How To Unclog Your Septic : AKA The Gross Realities of Acreage Life


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a hand with white gloves

Hahaha I forgot ALL about these picture from this summer when I spent a week with the kids at my parents house. Lucky me, I woke up in the middle of the night and found the downstairs bathroom floor flooded a bit, which on any land with a septic tank is Bad. As in it’s going to be a lot of work for someone Bad. So of course, you have to check out your drains in the utility room which ta-daaa are flooded too!

So the next morning you have to go out and rent one of these suckers, an industrial plumbing snake that rotates as it goes. It even has an awesome tree root cutter, because tree roots love the moist ground that septic pipes provide.

sucker machine


In fact, this is just one gross post. But if I had to live it, you can read it. Fair is fair.

Then you find your point of access to the septic pipes.

point of access to the septic pipes

Open it…

opening the point of access to the septic pipes

And start snaking.

start snaking the point of access to the septic pipes

Then you send your oldest daughter, your firstborn, the bearer of two out of three of your precious grandchildren,  outside to the opened septic tank with the hopes that a mere ladder stops her from falling in.

opened septic tank outside the house

And you send her with a phone set on intercom so she can:

a) scream for help when the ladder fails and she topples in from the fumes


b) tell you when everything runs clear and you can stop the snake

Like the horse puckey in the picture? Niiiice. Told you this was one gross post.

phone set on intercom

And then, everything breaks free and comes gushing out and your job is done. There’s your peek into a septic tank, aren’t you glad I shared this with you? Trust me, it was much nastier in real life. And this of course, brought on the conversation about how my parents have seen a lot of people move into the area, stay 6-9 months, and then the house is up for sale.

And as much as I want to move back to the country, acreage life is hard dang work, with the septic being one of the worst parts. If you have fences that need repairing, stupid neighbors that start grass fires that can burn down your house, driveways that drift in and need to be plowed in the winter, lawns that are acres wide and need a ride’em mower to cut them, wild animals that attack your family pets, and icy highways for miles before you hit town.

Wow, I should sell real estate, that’s some good ad copy right there. And I should include the picture of the septic tank as well.

close up picture of the septic tank

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Karlynn Johnston

I’m a busy mom of two, wife & cookbook author who loves creating fast, fresh meals for my little family on the Canadian prairies. Karlynn Facts: I'm allergic to broccoli. I've never met a cocktail that I didn't like. I would rather burn down my house than clean it. Most of all, I love helping YOU get dinner ready because there's nothing more important than connecting with our loved ones around the dinner table!

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  1. bryanflake1984 says

    You are brave for tackling your own septic problems.  I really hope that your gloves are thick enough to keep grime off your hands.  Blocked drains can be smelly ordeals.  I can’t even wrap my mind around tackling the septic system myself.  My respect and applause are right here for you.  Hope it went well.


  2. tedsmith575 says

    Thank you so much for the tips on how to unclog my septic tank. I really appreciate all the details in the article on what to do. The pictures also really help. Today I woke up and my house smelled like sewage. I knew something was wrong with the septic tank. Hopefully I will be able to fix it with these instructions

  3. Mark Grogan says

    In every household, a septic tank is definitely present. It is one type of storage that we sometimes overlook to clean or unclog. But given these tips, it should not be a big issue, but I would still prefer to have a professional do it. Otherwise, it will be very messy and if it is not done properly, it may not be hygienic to the immediate household. 

  4. Karlynn says

    David, I am by no means an expert, but you CAN do what we did above by renting the machinery and clean it out by snaking it.

    Another thing is that tree roots love septic lines, I have seen them growing into the septic tank, where the pipes meet the tank, do you have trees by the line? They gravitate towards the moisture and are horrible to the pipes.

    You can open the lid and take a flashlight to look if you can see anything coming into the tank where the pipe joins it.

    Your place sounds pretty new to be having these issues?

  5. David says

    Yey, bought my first acarage two years ago…. OPPS…. city boy still not sure what im doing… but you know this! I found your site for a reason. 2500sqft rancher(bungalow) I decited to finish the basement. Walls over nine ft high and huge. Never had a water problem of any kind all year. And then….. The floor was all in , put in a nice underlay and then layed laminit(meidum priced) to finish the large footage. First the grey water sump pump died and the alarm did not go off flooded half basement. Next, on the main floor… this could have happened anywhere… a field mouse ate through my dish washer drain hose( ceilling was drywalled and knock down texture, very nice) so now my basement ceilling matched my woarped floor. K all was good until a bad winter…. Spent $840,000 on house only 3 acares all house very nice newly done to match $1,000,000 neighborhood. Then had the stinky, flood… No daughters, no wife, and a man;s stomac for dyper’s. Son was not here that week. Called builder, his advice was to suck-out , outside septic on a Sunday long weekend… First quote was $1500, Should have had daughters…. he he. Did find one for $375 and he was here quick. That was a month ago and rain has kept comming…. so did the do do….. again….. Live in Calagry Canada where there is no Ocean, Lakes, and river is far from home…. Not a quiter, Still have thought about city life again but….. besides stink, wet feet and yes coyotes, painting fence…… You can not beat the controled nite fire pits, parking for 600, sleeping to crickets chirping, music till when ever, pool party’s, BBQ’s when friends can drink and pitch a tent….. I just need to know best way to clean lines on a regular basis….
    Please Help, Canadian city boy lost in the woods…lol

  6. Arachne says

    Ugh, I got to live this within the city last weekend. Our basement flooded with black water, due to a blocked sewage pipe somewhere. DH worked on it a bit, then we had to call in a plumber.

    This especially sucked because:

    – we have carpet in the basement
    – it happened Sat night and we couldn’t get a plumber until Sunday morning
    – we couldn’t flush toilets, or use water
    – the above extra sucked because my diabetic cat had just PEED ON OUR BED, which mean all our bedding had cat piss on it and I couldn’t wash it.
    – there is more but it is too gross to even tell you.

    Fun! The stinky part is that this has happened before and will again. We need to find out what’s blocking it and hope to maude it’s on city property as then they will pick up the (many thousands of dollars) tab to repair it.

  7. Karlee says

    Wow! Am I looking forward to this! So far in the 2.5 years living the acreage life, we haven’t had any septic issues. Just calling the “You dump we pump” guys to come pump it. Which is a job I would never do!

    I hope I never need this, but I know who to call if we have water in our basement! 😉