French Drain Cleaning


A French drain is a special drainage system consisting of a trench and a perforated pipe covered with gravel. Over time, French drains can become blocked with leaves, roots, clay, soil, or debris. Cleaning a French drain isn’t difficult, but it can be time consuming and messy. While hiring a professional is recommended, there are a few steps you can take to clean the drain yourself. This article will provide tips for cleaning and maintaining your French drain.

What You’ll Need

Before cleaning your French drain, make sure you have the following items handy:

– Garden hose
– Pressure cleaner
– Plumbing snake
– Rake
– Landscaping fabric
– Gloves

Cleaning Instructions

Step 1

First, put on your gloves. As you work with the drain, your hands will get very dirty. You may also need to pull debris out of the drain. By wearing gloves, you’ll also avoid cutting yourself on sharp pieces of debris.

Step 2

Look for the beginning of the drain. If it’s outside, you may find it covered by weeds or grass, and some dirt may have fallen into the opening. This doesn’t usually affect the functioning of the drain, as the drain holes continue to allow water to enter along the length of the drain. Use your hose to rinse the drain. If it appears the water is backing up as opposed to flowing freely, you may have a clog.

Step 3

Use the pressure cleaner to clean out the French drain. Stand to the side when doing this if you suspect a clog; this will prevent the water from splashing back into your face. Angle the stream of water so it hits the bottom of the drain first, then the sides. If the water keeps backing up, you’ll need to use the plumbing snake.

Step 4

Use the plumbing snake to unblock the drain. Feed the long, flexible tube into the opening of the French drain until you feel resistance from the clog. Gently prod at the clog with the snake until it’s loosened. Once the clog is loose, use the pressure cleaner to send a strong stream of water down the tube again. If the clog still doesn’t come loose, reinsert the plumbing snake into the drain and try again to dislodge the clog. Rinse again with more water.

Step 5

Check your landscaping cloth. If the drain is outside, there should be a layer of landscaping cloth under the gravel hiding the drain. If your drain has a lot of clogs, make sure the landscaping cloth hasn’t shifted off of the drain. If the cloth has slipped, it won’t stop dirt and debris from clogging the drain. Replace the landscaping cloth if necessary. If you have an indoor drain, or if the French drain is part of a complex landscaping design, you may not need to do this. If you have clogs but can’t check the cloth, you’ll need to clean the French drain more often.

By following the above steps on a yearly basis, you’ll avoid severe clogs that require professional cleaning. Remember to keep fallen roots, leaves, and other debris away from your French drain. When cleaning your drainage pipe, be aware of any pests that may be living inside it. Note any movement or sounds inside the pipe so a frightened chipmunk, snake, or other small animal when cleaning doesn’t bite you.