Whether you're a pro or a DIY novice, drain cleaning machine safety is paramount. Make sure the only thing getting damaged is that nasty clog with these safety tips.

Drain Cleaning Machine Safety Tips

Whether you're a professional plumber or a DIY novice, drain cleaning machine safety is paramount. These convenient machines cut through clogs quickly and easily, but can be dangerous if improperly used. Additionally, anytime you're dealing with wastewater there is the risk of infection or illness from waterborne pathogens. Our easy-to-implement safety tips will help make your job go more smoothly and quickly - while also helping to ensure you and others nearby are safe when using this equipment.

Always read the safety manual!
Stay dry and avoid cross bores to prevent electrocution!
Always wear your protective gear!
Don't touch your face, eyes, ears, nose, or mouth!
Call 811 first!

Machine Safety

  • Read the manual - be familiar with the particular machine you're working with
  • Know the pipe diameter, its length, material, and the type of clog - use the proper size cable and cutting tool/head for the situation to avoid kinks and other problems - too small will be ineffective, too large and it's difficult to guide the cable
  • When working on a fixture drain, thin-gauge copper pipe or plastic, it's best to start with a hand-powered unit, moving up to power machines only if necessary
  • Always inspect the machine for damage before using and check the cable for kinks
  • Don't use the machine without the belt guard - fingers can easily get caught between the belt and pulley
  • Clear any standing water in the work area - make the area as dry as possible to help prevent electrocution
  • Most units have a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) on the cord - test this prior to using the machine and use only grounded outlets (check outlets with a UL listed tester) - Please note: Many older large drain cleaning machines as well as many new small electric drain snake machines do not have built-in GFI's (ground fault interrupters). To help keep you safe and avoid possibly being electrocuted, if you use an electric sewer or drain cleaning machine, we strongly recommend you plug it into a GFI receptacle or use a portable GFI.
  • Replace electric foot pedals with air-powered pedals to reduce electrocution risk
  • Use the same or greater gauge extension cord (if needed) - if your cord is longer than 25 ft, use a greater gauge

Operator Protection

  • Wear leather, steel-staple impregnated gloves with rubber/nitrile/latex gloves underneath, eye protection, coveralls, and rubber-soled boots with toe guards to protect your body from both mechanical damage and waterborne diseases
  • Avoid loose-fitting clothing or jewelry and tie up long hair - all can get caught in machine
  • Cover all exposed cuts and abrasions to help prevent infection
  • If you are a plumber or you frequently work with drain cleaning machines or wastewater, consult with your doctor about inoculation against common pathogens like Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Tetanus

Operational Safety

  • Don't touch your face - eyes, ears, nose, mouth - and always wash up with soap and water for at least 30 seconds after using the machine
  • Place the machine no more than 2-3 feet from drain opening to prevent cable looping
  • Don't turn the machine on until the cable is inside the pipe
  • Use a cable-feeding tool (sometimes included) or a short length of PVC pipe between the machine and the drain/cleanout opening to protect from entanglement and assist in feeding the cable
  • Only use reverse when the cable is caught - the cable can flip or come out of the drum causing injury
  • Don't force the cable through a blockage - let the cutter do the work - forcing the cable can cause damage/injury
  • Don't overstress the cable - this leads to twisting, kinking, breaking
  • Most units are designed for 1 person operation - the same person should control the cable and operate the pedal
  • Cross bores (when gas/electric/other utility line cuts through sewer line) are a major concern - cutting tools can rupture the utility line, leading to potential gas explosion, electrocution, etc. - call 811 and request emergency service (811 identifies underground utility lines on property, non-emergency can take 3 days) to get an idea if you have a cross bore or you can confirm this using a pipe inspection camera

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Please note: The information provided is intended to provide a basic knowledge of plumbing related topics. This information is general and may not suit all applications or locations. Please consult a professional and always remember to check with local code authorities before beginning any project.

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