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Plumbing drain cleaning is the key to preventing back-ups.

Water flows downhill, so most drain systems are gravity flow systems.  Each drain flows down to a larger branch drain, and the branch drains connect to the main sewer drain that exits your property and leads to the city sewer or your septic system.  Along with the drain and waste pipes, vent pipes integrate into the system to allow sewer gas to be vented above your home.  Each drain and vent can become clogged, cause back-ups, and necessitate plumbing drain cleaning and repair.

If you have a back-up, prior to a plumbing drain cleaning, you must do two things:

  1. If the back-up is severe and water has overflown into your home, get the water out ASAP;
  2. Determine whether the clog is localized in the drain for a single fixture or adjacent set of fixtures, if the problem is with the vent pipes, or if the clog is in the main sewer line.

Pumps work well for removing large volumes of water, wet-dry vacs are good with solids, and use a push broom if the water is shallow and contains debris.  Once you have removed the water, use dehumidifiers, air-conditioning, and fans to dry the area.  Discard anything saturated, remove anything salvageable, remove any wet or water stained areas of drywall, and disinfect the area.  After the back-up is contained and cleaned, you can move on to finding the cog and performing plumbing drain cleaning. If you need help visit our drain cleaning Indianapolis service page.

There are several ways to determine whether the clog is localized or in the main sewer line.  First, check several plumbing fixtures throughout the house.  If the main sewer line is clogged, fixtures on higher floors may drain normally while the lowest level fixtures do not drain at all, or even overflow back into your home.  If only one fixture is backing-up, the clog is likely local to that fixture and you can clean the plumbing drain yourself, without the aid of an experienced plumber.  If more than one fixture is backing-up in the same part of your home, but other drains are working properly, a branch drain or vent line is likely clogged and must be cleared.  A simple at-home remedy may work in this situation as well, but depending on the location and severity of the clog, an experienced plumber may be needed to clean the plumbing drain.  If multiple fixtures are backing-up in different areas of your home, it is very likely that the main sewer drain from your home is clogged.  You may be able to clean the main sewer drain with a snake or pressure device, but if the clog is caused by tree roots or a damaged sewer pipe, more serious intervention is required.  If you have a septic system, the cause could also be that your system is full.  If sewage is backing up into your home beyond just an overflowing toilet, then the city has a major blockage and you should contact your city immediately.

If you determine that the clog is localized to a fixture or group of fixtures, you can take several steps on your own to perform the necessary plumbing drain cleaning:

  • If the clog is in a single fixture, look into the fixture’s trap with a flashlight.  If the problem is in the trap, you can easily clear it manually.
  • Use a toilet plunger to clear a simple blocked drain.  Make sure that the rubber cap of the plunger fully covers the drain and that the sink is filled with water.  If the fixture has an overflow vent, hold a wet cloth over the vent opening so the pressure the plunger applies pushes on the obstruction, rather than just backing water up through the vent.  Plunge for several minutes if you need to; it can take time to dislodge a remote blockage in a drainpipe.  However, plunging may not work to clean a plumbing drain if the blockage is partial, and it will not remedy the issue if the cause is an actual constriction of the drain line.
  • Use a plumbing snake to clear a blocked drain.  Standard plumbing snakes can be purchased at your local hardware store.  If your clog requires a power-snake, it is best to leave the job to an experienced plumber, as power-snakes can be dangerous to operate.
  • Use a kinetic water ram to clean the plumbing drain.  Kinetic water rams use compressed air to clear blocked drains.  They can unclog drains even when the clog is in a distant area of the drain, and they can be purchased or rented at most hardware stores.
  • Only use commercial drain cleaner as a last resort because it is toxic and can corrode pipes.

If the at-home remedies don’t clear your clog, call an experienced plumber to perform professional plumbing drain cleaning.

A bad odor or a gurgling sound at a fixture can indicate an issue with a plumbing vent.  The vent line may have deteriorated or separated, allowing sewer gas to vent into your home.  Check vents for blockages.  Small animals, insect nests, snow, and ice can all cause blockages and necessitate plumbing drain cleaning.

If the problem is not local or in a vent, then the issue is likely with your main sewer drain or septic tank.  The sewer drain line is the main drainage piping starting two feet outside the outer foundation of your house.  The most common causes of sewer back-ups are:

  • Tree roots clogging pipes
  • Fats, oils, and grease going down the drain;
  • Connecting things to the sanitary sewer system that are not permitted;
  • Soil settlement over time;
  • Collapsed pipes.

The sewer drain cleanout is usually located on the lateral line about two feet away from the house.  Check for standing water in the cleanout by removing the cap.  If there is no water, the back-up is between the cleanout and the house and is your responsibility.  If the cleanout is full, the stoppage is likely in the city’s main sewer line and you should contact your city.  Before cleaning the main sewer line, shut al electricity, water, and gas to your house.  If there is any possibility that sewage may have encountered your home’s forced or central AC, call professionals.  If you were away from home and sewage has been inside your house for over 24 hours, call professionals.  You may be able to clean the main sewer drain by yourself, with a plumbing snake, but if the clog is too severe, you will likely need to call an experienced plumber for professional plumbing drain cleaning services.

Kelson Carter

Article reviewed by:

Kelson Carter, aka, The Prince of Plumbing

Kelson is a 3rd generation Plumbing Contractor. His family business is located in Greenwood, Indiana, and provides Residential Plumbing Service to the Indianapolis Metro market.

Kelson grew up watching his grandfather and father do plumbing. After graduating high school, Kelson went to Trade School and became a Licensed Master Plumber and Licensed Plumbing Contractor. He is also Certified in Backflow Prevention. He currently owns and operates Carter's My Plumber with his parents.


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