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What To Do When Your Main Drain Keeps Clogging

a kitchen with stainless steel appliances

When your toilet doesn’t flush well or your shower starts draining slowly, it can be more than an annoyance. All these situations can be a sign that you have a clog forming in your sewer or septic system. And if wastewater is backing up in your fixtures, it’s a sure sign that your main line is clogged.

What Is a Main Drain?

Your main drain is where all of your homes’ plumbing connects to either a city sewer or a septic system. Branch drains that connect to some of your fixtures, such as all the toilets in your home or the kitchen and bathroom sinks, all meet up at this main drain.

If the water is going down slowly in one sink or a toilet, you probably have a clog in a branch drain. But if you have water coming up in your bathtub, sinks and toilets or all your fixtures are draining slowly, you likely have a clog in the main drain.

When you notice slower draining, that’s the time to take action. If you wait too long to address the issue, you eventually will face wastewater backing up in your tub, sinks, toilets and even your washing machine and you will have a big problem on your hands. Contacting a professional now can save you the hassle and added expense of dealing with the larger issue down the line.

My Main Drain Keeps Clogging. Why?

If your plumbing isn’t draining well, something is keeping the wastewater from flowing through you septic system. Your main line is typically about 4 to 6 inches wide, so it seems like it would take something large to block that flow. But, you might be surprised how easily we can create clogs during the course of everyday life.

The blockage could be from the wrong things being flushed or washed into the pipes. Or, the blockage could even be caused by tree roots that have grown into the pipe. Roots spread out quite a bit as they grow. They can cause a lot of damage if they wrap themselves around or through plumbing pipes. If the root pushes its way into the pipe, it will usually plug up any hole it makes. Unfortunately, the root will also be an obstacle to the wastewater leaving your home.

Has there been construction around your home? Such activity can cause a shift in the soil, which moves plumbing right along with it. The pipes don’t bend much, so a big enough disturbance to the ground will cause a crack or a break.

It is nearly impossible for a homeowner to figure out the cause of a clog in a main drain. To diagnose the issue, you would have to try to flush out the system through the drain cap or dig up your yard to find a potential break. In doing so, you are likely to make matters worse. A professional plumber knows what to look for in the case of this plumbing problem, and they will look at the easiest fixes first. They have the technical skills and knowledge to locate the problem and correct it safely. A plumber will find exactly where the problem has occurred and can clean out your drain.

As previously mentioned, clogs can happen when you put the wrong things down your drain. But, what shouldn’t go in a drain? Can coffee grounds cause a clog?

a kitchen sink that has been clogged with coffee grounds

Do Coffee Grounds Clog Drains?

Yes, they do! Even though they wash away easily down the drain, they don’t flow as easily out of your pipes and into the sewer or septic tank. Because coffee grounds don’t dissolve in water, they can form a clump in your line. Anything that clumps up can form a clog that causes problems later.

Many think, if it fits, it can go down the kitchen sink’s drain, right? Not necessarily, say the plumbing pros. Pouring out kitchen grease might also seem fine since it’s a liquid, but it doesn’t stay that way. Eventually, as it makes its way through your pipes, grease cools and solidifies. Over time, an accumulation of this grease or fat can cause a blockage in your pipes.

Chemicals are also a no-go. Using a chemical de-clogging product to try to clear a drain can do more harm than good. This is because these products are designed to break down any debris in your pipes and can end up damaging your plumbing in the process. The safest bet, according to licensed plumbing professionals, is to send nothing but water down your sink drains and to flush nothing but toilet paper and waste in your toilets.

Contact the Experts

No matter how it happened, if signs are pointing to your main line having a clog, it is an emergency. Eventually, a neglected clog will push wastewater back into your home. Wastewater backing up in your plumbing fixtures is not only unsanitary, but it is also unhealthy for the people living in the home. Bacteria and other nasty things thrive in sewage and can cause disease and infection.

If your plumbing problem has reached this stage, there are a few things you can do to mitigate further damage. When all fixtures are affected, meaning you have water backing up in your sinks and toilets, it is best to turn off the main water line. That way, no one will accidentally forget there is a problem and run water in the sink or tub or flush a toilet. The main water turnoff is usually near the street in front of your home.

Once you have the water off, clean up the mess to contain any potential harm to your loved ones, and then call a licensed plumber.

When a clog has reached the point that waste is backing up in your home, there is no waiting. The problem won’t resolve on its own, and it won’t get any better. Talking to a pro will help you find out what has caused the clog and backup and what it will take to clear your drains and get your home back to normal. They can also help with tasks like winterizing your home and pipes, so you’re prepared for anything.

ABC Can Clear Blockages in Your Main Line

Like a slab leak, a main drain clog isn’t something that should be dealt with by a homeowner. Fortunately, the licensed plumbers from ABC Home & Commercial Services can get your plumbing back to normal. We even offer 24/7 plumbing repairs for those issues that just can’t wait.

Tom Riggs

Tom Riggs is the Division Manager for Mechanical Services, overseeing sales and operations for HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, Appliance Repair and Water Quality for all ABC Austin branches. He joined ABC in 2014. Before ABC, he was an HVAC Service Technician, HVAC Comfort Advisor/Sales and Operations Manager. Tom attended Universal Technical Institute. He's an avid outdoorsman and enjoys country living with his wife and two sons.

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