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An Introduction to Hydro Jetting

October 02, 2023

A blocked plumbing or sewer system can spell disaster for homeowners, causing everything from clogged drains to contaminated water. Clearing the blockage is a priority and one of the safest, most effective tools is hydro jetting.

Most DIY methods are temporary fixes at best and dangerous at worst. Mechanical drain cleaners (commonly referred to as snakes) rarely clear the entire blockage. That’s why you find yourself repeatedly clearing the same clogged drain.

It’s always a good idea to hire an experienced plumber to assess the situation, particularly if you aren’t sure why a drain keeps backing up. However, hydro jetting is not a DIY solution. You truly need the skills of an experienced plumber.

What Is Hydro Jetting?

Hydro jetting uses a specialized hose and nozzle to shoot water through your pipes at a force of around 1500 psi on average (although that number can rise to 5000 psi), which is one reason you need a skilled plumber to do the job.

That level of force blasts away anything clogging your plumbing, including the grease and soap scum mechanical drain cleaners just can’t handle. Hydro jetting even knocks tree roots out of the way and leaves the inside of your pipes looking brand new.

Before he or she attacks your blockage with a hydro jet, your plumber inspects the system using a small camera, looking for damage and the type of obstruction that needs to be cleared. From there, he or she can determine the appropriate treatment.

How Hydro Jetting Works

The plumber accesses your plumbing and sewer system via a cleanout, which is an opening specifically designed to grant easy access to the system. He or she then inserts the camera, passing it through the pipes to determine the location and severity of the blockage (or blockages). The camera also measures distance, allowing effective placement of the nozzle.

This specialized nozzle includes multiple jets that spray water in different directions, which is how the hydro jet is able to clean pipes so thoroughly. The nozzle connects to a hose capable of withstanding high psi forces, which connects to a water tank that, in turn, pressurizes the water via a specially designed machine.

The plumber determines the pressurize rate according to what the camera reveals. Around 1500 psi is normal, but it may go up to 5000 psi (or around 20 gallons of water per minute), depending on the severity of the blockage. For example, restaurants with years’ worth of grease buildup typically require much more force than the average household.

The condition of the pipes themselves also plays a role in determining psi. Older pipes cannot handle the same level of force, although hydro jetting is much safer for them than a plumber’s snake is.

In addition to highly pressurized water, gravity also plays a role in hydro jetting. Typically, the technician inserts the nozzle into a downstream area of the system. The water blasts upstream, scouring pipes clean and dislodging the obstruction. Gravity then takes over, pulling the water and debris down and out through the cleanout created by the plumber.

Benefits of Hydro Jetting

Hydro jetting is one of the safest, most effective means of clearing blockages from your plumbing and sewer systems. Compared to mechanical drain cleaners, the risk of damage is much lower, particularly for older pipes. And, it cleans pipes much more thoroughly while dramatically reducing the chances of reoccurrence.

Clean, Don’t Just Unclog

Over time, a variety of debris accumulates in your pipes, including grease and other fats, soap, dirt, silt, and mineral deposits. These all combine to create not only blockages but also a sludge-like substance that often coats the inside walls of your pipes.

A snake usually dislodges the blockage, but it does nothing to clear away the sludge coating the pipe’s walls. And, it doesn’t clear all types of blockages, particularly soft ones, such as grease and soap scum, and truly nasty ones, like tree roots.

As an added bonus, when your pipes are truly clean, they not only drain better, they smell better, too.

Accurate, Powerful, Efficient Cleaning

Hydro jetting allows great precision, letting you clear blockages without digging up your yard or inflicting any damage on your infrastructure. It also lets you penetrate deep into blockages and blast away the sludge coating your pipes. And, with varying sizes and forces available, a skilled plumber can handle a variety of issues.

Better for Your Wallet

Clearing your pipes with hydro jetting keeps them clean about four times longer than mechanical drain cleaning methods, leading to big savings. Instead of cleaning your drains every six months, you can typically go three or four years between hydro jet visits.

A Word of Caution About Hydro Jetting

Hydro jetting is safe and effective when performed by an experienced plumber. In the hands of a novice, though, the likelihood of complications increases dramatically, particularly when the blockage is the result of tree roots.

An experienced plumber always performs a visual inspection of both the sewer lines and the indoor plumbing system, both before and after treatment.

Before treatment, the camera reveals potential issues, such as damage to the pipe or its waterproof coating. If the plumber fails to complete the inspection and performs hydro jetting when that type of damage is present, you risk debris entering the septic lines (or worse). After treatment, the camera reveals whether the treatment worked.

If you have recurring drain issues, call Patrick Riley | Isley's today for a free inspection. We include a free camera inspection with every hydro jetting, as well as a 90-day warranty.

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By Ty Lindsay

Ty Lindsay is the Director of Field Operations at Patrick Riley | Isley’s and a 15-year veteran of the plumbing and HVAC trades. In 2010, Ty earned his Journeyman’s plumbing license. He became a Master Plumber five years later and earned his Journeyman HVAC technician’s license that same year. Ty’s breadth of knowledge in plumbing and HVAC includes both residential and commercial work. He’s been a loyal member of the Patrick Riley | Isley’s team since 2016.