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Question DetailsAsked on 5/9/2015

Local, reputable company to advise what is the problem washing machine, drain pipes or septic tank.

When the washing machine goes through rinse and spin cycle, toilet starts to bubble an almost over-flows. Cold water is the only temperature that can be used when washing. The bathroom sink won't drain very well. The toilet flushes very slowly. So again, what is the problem?

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Sounds pretty clear that you have a partial blockage in your sewer pipes - which is only backing up when the washer empties because that is the largest volume/highest flow rate draining fixture. Other smaller volume usages are draining past the blockage, or only filling the sewer pipe but not backing up to a drain (yet).

Over time, as the blockage in the sewer blocks off more, toilet flushing or full tub draining would start doing the same thing, and eventually (or at any time, could be today - no way to tell) your blockage will become pretty much completely blocked and cause full backup of the sewage into the lowest elevation drains when water is used - floor drains, basement washtub, or lowest floor tub/shower usually because they are the lowest elevation.

You need a Plumber - Drain Cleaning, or Sewer and Drain Cleaner to clear your pipes.

If you have a lower elevation drain (floor, sink, tub, shower, whatever) which is NOT backing up/gurgling, then blockage is almost certainly in the household lines between those lower elevation drains that are NOT behaving odd and the washer, and snaking by a plumber might well clear it up OK.

However, if the lowest elevation drains are the ones gurgling, then the blockage is almost certainly in the sewer line to the street and snaking commonly does not clear that fully even if plumber has a snake that long, so you commonly get another blockage somewhere downflow in hours, days, or weeks after the initial cleaning. It is not uncommon for people to have their lines snaked 3-4 times and get new blockages shortly thereafter each time, eitehr because the blockage is just moved down the line a bit, or because the whole line is dramatically reduced in diameter buy buildup so blockages become common at different locations.

For cleanign the buried part of the line, I STRONGLY recommend getting a Sewer and Drain cleaner to bring in his power router with a full-diameter scraper blade rather than a gimlet or spear point like on a snake, so all the accumulated soap scum, fibers, and grease gets scraped out back to a clean full-diameter pipe. This should be done every 10-20 years anyway, depending on how much hot water (which is good, especially frequent hot washer and dishwasher loads and hot showers - baths not so much because they are only lukewarm when emptied) and how much grease (bad) gets put down the drains. Generally, the mnore people in the house the cleanear the pipes stay, as long as a lot of grease is not put down the drains - from sink or dishwasher. Worst is people who fry or deep-fry a lot and dump the grease down the drain - and no, running hot water or soap with it does not prevent the problem, because it cools down to gelling temperature shortly after it hits the unheated basement or in-ground part of the pipe.

Lots of prior comments to similar questions about snaking, drain backup, gurgling drains, sewer camera runs, etc with more details and typical costs in the Home > Plumbing link - several of those links show right below this answer.


You said cold water is the only temperature that can be used in washer - I am presuming you mean because if hot and cold are both used (Normal or Permanent Press cycle) it puts more water into the tub so it makes it overflow ? Newer washers work on a fill switch so whether hot/cold or just cold water, on a given load size setting it will fill the same amount., However, some older ones ran strictly on timers, so using cold water rather than both effectively reduced the amount of water into the washer.

If you mean it will not put hot water into washer (like on first half of Permanent Press cycle where it is normally hot water only) then that is either a wall valve (behind the washer) shut off, a "leak-proof" washer hose detecting a hose leak so shutting off the water, or a timer or fill valve failure in the machine. An Appliance Repair - Large technician would be what you need to solve that, assuming of course you have hot water fine in the rest of the house. Not getting hot water into the washer would not be related to the drain issue.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD


Sorry - when I answered your question I read the part about you having a septic tank in the title of your question, but then spaced on that when I answered from the detaiuled info.

If your septic tank is overfilled or leach field is backing up or a leach field booster pump has failed, that also could cause this problem. Commonly, but not always, you get wetness over the field/tank before it backs up to the house, especially if you have a basement or crawl space without any drains in the basement, so the pipes run in the basement/ crawlspace floor joists until they drop to the ground. Backup due to an overfilled septic tank/leach can be to one of three causes -

1) septic tank is full and not emplying out into leach field, so back up the flow

2) ditto to above but not enough to back up to the house - rather, the fact it is backed up in the tank reduces flow at the pipe entering the tank, so it gets blockage in it because there is not enough flow velocity to clear it out

3) the leach field has become saturated - due to fibers and grease and soap scum, due to root growth, due to heavy rainfalls or rising groundwater table, or just due to excessive number of years so it is sedimented in. In this case, the leach field cannot percolate the water into the ground as fast as it is coming in, so causes a backup in the tank, hence in the pipes.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD


Here are links to a couple of other similar questions with answers - probably not much different from answer I gavea you, but might have something in them that could help you understand what is going on -

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

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