Clogged drains are likely the most common reason for a homeowner or business owner to call a plumber.  From overflowing toilets, to sinks or showers that won’t drain, to all out flooding, drain backups can really be a nuisance at best.  At worst it can cause serious damage to a home, or completely shut down a business.

Knowing that, it is no surprise that the vast majority of people faced with a clogged drain approach it with the mindset, “I just need to get it unclogged”.  Many will even go so far as to add, “Whatever it takes”.  While that may make sense, on the surface, and in some cases may even be a good first approach, it is not always the best approach.  In fact, most often, it is not.

In this article, we will go more into 2 big reasons why the above mindset may not always be the best to use, as well as what you should really be looking for to get the best value possible.

The First Major Drawback to “Just Clear It”

While just getting the water to drain may seem like the best idea, there are two major flaws, and consequences to both of them.  The first major drawback is the difference between clearing a drain, and properly clearing it.  I will illustrate the difference by giving an example.

Let’s say that your main sewer line is backed up, due to a root blockage (the most common cause for mainline backups in San Jose and the South bay).  You find someone who is willing to go on your roof to “unclog” it (a very bad idea, BTW).  There are several reasons why he will not be able to use a big enough blade on his cable to clear the roots out.  In fact, the most common sized blade for clearing a 4” main sewer line from the roof is a 1.5” half blade.

As you can imagine, while that small blade may make a hole big enough for the water to drain (for now), it does not do a good job of properly cutting out the roots.  Now let’s take a look at the flip side:

A plumber uses a full sized blade (3.5 – 4”), from a proper access (as close to the blockage as possible).  He breaks through the blockage, and then runs the cable all the way out to the end (to insure the entire line is clear).  He pulls the cable back, and runs the line again, to collect any straggling roots still left in the line.

The consequence is easy to imagine.  Clearing the blockage properly does a much better job of restoring proper flow to the pipe, making it less likely to back up in the future.  On the other hand, the improper job, described above, will leave the line full of roots, and in a state where it will back up again, much more quickly.

The Second Major Flaw

The second drawback to the “just get the line flowing” mindset is that it does not take into account the reason the line backed up in the first place.

Drain lines are not built to back up, they are built to drain, and there are a lot of rules in place for installing them to make sure they drain properly.  Still, drain lines do back up, but it is not because they are supposed to.  By looking at the reason a drain backs up, you can take measures to keep it from backing up as frequently.

For instance, if it is a kitchen sink line backup, the blockage is likely due to food getting caught on grease buildup.  While a small drain cleaning cable may “unclog” the drain for now, it does nothing to remove the grease buildup, and it will therefore, back up again.

On the other hand, if you start with a cabling, and have the plumber perform a degreaser treatment, or even flush the line with a jetter, the grease buildup problem will be greatly reduced, or even eliminated for a while.  Following that up with preventive measures from time to time can actually keep your kitchen line clear for life, while just cabling the line, and calling it “good to go” can very easily find you with another kitchen blockage, as soon as the warranty expires.


Yes, drain clogs happen, and they are a pain in the neck.  Fortunately, there is a way to limit them long term, and even alleviate some of them for good.  All it takes is approaching the problem from a different perspective, and having a skilled plumber on hand to take care of your problems the right way.

While many plumbing companies approach drain cleaning as a “blow and go” proposition, at Allstar Plumbing, we want to give you the best value for your hard earned dollar.  That means doing the job correctly, and thoroughly the first time.