5 Easy and Simple Ways to Unclog Underground Drains

Are your underground gutter drains clogged and backed up?

With enough buildup of leaves, roots, and mud, underground drain pipes will eventually clog up and stop working. This leads to all sorts of issues, such as your gutters overflowing, water damage to your home, and more.

Today, we are going to walk you through a few methods on how to unclog your underground gutter drain and get them into tip-top shape.

Let’s get started.

underground downspout with blue pipe

How to Unclog Underground Drains

To clean out those underground drain pipes, there are a few methods you can try depending on how bad the clog is and how long your underground drain is.

We’ll teach you a few methods that you can try will minimal equipment and time.

1. Unclog Gutters and Downspouts

Before cleaning out your underground downspouts, it’s a good idea to make sure your gutters and downspouts are clear of debris.

Sometimes, cleaning your gutters and downspouts will fix any clogs or overflowing issues you may have, with no underground drain cleaning required.

To do this, you want to start by clearing out any visible leaves or mud in your gutters. You can do this either by hand, with a pressure washer, or with a leaf blower.

Work your way around your entire gutter system until everything has been cleared out. This should be down twice a year to keep your gutters functional, especially if you’re located around a lot of trees with heavy leaf fall.

Next we want to work on the downspouts.

The downspouts are a common area for clogs, especially areas where the downspouts bend or turn. Clearing out the areas at the top and bottom are your best bet to remove clogs.

Before clearing out the downspout, disconnect the bottom of the downspout with the underground drain. You can usually do this by removing any sort of zip tie holding them together.

underground drain pipe

The downspout will typically be hooked up to a corrugated black plastic that is run underground.

Once you have removed the downspout from the underground drain, you can begin to clear out the leaves in the downspout. The joint is where you’ll find a lot of buildup, so clearing that out first can resolve the issue sometimes.

Giving the downspout a few soft hits can loosen any debris and make it easier to clear out with a pressure washer, hose, or leave blower.

Now that the entire gutter system and downspouts are clear of leaves, let’s move onto the underground drains.

2. Use a Drain Snake

Because we disconnected the downspout from the underground pipe in the last step, the opening should be exposed.

We can run a drain snake or cable rod through the pipe to loosen the debris and unclog the pipe.

You want to run the cable through the drain until you hit a jam. Once a jam has been located you can move the cable up and down until the jam is cleared out.

You want to work your way through the entire pipe until all of the jams are clear.

If the other side of the pipe is exposed (where the water drains to), you can run the drain snake/cable up that end as well to clear out blockages from both directions.

If the end is buried, after clearing out the jams with the cable, try running a hose down the pipe. Where the water exits will be where the underground pipe ends. You can then clear out the area better to prevent future jamming.

3. Use a Blow Bag

underground downspout

If you have a normal garden hose and you want to clear out your drain pipe, you can make it 10x better at clearing out clogs with a $20 blow bag.

A blog bag is a rubber bladder attachment that you screw onto your hose. The blog bag, when water is running through it, will increase in size and then shoot out pressurized water through a small hole on the other side.

This makes it the ideal attachment for homeowners that don’t want to purchase expensive equipment used by contractors.

All you need to do is screw on the blow bag to your hose, then insert the blow bag into your underground until you reach a clog.

Then turn on your hose and let it sit there for a few minutes.

The blow bag will increase in diameter to the size of your drain and shoot the pressurized water against the clog. Once the clog has been cleared, turn off the blow bag and push it deeper into your drain pipe.

If you hit another jam, repeat the same steps until the entire drain pipe is clear.

Boom, clean pipes.

4. Hook Up your Power Washer

If you have a power washer, you can make short work of a clogged underground pipe.

Start by placing a medium attachment to the hose, don’t go too small or you may destroy your underground pipe. This can happen when the pipes are older and worn down.

Once the attachment is installed, put your pressure washer end a foot deep into the pipe and let out small bursts of water to remove any clogging.

Try putting the hose end deeper into the pipe and continue to do small bursts of water. Then check if the pipe is unclogged by looking at the other end to see if water is making its way through the entire pipe.

If needed, repeat the same process on the other end of the pipe to clear out any jams.

If your pipe is on the longer side, you may need to look into getting a longer attachment for your pressure washer, specifically ones used by professional plumbers.

5. Get a Picote Milling Machine

A Picote milling machine is made for heavy duty pipe cleaning. If you got a tough job, it may be what’s needed.

These machines use different bits on the end of a cable to clear out even the most intense clogs. Common bits include a spinning metal chain or wire brushes.

They are typically used with metal pipes and not with corrugated black plastic (although they can be).

With a Picote machine, you need to be careful not to rupture the pipe or even hit gas or electrical lines in the area when clearing out your drain pipes.

It can be highly effective if you have a tough clog that can’t be cleared out with a pressure washer, drain snake, or blow bag.

How to Prevent your Underground Drain from Clogging

Ok, so you have cleared out your underground drain pipes. The question now becomes, how do we keep these clear for the long term?

Nobody wants to clear out their pipes every time it rains or a few leaves fall. Here are a few tips to keep your underground gutter drains in tip top shape.

Keep the Drain Exit Clear

The place where your underground drain exits is a common area for clogs and for debris to enter the system.

A simple solution to keep it from getting backed up, is to make sure there is a clear drainage path for the water to exit the system.

Otherwise, after a heavy rainfall, muddy pockets will begin to form and cover the drain exit.

This is why the ground near the drain exit should be graded downwards to allow the water to make it’s way downhill and away from the drain (and your home).

It’s always smart to have gravity on your side.

You can help the water exit by creating small channels for the runoff water to go through. This will help prevent future clogs.

Clean Out your Gutters Regularly

powerwashing gutters

If you can keep your gutters and downspouts clean on a regular basis, you can ensure that your underground pipes avoid clogs.

The entry point into your underground pipes, is a common area for clogs to form and is a prime entry point for leaves and debris.

By keeping the area clear, you can prevent bad clogs from forming.

It’s recommended to get your gutters cleaned twice a year to prevent buildup and keep your gutters fully operational for the rainy season.

During fall, you can expect heavy leaf fall, so that is a good time to clear out the gutters.

Get In Touch with a Professional Contractor

If you don’t have the tools, time, or expertise to take of a clogged underground drain (or perhaps the pipe is broken), it can be a good idea to reach out to a local contractor in your area.

They will provide you will valuable hands-on insight about your problem. They will have an idea of the general scope of work involved and can give you a competitive quote for the project.

It can be wise to get multiple quotes to make sure you have a competitive rate and you trust the contractor.

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