Introduction: Jetting a Slow House Drain (Residential)
This is just something that worked for me and I thought I would share. If nothing else, you will know what did and did not work. And, if you already have a capable pressure washer, it is relatively inexpensive.
The kitchen / laundry drain line, ever so slowly, builds up to the point that the washer has to be stopped repeatedly during the drain cycles. If the cycle isn’t stopped, the water backs up into the wall box and overflows down the wall to the floor. You have to be there, waiting for it, every time, on every load.
I am certain that there are going to be theories as to why it backs up, but the line has been scoped several times and none of the plumbers saw “anything that would explain it”. Chemical treatments never had any effect on the slow drain and a lot were tried. Very little goes down the garbage disposal because of having lived in a house without one for many years. Based on the way it acts, it is most likely “biofilm”, aka Black Gunk. However, it really doesn’t matter what it is, only that it builds up and slows the drainage.
I became concerned that the repeated snaking and industrial pressure jetting of the line was going to wear out the pipes. It is all under slab and would cost a small fortune to replace. I also got tired of the ever increasing price of cleaning the line. The last time was approaching $300.00 USD.
I decided to see if I could do it myself for a “reasonable” cost. I had a 100 foot jetter hose that I bought years ago. I had watched for a used electric high pressure washer but never saw one that worked and was affordable.
I recently decided to try it out with a residential electric pressure washer. I bought the Sun Joe pressure washer based on reviews and on the specs of 2,030 PSI and 1.76 GPM. This is pretty much the upper end of the specs for residential electric pressure washers. I could have gone gas but I didn’t want to be storing gasoline for just one infrequently used tool.
The jetter hose worked great for the first two 90 degree bends but couldn’t navigate the third 90 degree bend. 15 feet in and it was stopped cold. It wasn’t the fault of the jetter hose; it was designed for a higher flow and a higher pressure to help drive it through the pipe.
I went “back to the books” and found a 1/8-inch jetter hose. Commenters claimed it could make a 90 degree bend in 3/4-inch inside diameter pipe. I bought the 50-foot model because of comments that the residential rated pressure washers were not able to drive the hose beyond 50-feet.
Everything got hooked up, plugged in, and fired up. The 1/8-inch jetter hose pulled itself, with some assistance, through all three 90 degree bends and to its full 50-foot length and would have gone further if there was any more hose. The clothes washer was filled to a maximum load and switched to drain. It drained without a hitch!
Even though 50’ worked, I really needed 75’ to reach the junction with the bath line. So I bought the 100’ jetter hose. I will try it next time.
If I had gotten it right the first time, it would have come in at under $250.00. This is less than one plumber house call. I can now jet the drain if it even hints at slowing down and for no additional cost and on my schedule.
Note: This worked for biofilm. If you have a serious clog, tree roots, etc., this approach probably won’t be successful.
2017-02-28 - The Schieffer Sewer Jetter Kit 1/8" NPT x 100' Hose & 4.0 Orifice Button Nose Nozzle I bought would only pull in 40 feet and stop; unlike the Schieffer Sewer Jetter Kit 1/8" NPT x 50' Hose & 4.0 Orifice Button Nose Nozzle that pulled 50 feet without a problem. I emailed Schieffer several times regarding the difference in performance but did not hear back from them. My guess is that there is a difference between the two 4.0 button noses.
Step 1: Warnings and Equipment
Warnings and cautions:
Read the instructions that came with your jetter hose. If your jetter hose didn’t come with instructions, search for sewer jetter warnings. Pay attention to the safety warnings for both the jetter and chemicals used to try to clear the drain. Also, pay attention to the warnings regarding damage to some types of pipe.
Read the instructions that came with your pressure washer. Pay attention to the safety warnings and method of use.
Wear eye protection and chemical resistant gloves.
Wear clothes you don’t care about. The black stuff in your pipes really stains.
Sun Joe SPX3000 2030 PSI 1.76 GPM Electric Pressure Washer, 14.5-Amps.
Sewer Jetter Hose & Nozzle 1/8" NPT x 50' Hose with 4.0 Orifice Button Nose Nozzle 4000 PSI by Schieffer Co.
Pressure Washer M22-14mm x 1/4" Female Plug - Karcher Style Disconnect Adapter
Brass Garden Hose Double Female Swivel Coupling (had it)
Good washers (had them)
Brass hose quick connect (had it and you will thank yourself for using it)
Teflon tape (had it)
Chemical resistant gloves (had them)
Eye protection (had it)
Clog Hog Model R-100-M (as I remember) 100’ with M22 Male adapter.
Sewer Jetter Hose & Nozzle 1/8" NPT x 100' Hose with 4.0 Orifice Button Nose Nozzle 4000 PSI by Schieffer Co.
Step 2: Drain Line Access
There are a number of ways to access drain lines: drain cleanouts, sanitary T cleanouts, pulled sink traps, and pulled toilets. Roof vents are appealing but they are dangerous. Falling off the roof is the number one cause of death and serious injury among roofers and more often they end up dead rather than injured. Plumbing companies do not allow their employees to go on a customer’s roof because of the risks.
I am only going to highlight the two access points I use. The drain cleanout is located in the exterior wall and is capped. The sanitary T cleanouts for my house are located at grade level with two caps. The sanitary T closest to the house curves toward the street. The sanitary T furthest from the house curves towards the house. If you are having trouble finding the sanitary T’s, look for a medallion on the foundation that indicates their location.
Step 3: Assemble the Jetter Hose
1/8” x 50’ or 100’ jetter hose
1/8” to 1/4” adapter (came with hose)
4.0 jetter tip (bought with hose)
M22 to 1/4” adapter (fits a lot but not all trigger guns)
1. Wrap the male threads of each connector or adapter with a thin layer of Teflon tape, except for the M22. The M22 doesn’t need Teflon tape because the seal is made by an o-ring on the trigger gun that goes inside the adapter.
2. Hand start each part to prevent cross threading.
3. Snug down each part with the wrenches. Do not over tighten.
Note: Jetter Tip Sizes - The larger the number, the higher volume the tip is designed to handle. I was looking for a 3.0 based on the flow of the pressure washer but the 4.0 worked fine.
Step 4: Prepare the Pressure Washer
Brass Garden Hose Double Female Swivel Coupling
Brass hose quick connect (you will thank yourself)
Note: The seal to the pressure washer inlet is completely dependent on the washer in the connector. So make sure they are flexible enough to make a seal. Some people put Teflon tape on the threads, but that just means the washer isn’t doing its job.
Note: Some brass quick connects are interchangeable. Some are not. Pick a brand you like and stay with it. Also, some quick connects have built in flow restrictors and cutoffs. I don’t care for them and don’t buy them.
1. Assemble the high-pressure hose and trigger gun, without the spray wand.
2. Hand start the swivel coupling onto the pressure washer inlet. On mine the inlet is aluminum and can easily be cross threaded.
3. Hand tighten the Swivel Coupling.
4. Hand start the male quick connect into the Swivel Coupling.
5. Hand tighten the Swivel Coupling.
6. Hand start the female quick connect onto the garden hose.
7. Hand tighten the female quick connect.
8. Hook up the hose quick connector and slowly turn on the water.
9. Squeeze the trigger to purge the system and release the trigger.
10. Check for leaks. If you have a leak, snug the leaking connector by hand or lightly with a wrench or pliers. Do not “crank down” on a connector, it won’t make a better seal. If it continues to leak, undo the coupling and replace the washer or the coupling.
11. Turn off the water and squeeze the trigger to release the pressure.
Step 5: Jet the Drain
1. Unroll the jetter hose and remove as much coiling as you can.
2. With the pressure washer prepped, thread the M22 adapter (jetter hose attached) onto the trigger gun.
3. Insert the jetter hose tip fully into the drain. I run it past the first 90 degree bend.
4. Turn on the water and squeeze the trigger to prime the pump.
5. Plug in the power washer, well away from any water. Using an extension cord is discouraged by the manufacturer. It is a high amp device, so if you choose to use an extension cord, size it appropriately.
6. Turn on the pressure washer pump.
7. Squeeze the trigger. I put a hook and loop band on the trigger so I can use both hands on the jetter hose, but only after the business end of the jetter hose is well within the drain
8. Run the hose forward several feet and then draw it back an equal distance. Do not force it. You do not want it stuck in your drain line. Then run it forward twice the distance and then draw it back half that distance. I normally go in about three foot increments. This back and forth will help clean the drain and give you more confidence that the jetter hose isn’t going to get stuck. Continue to the end of the drain line or of the jetter hose, which ever comes first.
9. Slowly draw the jetter hose out of the drain line. Stop removing the hose before the jetter tip comes out of the drain line, like before the first 90 degree bend.
10. Shut off the trigger gun and the pump.
11. Run water from inside the house into the drain to check it. Re-jet if necessary.
12. Remove and disconnect the jetter hose. If the jetter hose is “gunky”, wash it down with the garden hose.
13. Turn off the water. Unplug the electricity
14. Squeeze the trigger to release the pressure, disconnect, and drain the pressure washer.
15. Stow your gear when it is dry.