Does Tree Root Killer Fix Clogged Sewer Lines?

Jess Lynk
Written by Jess Lynk
Updated July 30, 2021
Tree roots in dirt
Photo: Zakalinka / Adobe Stock

In short, tree root killer can be the proper solution—after you do thorough research—to save your sewer lines

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Clogged pipes can be a big headache, not to mention a potentially expensive fix, so tree root killer is a tempting solution. But before you dump root killer down your septic system, let’s take a look at the problem of main sewer line clogs and how root killers can solve it. 

Understand Why Tree Roots Clog Sewer Lines

Tree roots thrive on sewer lines because they provide what roots need most: oxygen, nutrients, and water. If your sewer line is cracked, tree roots can find their way into your pipes and clog them. Homes built before the 1970s most likely have clay sewer lines, which are more prone to cracking, giving tree roots a way in. If your pipes have been replaced with PVC, tree roots will not likely be an issue (phew!). Digging down to peek can be a surefire way to find this answer.

Determine Where the Roots Are

Identifying the problem is vital to saving your sewer line. Look at the original site plans for your home to determine where your sewer lines run. Then, look to see if any trees grow along the line. Remember, large trees can have root systems that travel far, so watch out for them, as well. If your pipes are clay and you have trees within 30 feet, there’s a fair chance your clog is caused by root problems. If not, try out other fixes.

Add Tree Root Killer to Your Sewer Line

Once you determine that tree roots are indeed your issue, you can head to your local hardware store to find tree root killer. Most chemical tree root killers work the same: pour it down your drain, and the chemical kills the roots on contact. Be sure to read the instructions, as working with chemicals can be dangerous to you and your surroundings. Today, most people prefer foaming tree root killer over copper sulfate, which has long-term corrosive effects and can kill good bacteria.

Understand Its Limitations

Using tree root killer can be a simple fix to stop clogs, but sadly, it won’t repair the cracks in your pipe. If your sewer issues persist even after applying tree root killer, it’s time to call in the pros.

Know When to Call in the Pros

If your clay pipes have collapsed because of tree roots or you’re unsure what’s causing your plumbing problems, calling in a professional plumber near you can give you peace of mind and get to the bottom of the issue. Plumbers possess the right equipment and experience to make an accurate diagnosis, then offer effective solutions such as replacing collapsed pipes or pulling out wayward roots—two things you shouldn’t attempt as an amateur. Plus, asking for help can save you from another messy clog and further damage to your pipes.

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