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How to Effectively Clean and Unclog Outdoor Drain Pipes

How to Effectively Clean and Unclog Outdoor Drain Pipes


Many homes and businesses have outdoor drain systems somewhere on their outside property. The function of any outside drain and/or system is to keep rainwater and melted snow from flooding the yard, home or outdoor property. If there is a driveway, there could also be a drain to keep the driveway surface from flooding during a storm or due to runoff rainwater.


Keeping these outside drains clean and cleared from debris and other materials is an important home and property maintenance chore that all property owners should learn how to perform. The following article will answer how to effectively clean and unclog outdoor drain pipes safely and successfully.


Assess Each Drain, & Look for Obvious Items that Could Be Clogging the Drain


The first step in clearing any type of clog affecting an outdoor drain pipe or other drainage system is to assess each outside property drain and look for obvious signs of items that typically clog these drains. Take a flashlight along to see dark underground holes or pipes better.


Some obvious items that often clog outdoor drains include:



  • High Grass or Other Plants & Weeds Growing Near the Drain Openings or Exits
  • Dirt or Mud Covering the Drainage Holes
  • Debris Like Twigs, Leaves & Rocks that Could Have Been Washed or Blown by Storm Rains or Winds
  • Trash or Litter like Paper, Disposable Cups, Plastic & Other Items
  • Kid's Toys, Teen Sport Equipment or Outdoor Supplies









Safe Ways to Remove Obvious Signs of Debris or Other Material Clogging Up an Outside Drain System



The home or business owner should carefully remove any items or debris that they find covering the entrance or exit drain pipe openings. It is best to use your hands or some type of scoop shaped tool or container in order to remove this debris without pushing it further into the drain itself.


Many outside drain pipes or other types of systems are covered with some kind of screen or grate cover. These screens can easily become clogged up with dirt, mud and other debris from the drainage water that flows through the screens. The property owner should carefully remove these screens or grate covers to better see into the darkened drain tunnel and to rinse the screens thoroughly with water or a pressure hose.


Use your flashlight to reach inside the drain pipe or system opening to carefully remove any debris that is seen or felt right at the entrance. Be sure to not damage the drain pipe itself in the process. Over time, these pipes may become weakened or damaged. This is especially true if the pipes are made from plastic or other breakable material.


The Right Way to Flush Out a Clogged Outside Drainage System


After removing the drain cover screen and obvious dirt and debris present, the property owner should next use a garden hose to flush the entire system properly. This is often the only thing necessary to unclog an outside drainage system.


Many properties will have one or more inspection portals and/or drainage portals located on the grounds. These are often noted near the house itself, and there may be another towards the street or closer to the larger storm sewer drain openings often placed under streets.


While flushing clean water from a garden hose through the drain pipes, the property owner should check to see if the water is flowing out of these farther away portals. This helps to pinpoint whether the clog is inside the underground tunnel or drain or whether it is farther away. If the water is not seen flowing out of these inspection portals towards the sewer drains or other property drainage areas, there may be a more serious situation causing the blockage.


Tips for Inspecting & Clearing a Clogged Outside Drainage Pipe or System


If unsure of where your property drainage pipes or neighborhood storm sewer drains are located, the property owner should contact their local water and sewage company to get these location details.


Property owners can try to clear out a clogged outside drainage pipe by using a hydro-jet or drain snake to effectively clear the stubborn built-up debris or other clog causes.


A hydro-jet drain snake and/or hose is a specialized piece of plumbing equipment that uses high-pressure water jets to thoroughly clear drainage pipes and systems. These can often be rented at a local hardware store. This high-pressure water jet enables the water to spray backwards to move hard-to-dislodge clog materials out of the drain pipe. If this tactic doesn't work, it could indicate the tree roots or another big problem like a broken drainage pipe is the true source of the clog.


What to Do if Tree Roots or a Broken Drainage Pipe is Suspected


Handling the challenges of outside drainage system clogs due to either problems with nearby tree roots causing clogs or pipe damage and breaks can be difficult for even handy property owners to fix.


If trees are located on the property, the roots may have grown towards that drainage pipes in an attempt to draw the water found there to nourish the tree itself. In time, these roots can become very deep and may be actually penetrating the pipe itself causing leaks, cracks and breaks.


Property owners should suspect this scenario if after clearing the drain with powerful pressurized water-jets the drain openings/exits reveal only dirt, mud or stones that are flushing through the underground pipes. This can indicate a severe problem that could involve complicated tree root involvement, and property owners should contact a professional plumber to resolve this problem correctly.

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John and Melissa Steele, San Diego Real Estate Agents

John and Melissa Steele