice that it has a little wheel or lever that can be turned, You want to go ahead and turn this all the way and your water will then be off. Try turning on a faucet in your house to test that it has worked. 

Call a Plumber

You could attempt a DIY fix. It may be that it’s just a small clog that can be easily fixed by anyone. However, the truth is that the majority of main line clogs come from problems much more serious and complicated that you won’t be able to fix without the help of an experienced plumber

Professional plumbers have access to a wealth of line cleaning tools and chemicals that help them to tackle even the most serious backlogs. A plumber will also be able to take a look at the issue and identify what’s causing the clog in the first place. 

While the plumber is at your home checking out the clog, they’ll also make sure to have a look over your entire plumbing system, to see what they can find. This will help you to identify any other problems with your system so that you can sleep easy knowing that all of your plumbing is in safe hands.

Tips to Prevent Clogs

Not every clog in your house will be possible to avoid. Things like broken pipes and growing tree roots are just plain bad luck sometimes. That being said, there are a few things that people do that can make a clog worse, or even cause one altogether. 

Grease and Fat

This one cannot be stressed enough. Never, ever, ever, pour grease and fat directly down the drain. The grease from your pan may be liquid while it’s hot, but once it cools down it becomes a nasty gelatinous substance that can clog drains with no bother at all. 

It’s a major problem affecting sewer systems all over the world. Some sewage companies even have to employ people to go down into the sewers and clean out massive ‘fatbergs’ that have formed in the drains. Yuck 

Use a Sink Strainer

If you don’t have a garbage disposal, then make sure that you use a sink strainer when you’re doing the dishes. These nifty tools will let the water pass through to the drain, but prevent the food from getting into the pipes and clogging them up.

Can it Be Flushed?

Be vigilant about what you’re flushing down the toilet. Even things that say on the packet that they’re flushable aren’t always the best things to be putting down the pipes. 

Avoid flushing any paper material that is too dense and heavy, and definitely always avoid flushing anything absorbent like cotton pads or sanitary towels. 

Find an Experienced Plumber Today

If you have a main line sewer clog, don’t panic. It can seem a bit scary at first, but just remember that help is always at hand. 

Have you noticed any of the warning signs listed above? Then get in touch with us at Home Team Plumbing. Our friendly team of expert plumbers is ready and able to help you with any plumbing problems that you might have.   

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