7 Proven Plumbing Maintenance Best Practices to Avoid Sewer Blockages

Imagine waking up on an average day. The bathroom is likely your first stop as you brush your teeth and shower for the day ahead. Next up, you fill the coffee pot, cook breakfast, rinse the remains down the garbage disposal and run the dishwasher. By 8 a.m., you’ve already put half of your home’s plumbing to use. And that’s just you—your dependence on these fixtures only amplifies if the little feet of family members are running around prepping for the day too. The last thing you need is a sewer blockage clogging your pipes (and keeping you from your coffee!).

But with repeated misuse or failure to practice proper plumbing maintenance, blocked sewage drains are exactly what you’ll get. Your home’s sewer lateral plays a critical role in carrying your wastewater away to the municipal sewer main. If the wrong item goes down a pipe, it could accumulate in the sewer lateral and prevent wastewater flow from your home. The resulting sewer backup would be a major setback to your typical day. To avoid an at-home catastrophe, get familiar with plumbing pitfalls and understand how to keep pipes safe from a blockage.

What causes a sewer blockage?

A sewer blockage occurs when debris builds up or congeals in a home sewer line, steadily getting worse as more items get caught in the mess. The biggest offenders are non-flush-friendly items, grease and invasive tree roots. Debris stops wastewater en route to the municipal sewer, causing sewage to backup into your home’s drains.

Aside from the obvious inconvenience, blocked sewage drains also pose a major risk to your home and your sewer lateral. Pressure building within your home’s pipes can cause the sewer line to crack, leak or collapse altogether. Even if you’re relatively careful about what you wash down the drain, many home sewer systems were built decades ago and could already be deteriorating. The best way to protect your home and prevent a sewer backup long-term is to practice preventative plumbing maintenance and use drains wisely.

How to Prevent Drains from Clogging

Most people have contended with a clogged toilet or slow-draining shower in their lifetime. While frustrating, unplugging a single drain is a relatively easy fix. The problem is, how you treat each individual drain can impact your entire home if issues escalate in the sewer lateral. To be on the safe side, preventative plumbing maintenance best practices can help you avoid the most common sewer blockage culprits.

1. Don’t Throw Tricky Table Scraps Down the Disposal

If you’re tempted to treat your garbage disposal as, well, a garbage, remember anything you toss down there is carried in a direct line to your sewer lateral. Starchy items like rice, potatoes and pasta congeal in water, forming a solid glob that can wreak havoc on your pipes. Similarly, potato peels can take on a paste-like texture once ground up and mixed with water, creating a sticky situation for your sewer pipes.

Other foods to avoid include nuts, fruit pits or seeds, banana peels, egg shells, celery and corn husks. Damage to your disposal leads to problems breaking down other food items, which in turn can form blockages further down the sewer line.

2. Avoid Dumping Grease Down the Drain

You’ve likely heard food grease and cooking oil aren’t meant to be washed down the sink—and for good reason! Grease coats pipe walls and forms a thick film over time, limiting pipe flow and making your plumbing less efficient. Grease might not seem like a major issue right away, but once it has a chance to solidify in place, a sewer blockage is only a matter of time. Don’t risk greasy gunk building up in your sewer line; instead, pour it in a container or dump it onto an absorbent paper plate or towel before tossing it in the trash.

3. Limit Flushing to Toilet Paper Only

Toilet paper is designed to dissolve in water, but other paper products like tissues and paper towels absorb water, meaning they won’t break down when wet and may even expand in your pipelines. As you can imagine, it doesn’t take much for wads of paper towels and tissues to form a soggy clog. Even wet wipes labeled as “flushable” are a threat to your sewer line because they don’t disintegrate in water, either. Stick to toilet paper so you’re not giving your pipes any heavy-duty materials to latch onto.

4. Equip Drains with Strainers or Hair Catchers

Like any other material, hair builds up over time and can eventually form a significant clog, preventing flow through your sewer line. Shedding hair is unavoidable in the shower, but hair catchers can fit inside your drain to snag both human and pet hair before it collects in your pipes. If you find yourself frequently snaking the shower drain, consider preventative plumbing maintenance like a hair catcher to quickly keep up with and dispose of hair clods before they become hair clogs.

Similarly, when rinsing or hand-washing dishes in the kitchen sink, a drain strainer plays defense against stray food items so scraps aren’t automatically washed down the sink. Anything you can do to prevent large items from entering your pipes is one extra layer of protection against sewer blockages.

5. Run Hot Water Regularly to Eliminate Grime & Buildup

What’s an easy plumbing maintenance task you can do yourself, no tools required? Let hot water run for a minute or two in your sinks and tubs. Regularly rinsing out your drains helps to remove soap scum and grease buildup that could escalate to a sewer line blockage over time. Every little action helps prevent a sewer backup in the long run.

6. Opt for Natural Drain Cleaners

When a shower or sink drain is giving you trouble, don’t turn to chemical cleaning solutions that are supposed to be fast-acting at clearing blocked sewage drains. While the immediate results may resolve the issue, abrasive chemicals are hard on your pipes and can cause pipe interiors to wear down over time. Pouring chemicals down the drain can also add to a sewer blockage and make it worse, potentially escalating to a sewer backup in your home. Instead, natural solutions like baking soda and vinegar react when used together in a drain, helping to dissolve clogs and eliminate gunk.

7. Consider a Sewer Inspection to Check in on Pipes

If, despite your best efforts, you’re still experiencing problems with your plumbing, contact a sewer line repair specialist to see if they can provide a free inspection of your sewer lateral. Professionals use advanced sewer line camera inspection equipment to detect blockages or determine other underlying issues. An inspection also helps sewer repair professionals recommend the safest and most cost-effective way to effectively eliminate the issue with as little disturbance to your property as possible.

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How to Clear Blocked Sewage Drains

Blockages localized to one drain may respond to do-it-yourself solutions like baking soda and vinegar mixes or drain snakes. But multiple blocked sewage drains point to a deeper problem in your main sewer line. To avoid a sewer backup, seek professional hydro jetting or sewer line repair services to safely identify and resolve underlying issues.

At-Home Pipe & Plumbing Maintenance

Tools like drain snakes are sufficient for breaking up or removing clogs in a single drain, so it might be worth a try depending on your comfort level. Other at-home solutions include pouring a ½ cup of baking soda followed by a ½ cup of vinegar down the problematic drain. Plug the drain and let it sit for about an hour before using hot or even boiling water to rinse out the pipe.

However, before attempting any at-home plumbing maintenance, consider if the issue you’re trying to resolve stems from one drain or if your home plumbing has been sluggish in general. If one drain is the clear cause of your problems but you’re still not comfortable attempting to clear it out yourself, a traditional home plumber should be able to tackle it for you. But any repeat issues or simultaneous blocked sewage drains across your home are warning signs of a larger issue impacting your home’s main sewer line.

If your sewer line is the culprit, attempting to resolve the problem yourself can make it worse, and a traditional plumber doesn’t have the tools to effectively rehabilitate sewer laterals. For tough main sewer clogs, trust trenchless sewer line repair and pipe lining specialists like CME Sewer Repair to save the day.

Hydro Jetting Sewer Lines

CME starts every project with a free sewer lateral inspection to pinpoint problem areas in your sewer pipes and find the origin of the sewer blockage. If your pipes are in stable condition aside from the clog, hydro jetting sewer lines is our go-to cleaning technique to safely blast away blockages. Homeowners appreciate hydro jetting because it’s minimally invasive and chemical-free, keeping their property and their people safe in the process.

Using a pre-existing access point in the sewer lateral, we target the blockage with a high-power pressurized water stream, effectively washing away hair clogs, paper towel clumps, grease spots and more. No digging and no chemicals means your property stays intact and your home plumbing will be good-as-new in no time.

Sewer Pipe Repair Solutions for Blocked Sewage Drains

If a professional sewer inspection finds cracks, corrosion or other evidence of deterioration in your sewer lateral, trenchless sewer pipe repair is the preferred approach to restore the lateral without disturbing your lawn. Specifically, pipe relining enables professionals to strengthen the structure of your sewer line from within using a durable epoxy liner.

CME custom-fits the liner for your lateral and inserts it into a pre-existing access point, where the epoxy coats the interior walls of the pipe and reinforces the lateral. The area surrounding your sewer lateral, typically your front lawn or driveway, remains undisturbed and undamaged. We’re typically in and out in just one to two days, but the lasting impact of our pipe relining services is evident with the longevity of our liners, providing 50+ years of stability for your main sewer line.

Contact CME Sewer Repair’s Experts for Recommendations & Reliable Service to Prevent Sewer Backups

Following plumbing maintenance best practices helps lessen the likelihood of a sewer blockage and prevent a sewer backup in your home. But depending on what your pipes are made out of, how long ago they were installed and their proximity to tree roots, not every element is in your control. For peace of mind, CME Sewer Repair offers free home sewer line camera inspections to evaluate the condition of and address issues impacting your home’s sewer pipes. Contact our experienced team in the Ohio Valley and Kansas City Metro to request reliable home service today.

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