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Hydro Jetting for clearing clogged drain lines has been around for quite some time now. It is very effective at clearing many different types of drain clogs, and if done properly is much safer on pipes than typical cable machines. That being the case, it is not always the best tool for every job.
In this article we will take a look at what hydro jetting is, and where it excels, as well as where it falls a bit short.
How Hydro Jetting Works
High Pressure Hydro Jetting is really a pretty simple concept. You just need a water source, some type of hose that can travel down the pipe, a pump that increases the water pressure (or flow, or both), and a nozzle at the end of the hose that directs the water.
Smaller machines that are ideal for kitchen sink drain lines, floor sinks, and other small drains increase the pressure significantly, but do not increase the flow. They usually draw their water source from a garden hose, or similar fixture. While this is a “small” system, do not let the size fool you. They are easily capable of sending the water spraying out of the nozzle at an astonishing 1,500 – 3,500 psi!
Larger drain lines, such as sewer main lines, storm drain lines, etc. usually require quite a bit more flow, as well as a bigger hose and nozzle. For these applications it is not possible to get the high psi from a garden faucet, because the water demand is so much higher.
These larger jetters require their own water supply, usually in the form of a water tank. They can be towed behind a truck, or even be incorporated into their own vehicle. If you have ever seen a big truck with a big hose coming out of it, going down a manhole, that is a jetter truck.
The way it work is: the nozzle is inserted into the drain line access point. It will usually have 1 jet pointing forward, to blast away any obstruction in front of it, as well as several jets pointing backwards, at an angle. These backward facing jets, propel the nozzle down the sewer line (dragging the hose behind it), and help clean the sides of the pipe as well.
The nozzle will continue to feed through the line until it comes to an obstruction, which it will hopefully blast out of the way, and it will keep going. While high pressure water is a powerful force, and can be your best bet for many drain cleaning applications, it is not always the best alternative. Below we will list some examples of when a jetter may or may not be your best choice.
When to Use (and not to use) a Hydro Jetter
These are some of the best times to consider hydro jetting, instead of traditional drain cleaning methods:
Grease Blockages – “Grease producing lines” are where hydro jetters really shine. Some examples are kitchen sink lines, laundry lines, floor sink lines, grease trap lines, and other drain lines that handle the disposal of grease bearing waste. Since grease buildup is the most common cause for blockages in these lines, getting the grease out of them is the top priority.
Think of it this way… if you were to open a jar of mayonnaise, and try to clean it with a chopstick, that is kind of what it’s like trying to clean grease out of a drain line with a standard drain machine. You basically mix it all up, but don’t get much out of the line. Using a jetter, on the other hand, is much more like washing the inside of the line. It is even more effective when combined with “degreaser” treatments.
Storm Drains – Whether large, industrial storm drains, or the smaller drain lines keeping your garden from flooding, these lines fill with debris. Whether leaves, mud, or other types of debris that can stop your drain lines dead, hydro jetter reign supreme here.
Another consideration when working with smaller storm drain lines is that many of them are not made out of as hardy a material as standard drain lines. These lines can be punctured, or even completely destroyed by standard drain machines, but can be cleared by jetters much more safely.
Those are some examples of where jetters excel. In essence, anywhere where the blockage is caused by semi fluid substances, or debris, the jetter is the way to go. Here are some examples where a jetter may not be your best bet:
Most Residential Sewer Mains (as a first recourse) – The most common reason for residential sewer main backups is roots growing into the line. For that reason, it is usually best to first tackle the blockage with a large cable machine with a full cutting blade. Jetters are not really as effective for cutting through roots.
While most of the municipal drain cleaning is done with jetters, it is more done for convenience than effectiveness. Also, some of the city mains are so large that using a cable machine is not really effective.
If after cleaning a residential sewer main with a cable machine, the line has mud in it, then a jetter can be used to help clear it out. It is also a great idea to use it to prepare the pipe for camera surveying the line. As a first recourse, however, a cable machine is usually best.
Drain Lines without an Outside Cleanout – Unfortunately, when a drain line is backed up, the messiest thing you can do is put more water down that line. While there are ways to run a jetter through the piping under a kitchen sink, it takes skill and patience, and one wrong move can be very, very messy. For this reason, it is always best to use jetters through an outside cleanout where cleaning up is much easier.
This article turned out to be a long one, but we hope that it helped you to understand how hydro jetting works, and when it is (and is not) a good idea to use. At Allstar Plumbing, we pride ourselves on not only having the latest cutting edge equipment (like jetters), but in our expertise in knowing how and when to use it.
Feel free to call Gogo Rooter Plumbing anytime you need us, and put our expertise to the test!