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 overflows and backups can be a nightmare for homeowners. Waste disposal issues can cause disruptions in your daily activities and potentially harm your family's health and wellness. Untreated wastewater and pollutants can harm aquatic life, contaminate drinking water, and spread diseases.

Understanding the causes of sewer problems helps homeowners prevent minor sewer problems from turning into costly repairs. Frequent maintenance and care help keep your sewer in excellent condition, reducing the risks of sewer backups, wastewater and gas leaks, and other issues.

Although sewer maintenance may require professional help in some cases, you don't have to be an expert to learn how to maintain your sewer lines. Keep reading to find out more.  

Understanding Your Sewer System 

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A sewer system is a network of pipes and underground structures that transport wastewater and sewage from homes, businesses, and other buildings to treatment facilities. The system is designed to remove contaminants and pollutants from the wastewater before it is released into the environment.

Like water pipes, the sewer system faces multiple problems like blockages and deterioration due to wear and tear, improper use, substandard materials, and improper installation. 

As a homeowner, there are several steps you can take to maintain your sewer system and prevent problems.

Sewer Maintenance Tips

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1) Be Careful What You Flush 

Unlike food waste, non-food items are nonbiodegradable and don't break down in your sewer lines, causing blockages that are difficult to address. For instance, dental floss, rubber bands, and pull tabs can clog your sewer lines, requiring you to hire blocked drain and sewer services or expert plumbers in your area. 

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Watching what you flush is preventative maintenance, where you do not have to try flushing things down toilets if you know, they might get stuck or obstruct proper water flow.

Hiring professional plumbing companies entails costs, but you'll save time and money in the long run. Using advanced tools, these professionals can eliminate solid waste accumulation and offer advice on how to care for your sewer better to avoid costly damages. 

2) Dispose of Grease Properly

Grease can stick and accumulate in the sewer pipes, significantly contributing to sewer blockages and backups. Ensure you dispose of cooking oil or grease properly, avoiding pouring it down a drain or flushing it down the toilet. After pouring cooking oils down the drain, it cools and solidifies, clogging and blocking your drain and sewer line. Instead of disposing of your grease and cooking oils down your pipes, dispose of them in the garbage.

Additionally, you can wipe down oily utensils using paper towels before getting them in the sink. If you suspect you may have some fatty residue down the drain, you can drain hot water down the pipes occasionally.

3) Consider Your Landscaping

Tree roots can lead to blockages, clogs, sewer line backups, and leakages in your sewer line, so consider their location before planting trees and shrubs. For instance, eucalyptus trees have invasive tree roots that can penetrate pipes and cause damage to your plumbing system. Keeping them away from your home's cleanouts and sewer is advisable. If trees are already near your sewer line, hire a plumber to check the line. 

4) Maintain Your Cleanouts

The sewer cleanout refers to a capped sewer pipe that gives you direct access to the sewer line to remove blockages. They're usually situated right outside your home in the yard. Regular and proper maintenance and care result in clean and stink-free cleanouts. 

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Besides investing in high-quality drain cleanouts, ensure their covers are intact, secure, and tight. Keep the surroundings clean and remove debris nearby to avoid potential problems. If you ever experience a foul smell from your cleanouts, unscrew the caps and put a little bleach inside to help eliminate the odor. 

5) Install a Backwater Valve

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A backwater valve is a device that prevents sewage from backing up into your home during heavy rain or flooding. During heavy rain or flooding, a backwater valve prevents sewer backups and overflows, protecting your property from damage and preventing health hazards. 

Installing a backwater valve is a great investment that can save you money and hassle in the long run. It's recommended to have a professional plumber install a backwater valve to ensure it's done correctly and to code.

6) Use Natural Methods to Clean Slow Drains

Chemicals can be tough on your pipes, damaging and eroding them. It's best to stick to natural sewer line repair methods. For instance, you can use DIY natural methods to remove clogs by pouring baking soda and vinegar solution down the drain. Let the mixture sit before pouring hot water.

7) Schedule Annual Checks

A plumbing system covers more than your water supply system. It comprises other components such as drainage, pipes, fittings, and fixtures and thus can be complex for untrained professionals. While you can learn things like toilet plumbing on your own, licensed plumbers have the expertise and technology to identify and address potential issues before they worsen.

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Regular sewer line cleaning is important to prevent clogs and damage. If you suspect an issue in your sewer line, schedule an inspection to ensure your sewer line is in good shape and any issues are addressed appropriately. 

Hire a plumbing service to remove clogs and debris and keep your plumbing functional by checking the sewers regularly. Plumbing contractors have the skills, expertise, and access to advanced technology to keep all components in tip-top shape.   

8) Use Proper Garbage Disposal

Ensure it is only toilet paper that goes down the drain each time you are flushing the toilet. A common mistake that most people make is sending condoms down the toilet, understandably. However, such items, including baby wipes, should always be thrown out with garbage and not flushed down a toilet.

9) Watch the Kitchen Drain

There is some food waste that may lead to blockages down the drain. For instance, draining potato peels down a drain might lead to blockage because potatoes do not dissolve in water. Other food wastes that are not fibrous can clog the sewer line. For instance, starches such as rice tend to swell in water, forming a paste-like consistency, which might build up in pipes.

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Coffee grounds are not good for your sewer pipes. Coffee grounds behave in the same ways sand do. Instead of immediately floating away, coffee grounds settle in the pipes, causing clogging. Eggshells behave in a similar way as coffee.

10) Use High Volume Flush

With the ever-growing need for sustainability, there are toilets with a low flush volume. While this technology is a welcome one, there are situations where the sewer line has a negative slope that needs more water to flow. While a negative flow can be taken care of by properly building sewers, adequate water pressure is still needed to push human waste properly to avoid any buildup that may lead to a negative flow situation.

11) Use Single-Ply Toilet Paper

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One-ply toilet paper dissolves relatively faster in water compared to other options. While most people would prefer to go for more layers, they come with the challenge of not dissolving entirely in water. Heavy toilet paper might lead to blockages.

How to Know the Sewer is About to Block

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There are ways to tell if your sewer line is having plumbing problems. Some you can do by yourself, and others, you have to hire a professional to help out.

a) Camera Inspection

You can use a camera to see what is in the sewer line. The camera can help detect any blockages or clogs forming in a sewer line and identify the precise location where that is happening.

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A camera inspection can check the branches in your plumbing and inspect the lines from all water points in your house. A camera inspection is the most efficient way to check where a problem is in your sewer line.

A camera inspection can show you impending blockages and is one sure way to know the sewer is about to block and help you prevent costly repairs.

b) Foul Smells

If you notice a foul smell coming from the sewer line, then there is a chance there is a blockage somewhere. The smells can be coming from floor drains, which have a direct line to the sewer line.

Other than blockages, foul smells indicate that there might be a backflow. If not, then there is a chance the pipe is broken at a certain point near you.

A foul smell is an indicator, and once you notice it, do not be tempted to flush the system using a lot of water, hoping the problem will go away. Water might eventually form a backflow, leading to more problems.

c) Water-Color Change

If you notice the water in your toilet changing its color, you are dealing with a blockage in your sewer line. This problem is more in apartment buildings where all the toilets share sewer lines nearby.

d) Reduced Flow Rate

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Water should flow down the drain at a decent rate. If water is flowing down at a reduced level than you are used to, there is a chance there is a blockage somewhere. You might flush a toilet only for the water to fill the bowl and barely flow away.

The first step would be to try and use a plunger. However, it is better to have the toilets checked before an overflow happens without necessarily going the plunger way.

e) Overflow

When there is an overflow in the sewer line, there is a blockage, or the amount of water flowing down the sewer line per second is more than it can handle. Overflows normally happen outside your in-house sewer line system. However, in some situations, the backflow can reach your house.

f) Gurgling Noises

When you hear gurgling noises after each flushed toilet, the sewer pipe is having a clogging issue. That gurgling noise can either be a good or a bad sign. In a good situation, it means water is flowing too fast, and the pressure created is sucking in the water forcefully.

g) Backflow

Backflow is an obvious sign that the sewer pipe is clogged. If you flush the water and it comes back, say through the shower drain, then the system has a clog somewhere. In such a case, a plumbing company will be of more help than trying to sort out the problem on your own.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sewer Maintenance

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i) What items should not be flushed down toilets?

There are items to avoid flushing down the toilet, including;

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

More items should not be flushed down the toilet. As long as it is solid that will not disintegrate at the slightest contact with water, it is better to throw it in the bin.

There is always a temptation to flush biohazardous waste down the toilet. While this is justifiable, there are better ways to handle such waste. You can get a red waste bag to put the waste inside. Even better, you should call professionals to handle such waste.

ii) Can I flush my phone down the toilet?

Unlike what we see in movies, it is not wise to flush your phone down the toilet as it might cause a lot of plumbing problems. Most people use their phones in the toilets, and in some cases, the phone accidentally drops into the bowl. While it is a hard ask, getting the phone out might cost you less than attempting to flush it down.

iii) What is the importance of sewer maintenance?

Sewer maintenance reduces the risk of a sewer backup that may damage your yard or house. Sewer maintenance further reduces the risk of environmental hazards that might be harmful to residents around you or yourself. Water contamination is one reason to ensure sewer pipes are properly maintained, as both run on the ground.

iv) What is the sewer cleaning method?

Hydro jetting is the method used in cleaning clogged sewers. Water is run down the sewer pipe at high pressure to send the clogged items down the drain. The spray used has a rotating nozzle that is sent down the pipe to break down any debris, making them loose and sending them down the drain.

v) How can we prevent sewer problems?

The best way to keep the sewer line backups at zero is to use preventative maintenance by avoiding flushing or sending solid items down the drains. Using other methods, such as sieves on drains, is another way to keep solid items out of the sewer lines.

vi) What are the solutions to treat sewage?

There are methods to use in treating sewers, including the following;

  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?

Using the toilet as a garbage disposal system is the primary cause of sewage problems. There are other causes, such as structural damage, water overflow, root obstruction, and more.

viii) What are the three sources of sewage?

There are three forms of sewage; household sewage, industrial sewage, and storm sewage.


Sewer overflows and backups are costly and inconvenient, but proper and regular sewer maintenance can prevent their recurrence. Maintaining your sewer lines as a homeowner is crucial for the health and safety of your family, your community, and the environment. 

By following the tips discussed earlier, you can prevent clogs, leaks, and other problems that can lead to costly repairs and potential health hazards. Regular maintenance, inspections, and repairs by a licensed plumber can help ensure your sewer system functions properly and efficiently. By taking care of your sewer lines, you're protecting your property and eventually contributing to a cleaner and healthier environment for everyone.

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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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