Basic Homeowner Tips For Sewer Maintenance

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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Sewer blowouts and backups may be a hell for homeowners. Waste disposal concerns will disrupt your daily schedule and could adversely affect your family’s health and the general well-being. Unmanaged wastewater and pollutants can be detrimental to aquatic animals, contaminate drinking water, and spread diseases.

Knowing the reasons behind sewer problems enables house owners to avoid a small sewer issue from turning into expensive repairs. Regular maintenance and care allow your sewer to stay in perfect shape, thus preventing sewer backups, wastewater and gas leaks and so on.

Despite the fact that sewer maintenance may need professional help in some occasions, you can still learn to maintain your sewer lines without being an expert. Read on to find out more.

Understanding Your Sewer System 

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The sewer system is created by a network of pipes and underground structures that carry the wastewater and sewage from houses, shops and other buildings to the treatment plants. The system is designed to filter out all the contaminants and pollutants prior to the release of the wastewater into the environment.

Similar to water pipes, the sewer system suffers from multiple issues including blockages and corrosion as a result of wear and tear, inappropriate use, substandard material and improper installation.

As a homeowner you can do many things to maintain your sewerage system and avoid problems.

Sewer Maintenance Tips

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1) Watch What You Flush 

Unlike food waste, the non-food items are non-biodegradable and they don't disintegrate in your sewer pipes; therefore, these clog the pipes making it much harder to remedy. Such things as dental floss, rubber bands and pull tabs are clogging your sewer lines and you have to call the experts for the blocked drain and sewer services in your area.

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It is preventive measure, which ensures you avoiding flushing things into the toilet that might clog or obstruct the flow of the water.

Hiring a plumbing professional is not a cheap option, but eventually this will save you money and time. Through the use of modern facilities, this professional can eliminate piles of waste and tell you how to work with your sewer system better so you can avoid expensive consequences. 

2) Dispose of Grease Properly

Grease may get wet and build up in sewer pipes, thus causing major sewer clogs and backups. Make certain that you dispose of cooking oil or grease properly, preventing you from pouring it down a drain or flushing it down the toilet. After disposing of the cooking oil down the drain, once it cools and solidifies, it blocks and clogs your drain and sewer line. Instead of throwing your grease and cooking oils down your pipes, dispose of them in the garbage.

Moreover, oily utensils can be wiped using paper towels before getting into the sink. If you think there is some grease in the drain lines, you can pour hot water down them once in a while.

3) Consider Your Landscaping

Trees and shrubs planting near the sewer line may lead to blockages, clogs, sewer line backups, and leakages in your sewer line, so pay attention to the location of the sewer line before planting trees and shrubs. For example, the eucalyptus tree roots can grow extensively and penetrate water and sewer pipes resulting in expensive repairs. Keeping them a distance from dirt and sewer is something you should do. If trees are near your line, contact a plumber who can check the line.

4) Maintain Your Cleanouts

The sewer cleanout indicates a capped sewer pipe that you use to get into the sewer line directly to remove any slowdown. They are typically located there in your yard. Consistent and detailed care results in clean and fresh smelling cleanouts.

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In addition to that install good drain cleanouts and their covers should be intact, secure, and tight. Make sure that the surrounding is clean and clear debris in the vicinity to prevent unwanted difficulties. If you ever smell a foul smell from your cleanouts, unscrew the lid and put some bleach inside to help reduce the smell.

5) Install a Backwater Valve

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A backwater valve is a type of equipment that is used to stop the backflow of sewage into your home during heavy rain or flooding. The backwater valve stops sewer backups and overflows in heavy rain or flooding; this not only preserves your property from damage but also prevents health risks.

Installing a backwater valve is a great investment which will not only reduce your expenses but also save you from troubles. It is suggested to hire a plumber who can install a backwater valve in a correct manner and in compliance with the code.

6) Use Natural Methods to Clean Slow Drains

Chemicals can be too rough for the pipes, destroying and wearing them away. The most effective way is to use traditional sewer line repair methods. For example, you can opt for DIY natural methods to unclog drains by pouring baking soda and vinegar solution down the drain. Let the mixture stand before adding hot water.

7) Schedule Annual Checks

A plumbing system is more than the water supply system. There are many parts that make it up which is why it is relatively complicated for unskilled people to handle. Although you can become an expert in the toilet plumbing on your own but a licensed plumber has skills and devices required to identify and cure problems even before the situation gets worse.

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The most important aspect of sewer line cleaning is the regular cleaning to avoid clogs and harm. In case you think there is a problem with your sewer line, make an appointment for an inspection to see that your sewer line is in good condition, and the issues are dealt with properly.

Hire a plumbing service to eliminate blockages and the excreta and also inspect the sewers regularly. Plumbing contractors are competent and have the required skills, knowledge on the subject and access to the most advanced technologies which they use to keep all components working properly.

8) Use Proper Garbage Disposal

Make sure that only toilet paper goes in the drain each time you are flushing the toilet. One of the mistakes that many individuals do is flushing condoms down the toilet, however. Nevertheless, they should never get into the toilet and be discarded with the trash instead.

9) Watch the Kitchen Drain

Occasionally, there’s food waste that may clog the drain. For example, discarding potato peels down the drain can lead to clogging because potatoes do not disintegrate in water. Other food wastes, not fibrous and long, can jam the sewer line. For instance, starchy foods such as rice absorb water and form a paste, which would accumulate in the pipes.

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Coffee grounds can cause problems with your sewerage pipes. Coffee grounds act like sand does. In the opposite case, the coffee grounds sink in the pipe causing clogging. The eggshells do the same as coffee.

10) Use High Volume Flush

As the demand for sustainability grows, toilets with low flush volume have been developed. It is certainly welcomed technology, but there are cases where sewer lines have a lower slope which requires more water to flow through it. While a negative flow can be managed by building proper sewers, water pressure is still needed to be adequate enough to push the human waste well so that no buildup can happen to lead to a negative flow situation.

11) Use Single-Ply Toilet Paper

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The one-ply toilet paper easily disintegrates in water as compared to the other options. On the other hand, most people would like to go for more layers, but they carry the challenge of not dissolving completely in water. Heavy toilet paper could block the drain.

How to Know the Sewer is About to Block

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There is how to know that your sewer line is encountering plumbing issues. Some of them you can do alone, and for some you need a specialist's help.

a) Camera Inspection

By using a camera, you can see what is in the sewer line. The camera lens may be useful in detecting any blockages or clogs forming in a sewer line and identify the precise point the blockage or clog is taking place.

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A camera inspection can confirm the branches in your plumbing and also inspect the lines from each water point in your house. A camera inspection is the most efficient way to detect a problem area in your sewer line.

Camera inspection can indicate impending blockages and, therefore, is the best way of ensuring that the sewer will not block and, thus, save you a lot of money for repairs.

b) Foul Smells

When you see that there is a foul smell coming from the sewer line, it could mean that there is a blockage somewhere. The odors might be coming from the floor drains which are directly connected to the sewer line.

Besides blockages, foul smell indicates that there could be a backflow. If not, then it can be asserted that pipe has been broken somewhere near your location.

Foul smell is a red flag, and you shouldn't attempt to plunge the system using a lot of water, hoping that the problem will disappear. Over time, the backflow may occur which, in turn, makes the problem even worse.

c) Water-Color Change

If you see the water in your toilet changing color, it means that there is a sewer line blockage. This problem is more prevalent with apartment buildings whose toilets share sewer lines close by.

d) Reduced Flow Rate

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Water should flush down the drain at a good speed. Low water flow is quite possibly an indicator of obstruction somewhere. Although you flush the toilet, the water stays in the bowl and takes ages to flow away.

The initial step would be to attempt to use a plunger. Nevertheless, I would suggest a check for toilets before hand rather than use a plunger to unclog any overflow.

e) Overflow

When there is an overflow in the sewer line, there is a blockage, or the speed of water flowing down the sewer line is greater than it can handle. Overflows normally occur away from your in-house sanitary drainage system. Nevertheless, in certain scenarios, backflow can flow back into your home.

f) Gurgling Noises

Each flush of your toilet produces gurgling noises as the sewer pipe has a blockage. That gurgle either can be a positive or negative sign. A positive condition means the water is rushing too fast, which creates a lot of pressure and draws in the water forcefully.

g) Backflow

Backflow is the most obvious indication of the choked sewer pipe. Whenever you flush the water and it comes back through the shower drain, then the system has somewhere a clog. If you encounter such situation, it is more advisable to hire a plumbing company than trying to fix the issue on your own.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sewer Maintenance

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i) What items should not be flushed down toilets?

There are things that you should not flush down your toilet such as;

  • Cigarette butts
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Condoms
  • Baby wipes
  • Hair
  • Hard paper
  • Rubber bands
  • Hair bands

Multiple items should not be flushed down the drain. For as long as it is solid like that will not break at the slightest touch of water it is better to put it in the bin.

The temptation to flush the biohazardous waste down the toilet is always there. Though this is understandable, there are still many better ways to manage the waste. You can use a red garbage bag to put in the waste. Not just that, you must also seek assistance from professionals for handling the waste.

ii) Can I flush my phone down the toilet?

It is not very smart to throw the phone down the toilet as it might create a lot of plumbing issues. Majority of people do their things on their phones while in the toilet, so sometimes, the phone accidentally drops into the bowl. However, this is a difficult request, but it might be a more economical option than trying to flush the phone.

iii) What is the importance of sewer maintenance?

Sewer maintenance helps to prevent the likelihood of a sewer backup which may cause damage to one's yard or house. Sewer maintenance reduces the level of environmental risk which the residents around you or yourself are susceptible to. Water contamination is one reason to make certain that sewer pipes are properly maintained since both of them run on the ground.

iv) What is the sewer cleaning method?

Hydrojetting is the method which a sewer pipe is being cleaned. Clogged objects are washed down the sewer pipe using water which is run down it under high pressure. This spray has rotating nozzle that is directed to the pipe that helps to decompose any debris into loose particles which can easily flow down the drain.

v) How can we prevent sewer problems?

The best way for the sewer line backups to be always zero is by using preventive maintenance by never flushing or placing solid things in the drains. Using drains with sieves or some other method is another way to prevent solid objects from going into sewer lines.

vi) What are the solutions to treat sewage?

There are many ways to treat sewage, including the ones shown below:

  1. Nutrient removal
  2. Disinfection
  3. Dissolved air floatation
  4. Sludge treatment
  5. Wastewater reuse
  6. Aeration and mixing solutions

vii) What causes sewage problems?

Clogging the sewer system is the main reason for sewage issues, unfortunately, as the toilet is being used for disposing of trash. This section also discusses factors like structural damage, water overflow, root obstruction, and so forth.

viii) What are the three sources of sewage?

Sewage comes in three forms. These are household sewage, industrial sewage, and storm sewage.


Sewer overflows and backups are not only expensive and annoying but also preventable through regular and adequate sewer maintenance. As a homeowner, taking good care of your sewer lines is indispensable for the safety and health of your family, your local community, and the environment as a whole.

If you put to use the tips provided earlier you will be able to avoid clogging, leaking and other problems that may cause expensive repairs and potential health issues. Proper maintenance, check-ups, and repair by a licensed plumber will help keep your sewer system running efficiently and correctly. Taking good care of your sewer lines means safeguarding your property and later on improving the environment to the benefit of all people alike.

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Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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