Does Tree Root Killer Really Work On Clogged Sewer Lines?

The Short Answer Is: While commercial-grade tree root killers can be effective in temporarily alleviating clogs caused by tree roots in main sewer lines, they may not provide a long-term solution and could harm the overall health of the tree. Calling a professional plumber is often the best course of action as they can assess the extent of the root infiltration, employ specialized tools like root cutters, and recommend more permanent solutions to address the issue without causing harm to the tree or compromising the sewer system's integrity.

When it comes to plumbing issues, few things strike fear into the hearts of homeowners quite like the threat of clogged sewer lines. Among the myriad of causes, tree root growth infiltrating your sewer pipes stands out as a persistent and often misunderstood problem.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the intricacies of how tree roots find their way into your sewer line, the telltale signs of root clogs, and the efficacy of tree root killer for sewer lines as a long-term solution for killing tree roots and stopping new root growth. Additionally, we'll explore alternative methods such as augers, hydro jetting, and pipe liners in the battle against this roots in sewer lines.

How Do Tree Roots Grow in Your Sewer Line

Understanding the stealthy infiltration of tree roots into your sewer lines is crucial in devising effective prevention and treatment strategies. Large trees, with their extensive root systems, are constantly seeking moisture and nutrients to sustain growth. The sewer pipes that carry wastewater from your home to the main sewer line or septic system become an unwitting source of sustenance for these roots, which is a potential problem if trees grow nearby.

Tree roots exploit existing weaknesses throughout the entire pipe line, such as tiny cracks in clay pipes or loose joints, to make their way into sewer and septic systems. Once inside the sewer pipe, the root hits water and finds a nutrient-rich environment, promoting further growth and exacerbating the problem. It's a slow but insidious process that can lead to serious plumbing problems if left unchecked.

Signs You Have Tree Roots in Your Pipes

Detecting the presence of tree roots in your drain line early on is key to preventing extensive damage and sewer problems. Keep an eye out for the following signs that could indicate a root invasion:

  • Clogged Drains: If you notice that your sinks, toilet bowl, or showers are draining more slowly than usual, a clogged drain and limited water flow could be a sign of tree roots obstructing the flow.

  • Unpleasant Odors: A foul smell emanating from drains or sewage back ups may indicate the presence of decaying tree roots in your pipes.

  • Gurgling Sounds: Gurgling noises coming from your drains or toilets can be a sign of tree roots in your sewer line. As roots infiltrate the pipes, they create pockets of trapped air, causing gurgling when water tries to pass through.

  • Unexplained Blockages: Recurrent blockages that seem to resist conventional methods of clearing may point to persistent root issues.

  • Lush, Green Patches in Your Yard: While seemingly unrelated, patches of unusually vibrant and green grass in your yard might indicate a leaking sewer pipe, attracting tree roots.

  • Standing Water in Yard: Noticeable pools of water in your yard, especially in areas where the sewer line runs, may indicate a hidden issue with tree roots. As roots invade and damage the pipes, they can cause sewage leaks that saturate the soil, creating waterlogged patches.

  • Cracks in the Foundation: In severe cases, the pressure exerted by tree roots growing underground can lead to cracks in your home's foundation. Keep an eye out for any structural issues, as they could point to root problems in your sewer line as well.

Types of Root Killers for Your Sewer Line

When confronted with the intrusion of tree roots into sewer pipes, many homeowners turn to tree root killers available at their local home improvement stores. These products are generally safe for all plumbing types and septic tank systems. They claim to eliminate or inhibit tree roots within a few hours, offering a DIY root killer solution to a troublesome sewer line problem.

Copper Sulfate

Copper sulfate is a common root killing agent in many commercially-available tree root killers. Copper sulfate works by penetrating the root cells and disrupting their cellular structure. This leads to dehydration and eventual root death. It's a contact herbicide, meaning it primarily affects the roots it comes into direct contact with. Homeowners should be cautious when using copper sulfate, as it can be harmful to the environment and may have adverse effects on the surrounding soil and plants, as well as cause skin irritation on contact.

Rock Salt

Rock salt, or sodium chloride, is another common ingredient in tree root killer formulations. Rock salt works by dehydrating the roots. When you pour root killer into the pipes, it absorbs water from the surrounding roots, causing them to shrink and eventually it kills roots. The use of rock salt raises environmental concerns, as excessive salt can harm plants and soil quality. It's crucial to use it sparingly and consider alternative methods for long-term solutions.

Foaming Tree Root Killer

Foaming root killer products typically contain herbicides, and some formulations may include copper-based compounds or other chemicals. Roebic foaming root killer, for example, contains the pesticide dichlobenil. Foaming root killer products usually come in a crystal or gel form that adheres to the pipe walls. The foaming root killer action allows the chemicals to coat the roots thoroughly. The herbicides then penetrate and dissolve tree roots, inhibiting their growth and causing them to decay over time.

While the foaming nature can enhance the contact and be more effective at killing roots, users should follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully when using foaming root killers. Some foaming root killers, such as Roebic root killer, may contain strong chemicals, raising environmental and safety concerns.

Does Tree Root Killer Actually Work Long Term?

Most home improvement stores are flooded with tree root killer products, each promising a swift and lasting solution to kill roots in your sewer line. But are they really the best solution to kill tree roots in the long run?

  • Short-Term Relief: Tree root killers, typically containing copper sulfate or similar chemicals, can provide short-term relief by killing existing roots in the pipes. However, this is often a temporary fix as it doesn't prevent roots from regrowing.

  • Limited Effectiveness: While these root killer chemicals may clear out immediate blockages, they may not address the underlying issue of root infiltration. Roots can regrow, necessitating repeated treatments.

  • Environmental Concerns: Many tree root killers contain harsh chemicals that raise environmental and safety concerns. Consider the impact on your landscaping and the surrounding ecosystem before opting for chemical solutions.

Professional Solutions: Augers, Hydro Jetting, and Pipe Liners

For a more sustainable and permanent solution, it's advisable to consult with a professional plumber. They can assess the extent of the root intrusion and recommend appropriate measures to kill roots and prevent new growth from impacting your sewer line. Several alternative methods for tree root killers offer more comprehensive and long-lasting results.


Augers, also known as drain snakes, are mechanical devices designed to physically break up and remove tree roots from pipes. They consist of a flexible cable with cutting blades or a corkscrew-like head. The auger is fed into the sewer line, and as it encounters tree roots, the cutting blades or corkscrew action helps dislodge and break up the roots. The remnants then flush immediately out of the pipe.

Augers are effective in removing existing roots but may not entirely eliminate them. Some remnants may be left behind, and periodic maintenance may be necessary. While augers are a valuable tool, their effectiveness depends on the severity of the root intrusion and the extent of damage to the sewer lines.

Hydro Jetting

Hydro jetting involves the use of high-pressure water streams delivered through a specialized nozzle attached to a flexible hose. The force of the water is powerful enough to clear obstructions and thoroughly clean the sewer pipe walls. It not only removes existing roots but also cleans the pipe interior, reducing the likelihood of regrowth.

Professional expertise is crucial for the proper use of hydro jetting equipment. The pressure needs to be carefully calibrated to avoid damage to the pipes. Additionally, it's an environmentally friendly option, as it doesn't rely on chemicals.

Pipe Liners

Pipe lining, also known as trenchless pipe repair, involves placing a durable lining inside the existing pipe to create a new, seamless interior. This is an efficient method for installing new pipes without the need for extensive excavation. A flexible liner, typically made of materials like epoxy or resin, is inserted into the damaged pipe. Once in place, the liner adheres to the existing pipe walls, sealing cracks and gaps. This creates a barrier that prevents tree roots from infiltrating.

Pipe lining is a technologically advanced solution that requires specialized equipment and expertise. While it may have a higher upfront cost, its durability and longevity make it a cost-effective choice in the long run. Pipe lining not only addresses the immediate issue of tree roots but also provides a long-term solution by fortifying the pipe against future intrusions. It's a non-invasive option that minimizes disruption to landscaping.

Protect Your Sewer Line From Tree Root Growth Long-Term

While tree root killers may offer temporary relief, a holistic approach involving professional assessment and alternative methods like augers, hydro jetting, or pipe lining is often more effective in providing a lasting solution. Choose wisely, consult with experienced plumbers, and safeguard your sewer lines against the relentless advance of nature's underground architects.

For a tailored solution and the assurance of a plumbing system free from the grasp of tree roots, connect with the specialists at Mr. Plumber. Our seasoned professionals understand the nuances of tree root issues and offer a range of effective solutions, from augers to hydro jetting and advanced pipe liners.

Don't let tree roots compromise the integrity of your sewer lines any longer—take the first step towards a lasting solution by calling Mr. Plumber today and scheduling a sewer line consultation. Your plumbing deserves the care only experts can provide.

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