Sewer Jetter Guide


Sewer Jetter Guide

How to Unclog Drains with Your Pressure Washer

Use this Guide To:

  • Learn how a sewer jetter works

  • Find out if a sewer jetter can help solve your plumbing problem

  • Choose the right pressure washer and sewer jetter for the job

  • Get tips to make drain cleaning easier

How a Sewer Jetter Works

A sewer jetter is a slim, high-pressure hose with a jet nozzle on one end. A sewer jetter hose is lighter and more flexible than other pressure hoses so that it can slide more easily through drains. The jetter nozzle uses the force of pressurized water to pull the jetter deep into drains, break apart clogs, scrub off sticky debris on the sides of pipes, and flush out residue.

In most cases it’s easiest to attach the jetter to the discharge fitting of your pressure washer trigger gun so that you can control the flow of water with the trigger.

Can a Sewer Jetter Solve My

Plumbing Problem?

A sewer jetter can be a good choice if:

• More than one plumbing fixture is backed up, or you suspect there could be a clog deep in the main drain;

• Water drains too slowly from some areas, so there could be buildup or a low spot in the drain;

• Your outdoor drains or septic field lines have accumulated sediment that must be removed.

A sewer jetter could be the right solution to these problems because it can break apart clogs that are far from the drain opening and flush out dirty residue. And, unlike a drain snake, sewer jetters can scrub the sides of your pipes to clean away debris that’s been stuck on for a very long time.

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If you are concerned that a sewer jetter could damage an older pipe, before buying a sewer jetter you can spray an exposed portion of pipe with the strongest spray from your pressure washer. If this erodes or scores the pipe, you could damage the pipe with a sewer jetter that’s powered by the same machine.


A sewer jetter is usually not the right choice if:

• You need to unclog only a single fixture, or the clog might be close to the drain opening;

• Tree roots, large rocks or other hard objects have entered the pipe;

• The drain is damaged by foundation problems, a collapsed pipe, or other structural issues.

• If you live in an older home with ceramic (clay) or asphalt (Orangeburg) pipes you should con- sult a licensed plumber to inspect the drain before attempting to clean it.

Choose the Right Pressure Washer

The gallon per minute (GPM)
flow of your pressure washer determines how much force your sewer jetter can produce. Nozzle force increases roughly with pressure washer GPM squared, so a midrange gas pressure washer can give you much more cleaning and pulling force than an electric machine, and a larger com- mercial-sized gas pressure washer can produce even more force.

Pressure washer GPM also determines the maximum length and diameter of pipe you can clean. When you use a properly sized sewer jetter:

  • An electric pressure washer
    rated from 1.2 to 1.5 GPM can usually power the jetter between 20 and 50 ft. into most drains up to 4” ID.

  • A residential gas pressure washer rated from 2.0 to 2.9 GPM can usually power the jetter at least 100 ft. into drains up to 4” ID.

  • A commercial gas pressure washer rated from 3.0 to 4.0 GPM can usually power the jetter at least 100 ft. into drains up to 6” ID.

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Very old pressure washers, custom and rental machines, expensive direct drive electrics, and hot water pressure washers can operate at too low a PSI pressure to work with most sewer jetters. If in doubt contact the sewer jetter manufacturer before you buy.

Choose the Right

Sewer Jetter

When it comes to choosing the right sewer jetter one size doesn’t fit all. Choose a sewer jetter with a hose and nozzle that are matched to your pressure washer.

• Smaller diameter jetter hoses move much more easily through drains for better distance, but if the hose is too small to handle your pressure washer GPM it will overload the machine and you’ll get zero nozzle force.

• Look for a quality-made, stainless
steel nozzle that maximizes cleaning and pulling force while working within the PSI pressure limits of your machine. Avoid inexpensive nozzles with lower-grade materials or improperly con- figured jets that could reduce cleaning effectiveness or overload your machine.

Lastly, choose a jetter that has the right type of adapter to fit your pressure washer trigger gun. You can find more information about adapters to fit different machines on the sewer jetter manufacturer’s website.

Tips to Make the

Job Easier

Plan the Job

It’s usually easiest to clear your main drain starting from a downhill drain opening and working in an uphill direction, toward the clog.
That’s because:

  • Any larger diameter elbows downstream of the clog can be easier for the jetter to pass through,

  • When starting downhill there’s usually a clear path for debris to flush downstream,

  • You can often look into the cleanout, see the sediment flushing out, and know when the drain is clean.

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Plan the Job (continued)

Locate both a primary drain opening such a main drain cleanout outside your home or in a basement, and an alternative opening upstream of the clog should it become necessary, such as an indoor drain opening under a sink or a roof vent.

When using a sewer jetter always wear thick, fluid- resistant work gloves and eye protection. Use your sewer jetter in well ventilated locations, and avoid breathing any dirty mist from drains.

If you’re using the jetter indoors prepare a few old towels and a bucket to keep near the drain opening. The volume of flow from a pressure washer isn’t much more than what you’d get from a drinking fountain– so as long as you take a few precautions you should be able to handle any spills.

And finally, allow yourself plenty of time to complete the job without rushing through.

Check Your Pressure Washer

Before connecting the sewer jetter, test your pressure washer by spraying with the highest pres- sure setting for at least 15 seconds. The machine should be ready if it can spray steadily, without the engine stalling and without the unloader valve cycling off and on. If not, it’s time to check the fuel supply, air filter, and other service parts.

Flush and Protect Hoses

A small amount of dirt inside your supply hoses can plug the jetter. Before connecting the jetter to your pressure washer always connect your supply hoses and run water through the hoses, pressure washer and trigger gun until you are sure that the water comes out clean. And if you’re using the sewer jetter indoors check all hose connections for drips before bringing the hoses inside.

Then connect the jetter hose and once again run water through at low pressure, without starting your pressure washer.