How to Clean a Sewer Drain Pipe

With some basic supplies and a fearless attitude, you can have your sewer running smoothly in no time.
With some basic supplies and a fearless attitude, you can have your sewer running smoothly in no time. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

A blocked-up sewer line can incapacitate an entire household, as it makes it impossible for all waste water to exit the structure. Usually, the clog is caused by a gradual build-up of foreign material within the drain or one large object lodged in the pipe. Whatever the reason for the stoppage, you needn’t rush to call a professional plumber. By equipping yourself with some basic plumbing supplies, you can avoid the cost and effectively treat the problem on your own.

Things You'll Need

  • Pipe wrench
  • 2 buckets
  • Tarp (if necessary)
  • 50 ft. plumber’s snake/auger
  • Teflon tape

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Find the clean-out plug for the sewer drain pipe. The clean-out plug is located at some point along the sewer pipe. The clean-out plug is often found in the basement, usually near the point where the sewer pipe enters or exit’s the basement wall. If possible, position a bucket beneath the plug. If a bucket will not fit below the plug, place a plastic tarp in the area. The process of cleaning the sewer line may be messy.

Use a pipe wrench to loosen the plug. Do not remove the plug just yet. Loosen it just enough to allow any water or debris that remains in the pipe to drain out. Once the flow of water has ebbed, remove the clean-out plug entirely.

Insert a heavy-duty auger/plumber’s snake into the clean-out opening. Gradually push the snake back and forth as you work into the sewer pipe. Because the snake is flexible, it will work around any curves in the sewer.

Continue pushing the snake through the pipe until you encounter the blockage. Once you’re at the blockage, keep working the snake back and forth. This will either dislodge the blockage or cause it to break apart.

Dump approximately five to seven buckets of hot water down the clean-out opening. Hot water will help break up any remaining blockages. Note whether the water drains as it should. If the water begins to back up or drains slowly, you will need to re-insert the snake and continue cleaning the pipe. Repeat until the sewer drains smoothly.

Wrap some Teflon tape around the threads of the clean-out plug and screw it back into place using a pipe wrench. The tape will protect the threads and make it easier to remove the plug in the future.

Tips & Warnings

  • You may rent an electronic power auger if the sewer drain is severely clogged. A power auger will rotate through the drain and forcefully break apart and push the blockage out of the pipe.


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