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A Clogged Drain Vs. A Clogged Sewer Main

Clogged Drain
Reading Time: 3 minutes

If your drains are backing up, making gurgling noises, or emitting a really bad smell, you definitely have a plumbing problem that needs attention. The question is, is this a clogged drain or is your main sewer line blocked? To answer that question, you need to understand the difference between a drain and the main sewer line.

What Is The Difference Between A Drain And The Main Sewer?

Although both drains and main sewer pipes drain away wastewater, there are some major differences between the two.

What Is A Drain?

  • A pipe that serves only one building
  • It carries water and wastewater away to the sewer system
  • Different drains serve different purposes – some carry water to a natural reservoir or body of water
  • They can be natural or artificial.

What Is The Main Sewer System?

  • A complex network of underground pipes. They are always artificial.
  • They serve more than one building.
  • They transport wastewater and human waste to treatment plants or disposal points
  • They never transport water or human waste to a natural reservoir or body of water.

How Do You Recognize A Clogged Drain?

Once you know what to look out for, you will easily be able to identify if the blockage is in one of the drains, or if the blockage is in the main sewer pipe. Here are some signs that your drain is clogged:

  • The water from the bath, shower, or kitchen sink drains very slowly.
  • Water backs up in the shower, bathtub, or sink.
  • There may be puddles of water on the floor near the sink, bath, shower, or in the laundry.
  • You may notice your toilet water bubbling.
  • The blockage will not affect all the plumbing fixtures, only the fixture where the pipe is clogged.

Causes Of Clogged Drains:

With a little extra care, we can prevent our drains from clogging. Here are some common reasons for clogged drains:

  • In the kitchen, a build-up of grease, soap, food particles and food particles in the garbage disposal, often result in clogged drains.
  • In the bathroom, a build-up of soap and toothpaste, could over time, result in a clogged drain.
  • A build-up of feminine hygiene products, wipes, and toilet paper, can clog the toilet drain.

All drains must be checked and cleaned regularly. You do not have to use a harmful chemical to do this, there are a lot of natural methods you can try:

  • Plunging – when doing this, be sure to cover the other drains e.g. in a double sink, so that the debris gets flushed down.
  • Snaking – a drain snake is a tool that is fed down the drain to dislodge the debris.
  • A cocktail of hot water, followed by baking soda (leave for a few minutes), thereafter flushing with vinegar and boiling water, will naturally loosen the grime and allow it to drain away.

How To Know If The Main Sewer Is Blocked

The sewer line transports the wastewater from your home to the main sewer line. A blockage in the main sewer line is a very serious plumbing issue that results in raw sewage backing up and damming in your home. This is not only very unhygienic but if left unattended, it results in very expensive and destructive evacuation work.

Signs That The Sewer Main Is Blocked

There are a few telltale signs that your sewer main is clogged.

  • Drains run very slowly, even after they have been cleaned.
  • Several plumbing fixtures are affected at the same time, for example, if you flush the toilet, water backs up into the shower or if you drain the bathroom sink, the toilet water level will rise. If only one plumbing fixture is affected, then the blockage is probably only in a secondary sewage line.
  • Water backs up into multiple plumbing drains.
  • A gurgling noise can be heard from multiple plumbing fixtures.
  • A strong sewage smell comes out of the drains.
  • You will see and smell sewage in the floor drains.
  • You will find drain flies in your home.

What Causes The Sewer Main To Block?

A blocked sewer main negatively impacts plumbing throughout the home. There a few things that can cause the main sewer line to clog and ultimately block altogether.

  • Tree roots – These enter the drain through tiny cracks and feed off the nutrients in the sewage and grow in number and size. Tree roots can block the drain completely.
  • Feminine hygiene products.
  • Toilet paper and wipes.
  • Hair transported from household drains.

If you suspect that the main sewer line is blocked:

  • Shut-off the water source at the mains.
  • Remove the cap from the cleanout line (the short, round white pipe in your lawn or near your house.) This will release the pressure that has built up, and send the water away from, and not back into your home.
  • Call a professional plumber. This is not the time for “Do It Yourself” They will remove the blockage and do a camera inspection. Any damage to the sewer main will be reported to the local sanitation department.

If you think you have a clogged drain or sewer main, you need to ask for professional help immediately. Call Art Rooter, Sewer & Drain Cleaning on our emergency hotline 1-888-773-1524. We have qualified professional technicians ready to help you anytime, and we don’t charge extra on weekends during regular business hours.


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