How To Unclog Main Sewer Line By Yourself

Share this post:

Is your main sewer line acting up, causing slow drains, and unpleasant odors? A clogged main sewer line can disrupt your entire household, leading to multiple clogged drains and even sewer backups. Before you rush to call a professional plumber, know that you can tackle this problem yourself and save on costly sewer line repairs.

Understanding the symptoms and causes of a sewer line clog is crucial. Common indicators include slow drains, gurgling sounds from your plumbing system, and water pooling around fixtures. These signs often point to a blockage in your main sewer drain. The culprits? They range from tree roots infiltrating your sewer pipes to an accumulation of toilet paper, grease, or even household waste in your drain line.

Unclogging your sewer line might seem daunting, but with the right tools and guidance, you can restore your sewer system to proper function. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the entire process, offering practical tips and techniques to unclog your main sewer line effectively. So, roll up your sleeves, and let’s get started on fixing that blocked sewer line and ensuring your plumbing system runs smoothly again.

Main sewer line.

Tools and Materials Needed

Before you start unclogging your main sewer line, gather all the essential tools and materials. Having the right equipment will make the process smoother and safer.

Tools You’ll Need:

1. Heavy-Duty Work Gloves: Protect your hands from grime and potential contaminants in the sewer lines.

2. Safety Glasses: Shield your eyes from splashes and debris when working on the sewer pipes. If you don’t have safety glasses, you can use sunglasses or regular glasses with side protection.

3. Pipe Wrench: Useful for loosening the clean-out plug on your main sewer drain. If you don’t have a pipe wrench, you can use an adjustable wrench or pliers.

4. Professional-Grade Auger (Plumbing Snake): A must-have for breaking up tough clogs in the sewer main line. Ensure it’s suitable for the diameter of your sewer pipe. If you don’t have an auger, you can use a bent wire hanger or a long piece of sturdy wire.

5. Bucket: Place under the clean-out to catch any waste water that spills out.

6. Garden Hose: Ideal for flushing out debris and ensuring the sewer system is clear.

7. Tarp or Plastic Sheeting: Protects the surrounding area from spills and messes.

Materials You’ll Need:

1. Baking Soda and Vinegar: A natural solution to help break down minor clogs in the drain line.

2. Chemical Drain Cleaner: Use cautiously for stubborn clogged sewer lines, but avoid overuse to prevent damage to your plumbing system.

Safety Precautions:

  • Wear Proper PPE: Always use gloves and safety glasses to avoid direct contact with waste water and debris.
  • Ventilate the Area: If working indoors, ensure good ventilation to disperse any unpleasant odors from the clogged sewer line.

Having these tools and materials ready ensures you’re well-prepared to tackle the clogged main sewer line efficiently. This preparation not only helps in managing the sewer clog but also protects you from potential hazards during the unclogging process.

Safety First

When dealing with a clogged main sewer line, safety should be your top priority. Handling sewer pipes involves exposure to potentially harmful waste and chemicals, so taking proper precautions is crucial.

1. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):

  • Gloves: Always wear heavy-duty or rubber gloves to protect your hands from direct contact with waste and contaminants.
  • Safety Glasses: Protect your eyes from splashes and debris. If you don’t have safety glasses, use sunglasses or regular glasses with side shields.
  • Clothing: Wear old clothes or a disposable coverall to keep your skin and clothing clean.

2. Area Preparation:

  • Ventilation: Ensure good ventilation in your work area to disperse any unpleasant odors from the sewer system. Use fans or open windows if working indoors.
  • Protective Covering: Lay down a tarp, plastic sheeting, or old sheets to protect the surrounding area from spills and debris.

3. Handling Chemicals and Tools:

  • Chemical Caution: If using a chemical drain cleaner, follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to avoid damaging your plumbing system.
  • Tool Safety: When using tools like a plumbing snake or auger, handle them carefully to prevent injury or damage to the sewer pipes.

By following these safety guidelines, you’ll minimize risks and ensure a smoother process while unclogging your main sewer line. Always prioritize your safety to effectively manage the sewer clog and restore your plumbing system to proper function.

Two people unclogging the main sewer line.

Step-by-Step Guide to Unclogging Main Sewer Line

Unclogging your main sewer line might seem daunting, but with the right steps, you can handle it effectively. Follow this comprehensive guide to clear your clogged main sewer line and restore your plumbing system.

Step 1: Locate the Clean-Out

  • Find the Access Point: The clean-out is usually a capped pipe located in your basement, crawlspace, garage, or outside near your house foundation. This is your entry point to the main sewer drain.
  • Tip: If you’re unsure where to look, check near your main water line or ask your local hardware store for advice.

Step 2: Remove the Clean-Out Plug

  • Loosen the Plug: Use a pipe wrench to turn the clean-out plug counterclockwise. If you don’t have a pipe wrench, an adjustable wrench or pliers will work. Be prepared for water to spill out, so position a bucket underneath.
  • Safety First: Wear gloves and safety glasses to protect yourself from splashes.

Step 3: Assess the Situation

  • Check for Standing Water: If water is standing in the pipe, it indicates a blockage further down the line. Allow the water to drain out before proceeding.
  • Prepare for Waste: Lay down a tarp or plastic sheeting to catch any spills and keep the area clean.

Step 4: Use the Auger (Plumbing Snake)

  • Feed the Auger: Slowly insert the auger or drain snake into the clean-out, guiding it gently into the sewer pipe. Rotate the handle to navigate through any curves and reach the clog. If you don’t have an auger, a bent wire hanger can be a temporary substitute.
  • Break Up the Clog: Once you feel resistance, rotate and push the auger to break up the clog. Be patient and avoid forcing the tool to prevent damage to the sewer pipes.

Step 5: Clear the Clog

  • Check Water Flow: After breaking up the clog, pull the auger back slowly. Check if water drains properly by running a garden hose into the clean-out. If you don’t have a hose, pour hot water or a large jug of water down the pipe.
  • Repeat if Necessary: If the water doesn’t drain freely, insert the auger again to ensure the clog is fully cleared.

Step 6: Rinse and Clean Up

  • Flush the Pipe: Use a garden hose to flush out any remaining debris. This helps ensure the sewer system is clear and free of blockages.
  • Clean the Tools: Rinse the auger and any other tools used with hot water to remove sludge buildup. Dry them thoroughly before storage.

Step 7: Prevent Future Clogs

  • Regular Maintenance: Use baking soda and vinegar monthly to keep your clogged drain lines clear. If you don’t have these, salt and hot water are good alternatives.
  • Avoid Certain Items: Don’t pour grease, coffee grounds, or thick paper towels down the drain. These can cause severe clogs over time.
  • Inspect for Tree Roots: Check for exposed tree roots near your sewer line. If tree roots are a problem, consider consulting a professional for removal or repair.

By following these steps, you can effectively unclog your main sewer line and keep your plumbing system running smoothly. Regular maintenance and being mindful of what goes down your drains will help prevent future sewer line clogs.

A man unclogging the main sewer line by himself.

Alternative Methods

If you don’t have a plumbing snake or prefer not to use one, there are several alternative methods to unclog your main sewer line effectively. These methods can be just as effective and might suit different sewer line issues.

1. Hot Water and Baking Soda/Vinegar


  • Boil Water: Start by boiling a large pot of water.
  • Pour Baking Soda: Pour about a cup of baking soda directly into the clean-out or affected drain.
  • Add Vinegar: Follow with a cup of vinegar. This will create a chemical reaction that can help break down minor clogs in your sewer pipes.
  • Flush with Hot Water: After about 15 minutes, flush the line with the boiling water to drain properly.

Benefits: This natural method is safe for your plumbing system and effective for minor clogged sewer lines.

2. Wet and Dry Vacuum


  • Seal the Vacuum: Set your wet and dry vacuum to the liquid setting. Create a tight seal over the clean-out or drain opening. You can use a wet cloth or duct tape for a better seal.
  • Suction the Clog: Turn on the vacuum to create strong suction. This can pull out the clog causing the sewer blockage.

Benefits: This method is helpful for solid waste or debris causing the blockage.

3. Chemical Drain Cleaners


  • Follow Instructions: Pour the chemical drain cleaner into the clean-out as per the product instructions.
  • Wait and Flush: Allow the cleaner to sit for the recommended time before flushing with hot water.
  • Caution: Use these cautiously to avoid severe pipe damage. They are best for minor clogs and should not be overused.

4. Bent Wire Hanger


  • Straighten the Hanger: Bend a wire hanger into a straight line, leaving a small hook at the end.
  • Insert and Hook: Insert the wire into the clean-out or drain and try to hook and pull out the debris causing the clog.

Benefits: This is a quick and accessible method for removing localized clogs.

Using these alternative methods can help you clear the main sewer line clog without specialized tools, ensuring your sewer system remains clear and functional. Regular maintenance and mindful usage will further prevent future sewer line clogs.

Preventive Tips

Keeping your main sewer line clear is crucial to avoiding future sewer clogs. Here are some effective preventive tips to ensure your sewer system remains blockage-free.

1. Regular Maintenance

Use Natural Cleaners: Once a month, pour a mixture of baking soda and vinegar down your drains, followed by hot water. This helps break down minor buildup in your sewer pipes and keeps your drain lines clear.

Check for Tree Roots: Inspect areas around your sewer line for exposed tree roots. If you notice them, consider consulting a professional to prevent future sewer line clogs.

2. Mindful Disposal

Avoid Grease: Never pour grease or oil down your kitchen sink drain as they can solidify and cause severe clogs.

Dispose Properly: Only flush toilet paper down the toilet. Avoid flushing thick paper towels, wipes, or feminine products to prevent clogging your main sewer drain and unclog a main sewer.

3. Install Protective Measures

Drain Covers: Use drain covers to catch hair and debris before they enter your drain lines.

Regular Inspections: Have a professional inspect your sewer system annually, especially if you have an older home, to detect any potential issues early.

Two men working together to unclog the main sewer line.

When to Call a Professional

Despite your best efforts, some clogged main sewer lines may require drain specialists or professional help. Recognizing when to call a professional plumber can save you time and prevent further damage to your plumbing system.

1. Persistent Clogs

Recurrent Blockages: If you experience frequent clogs, even after attempting DIY methods, it could indicate a more serious issue such as tree roots or a broken pipe in your sewer line.

Slow Drains: Persistent slow drains throughout your home often signal a blocked sewer line that needs professional attention.

2. Severe Pipe Damage

Signs of Damage: Noticeable signs like water backing up in multiple drains, gurgling noises, or foul odors could mean severe damage, such as sagging sewer lines or a collapse in the sewer pipes.

Water in Clean-Out: If the water continuously pools in your clean-out even after clearing a clog, there might be a more significant issue down the sewer main line.

3. Professional Inspection and Repair

Hydro Jetting: For stubborn clogs, professionals can use hydro jetting to clear out the sewer system effectively.

Trenchless Repair: Modern techniques like trenchless pipe repair can fix damaged sewer lines without extensive digging, preserving your landscaping and avoiding issues with the septic tank.

For expert assistance, consider contacting:

These professionals specialize in advanced sewer cleaning and repair techniques, ensuring your sewer pipe and main drain line are in top condition.

An open main sewer line cover.

Tackling a clogged main sewer line on your own can be a manageable task with the right tools and techniques. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can effectively address sewer line clogs and maintain a healthy plumbing system.

Remember to:

  • Prepare Properly: Gather all necessary tools and materials, or find suitable alternatives to ensure you’re ready for the job.
  • Follow Safety Guidelines: Always use appropriate PPE and ensure good ventilation when working with sewer pipes.
  • Use Proven Methods: Whether you choose a plumbing snake, baking soda and vinegar, or a wet and dry vacuum, each method can help clear your sewer blockage effectively.

Preventive Measures: Regular maintenance and mindful disposal habits are key to avoiding future clogged sewer lines. Simple practices like using drain covers and avoiding grease down the kitchen sink drain can make a significant difference.

If DIY methods aren’t resolving the issue, don’t hesitate to reach out to professionals for help. They have the expertise and equipment to handle more severe sewer clogs and pipe damage.

By following these guidelines, you’ll ensure your sewer system runs smoothly and efficiently, reducing the risk of major plumbing issues in the future.

Main sewer line.

Table of Contents