Over time, all the gunk that passes through your pipes can build up, leaving you with slow-running drains and backups.

Tree roots growing into your sewer line can cause the same problems. While drain cleaners and drain snaking might help with smaller clogs, the results don’t last long.

Professional hydrojetting completely removes buildup and blockages to keep your plumbing working reliably for longer.

How Hydrojetting Works

Hydrojetting is a method of pumping highly pressurized water through the pipes to break up clogs and remove buildup. It’s like having your plumbing pressure washed.

A hydrojetting machine consists of a high-pressure hose line connected to a specialized jet nozzle on one end and a water pressure machine on the other. The nozzle end is fed into the pipe, and pressurized water is pumped through the hose to the nozzle, which produces high-pressure water jets that remove debris as the nozzle moves down the pipe. Some of the debris these jets can cut through include:

  • Grease and kitchen drain sludge
  • Soap scum
  • Hair clogs
  • Mineral scale
  • Tree roots
  • Dried concrete

If you have a clogged or slow-running drain, your plumber might recommend hydrojetting when the blockage is too severe to remove with a drain snake alone or too hard to reach with one. The method is especially helpful when your problem is recurring, suggesting your pipes need a thorough cleaning rather than just clog removal. Hydrojetting is also useful for routine pipe cleaning to prevent future issues.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

Hydrojetting uses only water to clean your pipes, so you won’t have to hassle with caustic drain cleaning chemicals. Sodium hydroxide, the active ingredient in most store-bought drain cleaners, isn’t technically an environmental pollutant, but it is hazardous to your health. The fumes irritate the nose, throat, and respiratory tract, and skin contact can cause chemical burns.

Caustic drain cleaners might seem like an easy way to get rid of clogs, but they can cause more harm than good. They rarely dissolve the whole clog, so it’s likely to form again. Using drain cleaners to get rid of recurring clogs can corrode your pipes, raising the risk of leaks.

Hydrojetting eliminates the clogs and other buildup without harming your pipes. It’s safe enough to use every year. Even so, some very old or damaged pipes might be too weak for hydrojetting. Your plumber should inspect your pipes to make sure they can handle the pressure.  

Drain cleaners and snaking only poke a hole in the clog or, at best, partially break it apart. Hydrojetting flushes the clog and any surrounding debris away, leaving the pipe interior clean. This reduces the chance of debris backing up or lingering debris forming another clog. Hydrojetting is also more effective at reaching clogs deep down in the pipes.

While hydrojetting is safe and effective for most situations, it can’t get rid of every obstruction. If a pipe is blocked due to damage, such as a break, a bellied (sagging) line, channeling (erosion-based damage), or offset (misaligned) joints, hydrojetting won’t help.

In these cases, your plumber might need to slip line the pipes or dig them up and replace them. For dense tree root blockages, the plumber might first snake the pipe to break up the roots, then hydrojet to remove the remaining debris. Hydrojetting a dense blockage can cause damage if the water can’t get through the blockage and sprays back through the pipe. 

The Hydrojetting Process

Most plumbers don’t start hydrojetting until they’ve inspected the interior of the pipes. To do this, they’ll access a cleanout, a section of the plumbing system that gives a professional easy access to the pipes. Usually, one outside your home is preferable.

They’ll then insert a small camera on a cable into the pipes. This helps them determine the exact cause of the blockage and decide whether or not hydrojetting will help. The inspection also alerts the plumber to any cracks, deterioration, or other issues that could be worsened by hydrojetting.

Some plumbers offer camera inspection as an optional service at an additional cost, but it’s still a critical step. If your plumber hydrojets without an inspection and hits a weakened section they weren’t aware of, you could end up with serious plumbing damage.

If the plumber determines hydrojetting is the right approach, they’ll calculate how much water pressure to use based on the pipe’s size and condition. In the average home, most pipes are between 1 1/2 to 4 inches in diameter.

For these, around 1500 to 2000 PSI gets the job done. That’s similar to the water pressure a home pressure washer produces.

Larger pipes require higher pressure and specialized equipment. Some hydrojetting machines can produce 5,000 PSI, but due to the risk of serious injury, operating one requires advanced skills and protective gear.

To start work, the plumber inserts the nozzle-tipped hose into a cleanout or other opening in the downstream section of your plumbing system. The hose moves upstream along the pipe, cutting through clogs and scrubbing debris from the sides of the pipe. Any debris that breaks loose is pulled downstream by gravity, leaving your pipes clean. All the plumber needs to do to finish up is remove the hose.

If you’re tired of slow drains and constant clogs, it might be time for hydrojetting to get rid of the stuck-on debris gunking up your pipes. Even if your plumbing is working perfectly, hydrojetting as part of routine maintenance will keep things flowing smoothly. A plumber can help you decide if hydrojetting is the right cleaning option for your system.

Editorial Contributors
avatar for Henry Parker

Henry Parker

Henry Parker is a home improvement enthusiast who loves to share his passion and expertise with others. He writes on a variety of topics, such as painting, flooring, windows, and lawn care, to help homeowners make informed decisions and achieve their desired results. Henry strives to write high quality guides and reviews that are easy to understand and practical to follow. Whether you are looking for the best electric riding lawn mower, the easiest way to remove paint from flooring, or the signs of a bad tile job, Henry has you covered with his insightful and honest articles. Henry lives in Florida with his wife and two kids, and enjoys spending his free time on DIY projects around the house. You can find some of his work on Today’s Homeowner, where he is a regular contributor.

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