remove roots from sewer camera inspection

I have a large oak tree in my front garden that has started to cause some blockages due to roots in our sewer and stormwater pipes. I presume after a long drought the tree roots went searching for water.

The trick is to either remove the blockage or kill the roots once and for all. In this post, we will be going over how to clear roots from drain pipes without digging and the best root killer for sewer lines.

The task was to find the offending tree root blockage and chop it off at the source. The stormwater pipe was an easy fix as it was just a matter of feeding in a USB camera and count how many meters from the opening. I already had a USB endoscope inspection camera with 5m of cable.

You can use an electrical cable snake as well. Just push it through until you feel some restriction. Or if you call out a plumber and he can give you a good indication of the location as he pushes through a hydro jet to clear the blockage. I have my own hydro-jet drain hose for my car pressure washer.

I used the camera and the electrical snake to push it through some tough sections. Being wireless means I have more options not having to stand in the pit.

Table of Contents

How to use your high-pressure washer to clear drains.

How to Clear Roots from Drain Pipes using a pressure washer and hydro-jet hose

Rather than get a plumber out to auger or hydro-jet out your sewer pipes why not do it yourself. If you already have a garden high-pressure washer you can buy a special attachment hose that will turn it into a medium-pressure hydro jet.

As I already had a Gerni pressure washer I purchased this Gerni drain cleaning hose attachment. It comes in various sizes so I grabbed the 10m length as that is all that was required.

Gerni drain pipe cleaner sewer unblocker

Attach the hose to the trigger assembly and push it into the pipework from an inspection point.

Warning – High pressure water is dangerous and can cut flesh. Never touch the high-pressure water stream and never point it at anyone.

hydro-jet root killer for sewer line
Gerni Hydro-jet showing cutting water stream and forward motion water streams that push it along.

Unblocking drains

tree roots in pipes hydro-jet them out

Turn on the water and the power to the pressure washer. Activate the pressure washer trigger with one hand and feed the hydro jet hose in with the other hand. It will be easy with another set of hands. (helper)

Once you feel the restriction work over the area by pushing and pulling a few times. Once the blockage is clear you can remove the hose slowly. This is how to clear roots from drain pipes easily.

tree roots in pipes cut hole and pressure washer out

If you are struggling to get the hose around a few bends you may have to dig a small hole and drill into the pipe. I used a 20mm hole saw to cut into this stormwater pipe bend. It will be patched up with a fiberglass wrap kit afterward.

Homemade Root Killer for Drains?

best root killer for sewer lines salt

If you go back to the early Roman days they used to starve out their enemies by salting the earth of the farms and villagers. This gave the soil a high salt content which kills the vegetation. Over time the rain will wash it away providing fertile soil again.

Trees, plants, fruit, and vegetables don’t do well in a high-slat soil location. So a quick and cheap way to kill the roots in your drain is to dissolve 200g of rock salt into 1 liter of hot water. Pool salt is cheap and works great.

sunray pool salt root killer for sewer lines

Add some liquid detergent and shake well. Pour this solution down your drain. Try not to use this drain for at least 8h so it will dry out and leach into the roots. If it is a sewer root restriction then flush this solution down your toilet before you go to bed. This is the perfect root killer for sewer lines.

Continue this process every night for 7 days. Then reduce it to once a week. Within 3 months your flow should have started to improve and you can reduce this process further to only once a month.

The problem is that if you stop completely then the roots will return so it is a preventative measure only. Rock salt is cheap and you can buy it from any hardware or pool supply store.

Warning: Salt may kill the offending tree or plant completely.

Rock Salt vs Copper Sulfate

Copper sulfate is an inorganic compound that combines sulfur with copper. It can kill algae, roots, bacteria, plants, snails, and fungi. It can be in crystal or liquid form.

Copper Sulfate is preferred by plumbers as it tends not to kill off the tree, it will only kill part of the root that is in the pipe. It is best to place 1/2 pound of sodium chloride or copper sulfate directly into your toilet bowl and flush just before going to bed.

Both rock salt and copper sulfate will kill roots so I use them both together. Perfect for root control. If the tree dies then so be it. Both are great root killers for sewer lines.

  • Copper Sulfate – Safe for trees
  • Rock Salt – Hazardous for trees and local vegetation in large amounts.

How to Clear Roots from Drain Pipes Using a Plumber.

hydro-jet and vacuum to find water pipes
Exposing sewer pipe using hydrojet and vacuum pumps

The best way is to dig up and replace the pipework that is cracked. Usually, Terracotta, Asbestos Cement Drainage, and Concrete pipes are susceptible to cracking and tree root invasion.

As I had roots in my pipe drains in a few locations some were simple to find and dig out. The ones under the house either had to be augered out or flushed out with salt/copper sulfate solution.

tree roots in pipes
This storm water pipe was totally full of tree roots

The three methods of mechanically removing tree roots from sewer pipes is to:

  • Cut the pipe and remove the tree roots.
  • Vevor electric auger with a mechanical cutting head.
  • Hydro jet out with high-pressure electric or petrol water jet.

Most plumbers nowadays are going to hydro jet flush out which uses water at high pressures up to 4000 psi. This is serious pressure and can cut a person if you are not careful. It is safe for PVC sewer and drain pipes. Cheap and easy.

Repairing broken sewer pipes.

The only way to repair a broken sewer pipe is to dig it up and replace the cracked section or reline it.

Depending on the length and difficulty pipe relining will be the most expensive. This is a specialized task and must be left to the plumber. The results are spectacular as you will have a perfectly sealed sewer pipe that will be extra strong. It should last a lifetime.


At the end of the day, cost should be a factor. If you know you have roots in your drain pipes I would try the salt/copper sulfate solution first to see if it works. It won’t be a quick fix so give it a month or two. Once you have cleared the pipe blockage via hydro jet or other means then continue to use the salt solution every 3 months. You should have no further problems.

Tree roots in drains are a problem in society. I don’t understand why people like to plant big trees in their yard. If you want a big tree plant it as far away from your house as you can. But be warned that tree roots can travel as far as 4 times the height of the tree or more.

I’m glad I planted my new grafted peach/plum/apricot tree far away from any underground water pipes.

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