Plumbing woes: laundry cleanout plugged again

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I've had this problem before and paid a plumber to clean it out. We've got a laundry room cleanout on the lower floor. It seems that the upstairs kitchen sink drain is also connected. We used to have problems with the kitchen sink filling up, but not any more. However, what I see now is that water shot up through a sink in the laundry room and is filling up the washing machine. I'm removing that water by hand and dumping it. It smells like dishwashing detergent. I tried cleaning out the cleanout with a 25 ft plumber's snake, but that's not doing anything. When I remove the plug it will often shoot water up and slightly flood the floor, but it's slightly inclined and moves away. I don't think it's creating a problem with our main sewer line. If it was the waste from the toilet would be coming out of the cleanout. Like I said, it smells like dishwashing detergent. If there was human waste in there I'm sure I could tell. I'm not quite sure how it all started recently other than I had problems with the kitchen sink flowing slowly, so I used a plunger to try to clear it out. When I first opened the cleanout plug, I saw some crusty stuff come out as well as some brown sludge. There's also a lot of sand that shot out of the laundry room sink. I'll probably get a plumber, but that might take some time to get an appointment. Once it's fixed, should I used one of those enzyme build-up removers? I had a little bit left and tried dumping it in the cleanout, but I'm not sure how fast that would act.
 
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Sand shot out?? That sounds like somewhere in the ground there is a pipe that is broke or somehow has a hole in it. If that is the case, just cleaning it out will result in only a very temporary fix.
 

Kestas

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The Motor City
I've had our laundry drain pipe develop atherosclerosis from lint buildup. Thankfully it is only a 3' pipe to the main house drain. A complete disassembly and cleaning of the pipes cured the problem.
 
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...
Sand doesn't sound good. The plumber should be able to run a camera down and check for a break in the line. You are in earthquake territory and pipe breaks happen.
 

CT8

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Idaho
Did you buy my house in San Bruno? I had a problem where there was a section of pipe under the garage floor that about every 3 or 4 years would clog. just ran a snake through the clean out on the wall .
 
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Cajun Country, La.
How old is the house? In the '40's, to save money, the government had plumbers install tar wrapped cardboard pipe called ORANGEBURG. Sometimes when a plumber snaked out a sewer line the snake head would put a hole in it. Plumbers installed this pipe into the 1960's.
 
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Originally Posted by BlueOvalFitter
How old is the house? In the '40's, to save money, the government had plumbers install tar wrapped cardboard pipe called ORANGEBURG. Sometimes when a plumber snaked out a sewer line the snake head would put a hole in it. Plumbers installed this pipe into the 1960's.
The house is old. If I could afford to, I'd tear the whole place down and start from scratch just to eliminate all the issues with late 40s construction and weird 60s/70s era remodeling. But the pipe is solid. It's definitely metal.
 
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We lived in a house built in the 20's that had a iron sewer line. It started to give us problems and we got used to twice annually renting a snake. Finally the problem got so bad a contractor came in. The line had rusted badly and collapsed. It was condemned and a new ABS line was installed and patched into the main outlet. Being made of metal is not a sure thing.
 
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In Tampa, FL. there is an Island named DAVIS ISLAND. In the '20's they dredged Tampa Bay and built DAVIS ISLAND with that material. 95% of the houses built there had Orangeburg pipe for there sewer lines. My best friend there owned his own plumbing company. When l wasn't detailing cars on the weekends l would help him replace sewers on DAVIS ISLAND. That OB pipe was some nasty stuff. Its biggest enemy was roots. And, a plumbers snake line.
 
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MN
I don't have much to add as far as your problem goes, but it reminded me of a funny story of mine: My house is OLD, built in 1905. One of the first in the neighborhood as far as I know. It's been updated many times over the years, including the plumbing, but the sewer lines are definitely old compared to the rest of the plumbing. I was dating my ex when I bought the place, and soon after we moved in she decided that we needed a garbage disposal. I never had a disposal as a kid, and I was 100% against the idea, but guess who won that discussion... Keep in mind this is the house that I paid for, whose name was on the deed, etc. etc. Anyways, full well knowing it was a bad idea, I helped her dad install a disposal. Not one week went by before we had our first issue: she cooked cheese tortellini for dinner and decided to dump the leftovers down the disposal... turning them into somewhat of a pasta-cement. Low and behold, the sink clogs. I went down into the basement and found the clean-out, which was directly below the kitchen sink. Between being annoyed and naive, I proceeded to remove the access plug... which immediately resulted in a pressurized stream of backed up water and chopped, cooked pasta being sprayed all over me and the basement floor. Needless to say, I was not happy. Long story short, it took her father and I 2 hours with a 100' snake to clear things out. No, it wasn't all the pasta, but to this day 6 years later I've never had another issue with the sink or any of the plumbing, for that matter. I've also unplugged the stupid disposal. Trash goes in the trash, not the drain. Also note: I said EX!
 
Last edited:
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1/2 hr N.E. of Detroit
Originally Posted by y_p_w
I've had this problem before and paid a plumber to clean it out. We've got a laundry room cleanout on the lower floor. It seems that the upstairs kitchen sink drain is also connected. We used to have problems with the kitchen sink filling up, but not any more. However, what I see now is that water shot up through a sink in the laundry room and is filling up the washing machine. I'm removing that water by hand and dumping it. It smells like dishwashing detergent. I tried cleaning out the cleanout with a 25 ft plumber's snake, but that's not doing anything. When I remove the plug it will often shoot water up and slightly flood the floor, but it's slightly inclined and moves away. I don't think it's creating a problem with our main sewer line. If it was the waste from the toilet would be coming out of the cleanout. Like I said, it smells like dishwashing detergent. If there was human waste in there I'm sure I could tell. I'm not quite sure how it all started recently other than I had problems with the kitchen sink flowing slowly, so I used a plunger to try to clear it out. When I first opened the cleanout plug, I saw some crusty stuff come out as well as some brown sludge. There's also a lot of sand that shot out of the laundry room sink. I'll probably get a plumber, but that might take some time to get an appointment. Once it's fixed, should I used one of those enzyme build-up removers? I had a little bit left and tried dumping it in the cleanout, but I'm not sure how fast that would act.
When the dirty clothes water exists the washing machine, is there always a filter on the end of the black hose? In the laundry tub, I use a specific, specialized drain cleaner that removes hair and garment residue. Sold at Lowes or Home Depot.
 
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South Central PA (Fulton Co)
Old metal pipes are very easy to build up gunk and cause problems. They start corroding and build up very quickly. Honestly if it's easily accessible a re-pipe in plastic is the best and cheapest route. I've done that here; got tired of snaking out the old 1 1/2" galvanized on a couple lines. Replaced all with plastic and haven't had to touch it since. The larger 4" cast iron isn't near an issue as the smaller galvanized they used.
 
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San Francisco Bay Area
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Originally Posted by Triple_Se7en
When the dirty clothes water exists the washing machine, is there always a filter on the end of the black hose? In the laundry tub, I use a specific, specialized drain cleaner that removes hair and garment residue. Sold at Lowes or Home Depot.
There's no filter. It goes straight into a dry standpipe that I had to to make myself out of several pieces of plastic pipe after the previous metal one wore away at the bend. When I was younger, my parents had a laundry setup where the drain hose went straight into a sink. My mom set it up with some old stockings as a filter to trap lint and sand. The house they've lived in for years started off with a traditional cast iron sink. Even after they remodeled and moved the laundry area, they set it up with the drain hose into the sink so they could filter it with the stockings. I just ordered a 3-pack of something called Green Gobbler sold at Home Depot. They have a variety of different treatments and cleaners, including powders, strips, and liquids. The one I ordered comes in single-use packets. They claim that it eats through grease/food/etc. They even have an infomercial:
I'm skeptical, but I'll give it a try. Plumbers around here are charging a few hundred for a visit. I know one plumber who is very reasonable (maybe $120 to clean out a line) but he's really busy and doesn't always respond quickly.
 
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San Francisco Bay Area
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Originally Posted by old1
Sand shot out?? That sounds like somewhere in the ground there is a pipe that is broke or somehow has a hole in it. If that is the case, just cleaning it out will result in only a very temporary fix.
I didn't want to touch it earlier, but looked again today. There's a tiny bit of sand, but when I actually touched it, it's was kind of soft and crumbly. Looks more like spongy calcium deposits mixed with whiteish sludge. There was also a lot of dark brown sludge too. So it's probably not a broken pipe. But there's a lot of gunk in there. The brown sludge reminds me of when I replaced the drain stopper in my bathroom sink. When I took it apart I could reach into the porcelain sink overflow where there was a ton of brown sludge in an area that got wet but not with a whole lot of flow to flush things out. I also found a plastic business card that my kid must have shoved in there. I think there was another cardboard business card, that that kind of turned into sludge over the years.
 
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Originally Posted by BlueOvalFitter
OP, the white sludge sounds as if it's grease. The brown sludge could be human waste.
I don't think it's human waste. It's really dark - almost rubbery. I've seen stuff like that in my sink where there was low flow.
 
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OK - update. The stuff didn't clean out the drain. I also has to suck a certain amount of water out of the cleanout hole just to get it in. Then I let it sit overnight. Since I tried snaking a 25' snake in before, I figure I probably couldn't reach it and it's way down in there. The drain cleaner is really designed for sinks. I'm thinking of just getting a new manual snake before going to something more extreme like a rental. I've seen it being cleared by a plumber before. This should be pretty easy although messy as heck. Not sure that I would need a machine with a claw tip. I'm willing to give it a try with something cheaper that I will own. If it works, then I'll be able to use it if this happens again. I think 50' should be long enough. It can't be anywhere near that long to the sewer line.
 
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A 50' heavy duty drain snake didn't do the trick. At this point I'm not sure what's the deal other than maybe I'm not reaching it or maybe there's something I'm missing. I didn't feel any substantial pressure at any point. I thought that even if all I did was punch a hole completely through sludge, it would at least start draining even if it was still restricted. I'll just bite the bullet and pay for a plumber.
 
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