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So-called flushable wipes, paper towels, food, and period products do not deteriorate well enough to pass through pipes and into the local sewer system.

5 tips for maintaining your sewer lines

Sewer lines tend to go unnoticed until something goes wrong — when they suddenly occupy your every thought until back in working order. Unfortunately, these lines that transport wastewater away from your home are not infallible.

Whether because of debris getting into them, grease building up, tree roots growing in, or a cleanup or repair project going wrong, your pipes can clog or break.

The good news is you can avoid smelly and inconvenient sewer leaks by keeping your lines flowing freely. Here are some tips and tricks for maintaining your sewer lines this spring — and year-round.

Clean gutters, downspouts, and drains

Leaves, pine needles, moss, twigs, and dirt accumulate in drainage areas over time, especially during autumn and winter, when leaves fall and Seattle's rainy season encourages the growth of moss in damp areas of your gutter system. Keeping gutters and drains clear helps ensure the free flow of rain into your sewer system.

Dispose of grease properly

Grease buildup is a major risk factor when it comes to sewer clogs. Hot grease will only flow so far before it cools and solidifies, constricting a pipe and eventually leading to a clog. You should pour grease into a heat-resistant container and put it in the garbage.

Flush only toilet paper

Water, waste, and toilet paper are the only things you should flush down the toilet. So-called flushable wipes, paper towels, food, and period products do not deteriorate well enough to pass through pipes and into the local sewer system. Over time, these items clog the line. In fact, single-ply rather than double-ply toilet paper is the ideal paper product when it comes to what you can flush.

Inspect drains for backups

If you have slow drains, you might be tempted to use a drain snake and cleaner. But DIY methods come with the risk of damaging a pipe with harsh chemicals or even breaking it with a snake. In those cases, a professional plumber will get the job done safely and well.

"Professional drain cleaning services are methods used by expert plumbers to thoroughly clean the inside of the pipeline and efficiently deal with your clogged drain," according to local plumbing, drain cleaning, and sewer repair company Bob Oates. "Our professional services do not result in damage to the pipeline or drain."

For example, professional hydro jetting can clean a drain with high powered water spray, cutting through the toughest of clogs, including tree roots.

Check for tree roots

If trees grow in your yard between where the sewer pipe leaves the house and joins the main line, it is a good idea to periodically check whether tree roots are beginning to infiltrate. This is especially important if you have older pipes, which tend to be less resistant to roots than modern plastic pipes.

The best way to check for tree roots is by making an appointment with a plumber for a sewer camera inspection.

"Sewer camera inspections remove any guesswork from troubleshooting faulty sewer pipes and are the most advanced method of diagnosing and exactly pinpointing pipeline problems," according to Bob Oates.

Problems that may be exposed include corrosion, clogs, root infestations, leaks, or misaligned pipes. Because roots are the main cause of sewer backups, Bob Oates recommends giving them a yearly trim to avoid having them grow through brittle joints into pipes.

Check sewer lines off your spring to-do list with the help of Bob Oates Plumbing, Sewer & Rooter. Call 206-789-4944 to schedule an appointment, and mention this article for a complimentary camera inspection.