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How to Clear Roots From Drain Pipes (5 Expert Tips)

Split drainage pipe caused by ingress of tree roots

Trees add beauty and character to your landscape. They also provide shade when the sun is too hot to bear. But good as they are, trees can cause significant disruptions in your sewer or septic systems through their roots. They can block the flow of wastewater, causing back-ups and costly damages.

An intrusion can be challenging to fix since roots grow at fast rates. And you might be forced to hire a professional if you don’t handle it early on. Luckily, we offer five expert tips on how to do this. Read on to find out how to clear roots from your drain pipes.

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Why Are Tree Roots in My Drain?

How do roots get into your plumbing drains in the first place? Well, it turns out trees are attracted to the water and waste flowing through the drain pipes.

As the warm wastewater flows down the drains, it releases moisture which escapes through loose joints and cracks in the pipes. The roots can detect the water vapor and will grow in the direction of its source. Inevitably, they will invade through cracks and loose joints.

If left alone, the roots will continue to grow inside the drain pipes, blocking the way of the wastewater. You will start to notice the water in your toilet and sinks draining sluggishly and making gurgling sounds. These are usually the earliest signs of root infiltration.

Ignoring these signs will only make the situation worse. Eventually, the roots will expand and fill the pipes. Too much pressure will cause the pipes to burst. And you will have no choice but to call a professional to dig up the sewer line and make the expensive repairs.

Blocked drainage pipe caused by ingress of tree roots
Image By: Stephen Farhall, Shutterstock

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The 5 Expert Tips to Get Roots Out of Your Drain Pipes

Are you starting to see signs of a root invasion? You don’t need to wait for the problem to get out of hand. Here are five methods to clear roots from your drain pipes.

1. Use Chemical Removers

Copper sulphate vitriol
Image Credit: Dmitry Dorofeyev, Shutterstock

Chemicals can help you remove roots from your pipes and prevent future invasions. You can buy most of them from your local hardware. Copper sulfate is one of the most commonly used chemical root removers. Pour half a cup of the crystals down the toilet and flush as many times as needed to wash it off.

Copper sulfate is very effective since it can travel up the roots, thus controlling their growth outside the pipes. However, it may not be safe to use in a septic system since it can contaminate the groundwater.

The chemical is also harmful to humans. It can irritate your skin and eyes upon contact. Moreover, consuming large amounts of it can cause death, so keep it away from your children and pets.

You should follow all the instructions on the label when using copper sulfate. Also, check with the local authority to ensure you can use it since some areas have already banned it.

Dichloben is a less toxic alternative you can try. It foams once it gets into contact with water, thus filling the entire pipe. That enables it to kill all the roots effectively.

Also, it works faster than copper sulfate. However, it won’t control the growth of roots outside the pipes since it can only kill what it touches.

2. Try Rock Salt

bag of rocksalt
Image Credit: Peter Turner Photography’ Shutterstock

Rock salt is a safe alternative if you are worried about the harm that chemicals can cause. You can buy it from your local store.

Pour half a pound into the toilet and flush as many times as needed to clear it all. Then wait for 8–12 hours for it to do its magic. The salt will kill the roots by sucking the moisture out of them.

You can use rock salt consistently if you want to prevent root growth in the future. However, take care not to use too much since you can kill the entire tree.

3. Cut the Roots

K-45 Sink Machine Excellent for small line cleaning
Image Credit: tigerder, Shutterstock

You can also cut the tree roots mechanically. But you will need professional tools for this kind of task.

A powered snake tool will get the job done effectively. It features a rotating head with blades that cut the roots like a saw. However, handling the equipment may require some experience.

Another problem with mechanically removing the roots is that you must locate them first. You need a sophisticated camera for that.

Fortunately, you can always call a professional plumber if the job becomes too challenging. They will conduct a camera inspection to locate the roots and use the right tools to remove them.

4. Use a Hydro-Jet

splash on water drain
Image Credit: Tob1900, Shutterstock

A hydro-jet will pump pressurized water down the pipes to flush out the roots. The pressure can reach up to 4000 psi and is high enough to cut through the roots. It will also remove dirt and other debris blocking the pipes.

5. Remove the Trees

uprooted tree from the ground, uprooting the stumps, tree removal
Image Credit: The world of words, Shutterstock

The problem with all the solutions above is they may not remove the roots permanently. Trees will keep sending roots down the pipes as long as they grow nearby. As such, removing the trees could be the only permanent solution.

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How to Prevent Tree Roots From Invading Your Drain Pipes

A root invasion can be challenging to eliminate since roots tend to grow back no matter what you try. Therefore, prevention is the best cure if you don’t want to keep fighting an endless battle. Here are a few preventative measures you can take to keep roots away from your drain pipes.

Hire the Right People for the Job

Hiring professionals to install your septic or sewer system is your best bet. First, they will always pick the right location to install it, preferably away from trees.

Professionals are also unlikely to make mistakes during installation. That will prevent the likelihood of a root invasion since the roots take advantage of faults such as cracks and loose pipes to get into the system.

Mind Where You Plant Trees

Knowing where the drain pipes are on your property is imperative. That way, you can avoid planting trees nearby. If you must have trees, ensure you plant them at least 50 feet away from your drain pipes or septic tank.

Avoid fast-growing Trees

Fast-growing trees usually have aggressive roots that spread long distances through the soil. So, be careful when selecting which trees to grow on your property. Avoid varieties such as poplar, birch, and willow.

Inspect and Clean Your Drains Regularly

Do you already have trees growing on your property? The best solution is to arrest the situation before it gets out of hand. That means inspecting and cleaning your drain pipes regularly.

Any damage to the pipes is a possible entryway for the roots. Therefore, call a professional to make the necessary repairs if you detect any.

Consult a PLUMBING expert

Find a plumbing specialist in your area, and get free, no-commitment estimates for your project. 

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Final Thoughts

Tree roots in your drain pipes can interfere with the normal functioning of your septic or sewer line. Aside from clogging the pipes and causing back-ups, they can collapse the entire system, forcing you to make costly repairs.

You can use the five methods above to clear roots from your drain pipes before they shut down the system. Remember, you can always hire a professional if the task seems too challenging or dangerous for you.

Featured Image Credit: Stephen Farhall, Shutterstock


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