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The reason for these tips is to give back to people, sharing my experience with stopped-up drains.

I want to explain and give people methods of prevention to save from having drain problems.

Here are some recommendations to prevent drain stoppages:

Bath Sinks, Tubs & Showers

Keep good drain guards on all drains. Some hair will inevitably get through, but that is life.

Laundry Lines

Do not wash carpets and throw rugs once they’ve frayed. Once a week, or at least monthly, fill the washer with water only and let it discharge.

Kitchen Sinks

Jello and ice cream are fine, as well as a few table scraps, do not put potato peels, pasta, rice or large amounts of vegetables or other food down the sink, even if running through a garbage disposal. Small amounts of food are okay, but make sure to run lots of water with and after putting it down.

You may have a $200 or $300 garbage disposal, but all of us have 50 cent drains. Once a week, fill the sink with hot water and pull the plug to flush the line.

I do not recommend putting drain products or acids down your drain. This can lead to damage of drain pipe.


Only put toilet paper down the toilet. Do not flush sanitary items like baby wipes, adult wipes, dental floss, q-tips, paper towels, kleenex, or cotton materials.

Soon after the introduction of water saving toilets a few years back, a dear lady said to me “Son, you mean I should flush half way through my personal business?”. I told her “Great idea!”.

Put only glass jar color items in the toilet tank. Do not put color tablets or white chlorine tablets in toilet tanks, or hanging items on side of toilet bowl.

Main Sewer Drain Lines

Older homes have cast iron sewer lines (think pipes) under the foundation of the house that extend a few feet out of the house,  which then turns into a clay pipe. Tree roots and earth movement of the ground (from settling, earthquakes, etc.) are often the cause of sewer drain lines stopping up.

Again, as I’ve said elsewhere, do not be oversold and install a sewer liner through your entire line. Often times a simple, more affordable spot repair is all that will be necessary to fix your line. Please call me for a second opinion if someone is trying to sell you a sewer liner, because I may be able to save you thousands of dollars.

Remember, across the industry there is more competition – job counts are down, commissions are down, so technicians are motivated to sell you more expensive services than you really need (like sewer liners). Big jobs are their ticket to big earnings. Please do not be manipulated by the scare tactics of these young technicians.

And finally, before you buy real estate, camera the sewer line. Don’t just look at finances, school districts, location and decor; look under the ground as well. A great peace of mind for just $250.

Main Lines: Cable Size

Only have main sewer lines cleaned with 11/16″ – 3/4″ cable, not smaller 1/2″ – 3/8″ sink cable. Most plumbers only have this smaller machine cable.

Area Drains & Patio Drains

Area drains and patio drains present more problems than other types of drains, and are sometimes harder to clean, because of the following reasons:

  1. They are often built with inexpensive, non-code pipe
  2. They often have T-fittings, rather than sweep fittings
  3. They are often not glued fittings, just fit together
  4. They are often installed by landscapers, not licensed plumbers
  5. They are often not maintained properly (cleaned regularly)

I suggest regularly cleaning out your area drains and patio drains (flush them with water) to prevent debris, dirt and other buildup, but I would also advise that you have these drains installed by a drain cleaning company, rather than a plumber or landscaper.

Make sure that whoever is installing them uses pipe that is to code, uses sweeps instead of T-fittings, and that that they glue the fittings together properly so that roots and other debris can’t enter the line.

Buyers Agents & New Home Buyers

In 2012, the city of Ventura passed a new ordinance that requires conducting a sewer line camera inspection before the close of any real estate transaction, ensuring that sewer problems will be identified before a house is sold.

No matter where you are, make sure to protect your buyer, or yourself, when purchasing real estate.  Sewer line problems can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but they can be identified quickly and easily with an affordable video inspection.

Real estate agents, be ahead of your competition by offering camera inspections to potential buyers. Prove that you’re looking out for buyers’s best interests, and put a feather in your hat!

Buyers, be cautious about placing offers on a home that hasn’t had a recent sewer inspection. Spending a couple hundred dollars now could save you tens of thousands later!