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Basic Sewer Care

What Typically Clogs Sewers

Greases and Oils

These problem substances, including bacon grease, butter, frying oils and peanut butter, often called "Public Enemy Number One" by sewer experts, are the primary cause of sewer line blockages. Home owners, whether connected to a public line or their own septic system should above all, never pour greases down the sink. Instead, it should be poured into a spare jar with a cover, stored under the sink to settle and then emptied into the trash. If this is not done, the substance will harden in the drain and stick to the sides of the pipes therefore trapping items and eventually filling the drain.

Paper Products

As it may be known by many, materials such as baby wipes, diapers, feminine hygiene products, cotton balls, tissues and paper towels are not able to dissolve in sewer lines. If flushed, they can build up and get caught in the pipe, resulting in clogs and backups. Bath tissue, which is specifically tailored to dissolve before it reaches the main sewer line, is the only paper product that should be flushed - ever. Do not be fooled by packaging that claims that its products are flushable, since they are, most of the time just as much a problem as those not marked as so.

Hair and Lint

Humans, and animals as well, are known to lose some hair while bathing or being bathed. When these fine materials add up, they tend to mat in the drain, thus leading to a clog that is tricky to solve. Chemical remedies are marketed, but it is suggested that a more gentle alternative be taken. Hair clogging can also be avoided by the use of a drain protector, which can be easily found on the internet or in a retail store.

Natural Damage to Sewers

Cracked Pipes

A common problem throughout American sewers, cracked and burst pipes stem from an array of causes - the main one being lack of maintenance. The clogging of pipes, as just discussed, leads to extra pressure on the pipes' walls, which then form cracks to relieve themselves. Other issues that can cause cracked pipes are the entrance of tree roots through tiny holes or joints, unstable weather (the frequent freezing/thawing of the ground), earthquakes, main-line backups and lastly, aging.

Tree Roots

Tree roots, while unable to be controlled, are one of the primary causes of sewer line clogs, especially in older homes. The pipes of these homes are fragile, cracked, any most likely being crushed by the roots of surrounding trees. Alone, tree roots would not be able to penetrate the surface of a sewer line. However, with the presence of racks, it is possible for them to grow into pipes, creating a whole new issue for those just experiencing leakage from cracks.

Identifying Problems

Before you experience a sewer back-up, there are several signs that appear. In order to avoid such an unpleasant experience always keep any eye on the condition of your sewer and its behavior.

Questions to Ask

  • Does your drain run slower than usual?

  • When water drains, does it gurgle?

  • Does water drained elsewhere appear in certain appliance? (i.e. bathtub or sink)

  • Is there any wetness around the floor drain in your basement?

  • Have you experienced any sewer-like odors?

It has been said that "your house talks to you" in regards to sewer issues and that you should always listen to it. If any of these things happen to occur at your house, contact help immediately, before things get any worse.

Taking Care of Your Sewer

In order to prevent any of the common issues mentioned above, it is important to follow the advice given on this page. Some final tips, as recommended by other authorities much like ours, are as follows.

Simple Sewer Issue Prevention

  • Flush your garbage disposal with plenty of water, and whenever possible, dispose of larger food scraps in the trash.

    • If possible, start a compost pile for common items such as coffee grounds, egg shells and other food wastes except for met, dairy products and bones - these should always go in the trash.​

  • Store grease in a container, allow it to harden and dispose of in the trash.

  • Put all heavy paper items (feminine hygiene products, baby wipes cotton balls, tissues, q-tips, etc.) in the trash and NEVER the toilet.

  • Screen all possible drains in your home and make sure to use a lint trap on your laundry hose.

  • Have your sewer line cleaned periodically.

  • Never put pharmaceutical substances or other hazardous materials down your drain or in your toilet.

  • Avoid planting trees or other plants around or over your sewer line.

Wrap-Up & Important Messages

The common approach to a sewer system is something along the lines of "out of sight, out of mind" until there is a serious issue and a very unpleasant one at that. Blockages, overflowing appliances and flooding are all expensive issue, and subsequent spills and overflows from sewer backups can cause serious damage to local waters, neighborhoods and even environments. If everyone attached to the public sewer lines took these tips to heart, there would be far less complication for everyone. Being aware makes all the difference - please make sure to educate friends and family so that we can all work together to improve our local conditions!

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