What Kills Tree Roots in Sewer Pipes

Tree root intrusion, commonly known as tree roots in sewer lines can lead to serious destruction to sewer line systems. Once they invade, tree roots have the potential to grow and extend to extremely long distances.

Tree root invasion occurs when a root penetrates a small hole within the drainage pipe. With the moisture and water passing through the sewer pipe, the roots can eventually grow into lengthy distances not only in your sewer line but also below your residential or commercial property structure under the concrete slab.

If you are suspecting that you have a tree root invasion in your sewer line, you may be tempted to find a quick fix to this problem. A quick online search for what kills tree roots in sewer pipes can yield you plenty of results. So what are some of the things that kill tree roots in sewer pipes? Read on to find out!

How Do You Get Rid of Roots in Your Sewer Line?

Root intrusions in sewer and drain lines can cause significant damage. however, you can get rid of tree root intrusion in the following ways:

Rock Salt

Rock salt doesn’t come in the same coarse as sea salt. Moreover, it is not table salt. Rock salt is the stuff that people throw on icy sidewalks and it is readily available in your local hardware store.

Will rock salt eliminate tree roots in drain pipes? Well, to eliminate small tree root problems from your sewer lines, flush liquid rock salt solution down your toilet, ideally, 1/2 pounds at a time. Once you flush down the last batch of rock salt down your toilet, don’t flush or turn on your sink faucet for about 12 hours to all the rock salt enough time to settle in the drain pipes and create a hostile environment for the tree roots.

You can do the same with sodium chloride (table salt). However, you have to be cautious because table salt can not only kill the tree roots but the entire vegetation that draws its water from the sewer line.

Moreover, salt can potentially cause corrosion and weaken your drain pipes.

Copper Sulfate/Bluestone

This is an inexpensive algaecide or herbicide that is sold in most hardware and local garden supply stores. To kill tree roots that are causing your sewer line to drain slowly, flush 1/2 cup of copper sulfate down your toilet. Flush the toilet a couple of times to remove the crystals down the drain line.

When using copper sulfate, open the window and keep it away from animals as it is toxic to them. Ideally, leave the house for a few hours and when you return, flush the toilet again. If you still experience slow draining of your sewer line, don’t worry. It will take a couple of days to work. Make it a habit to flush copper sulfate down your toilet to keep all the small tree roots out of your sewer line without harming the trees around your home.

Owing to the toxicity of copper sulfate to animals, it is banned in some areas. Therefore, before using it, check with the local authorities.

Foaming Root Killers?

A great alternative to rock salt is a foaming chemical root killer. Once you use foaming root killer, the foam with slowly fill your sewer line and kill any tree roots on their way. However, this is not as a quick process as it may sound. It can take a few months before the dead roots are flushed out of your drain pipes. In the meantime, permanent cracks could form, thereby, causing pipe burst or sewage holdup.

Cutting the Small Tree Roots in Your Sewer Line

New tree roots can be cut out of the sewer line by a special mechanical auger that includes a cable with an attachment at the end designed to cut through small roots. Once the cable is fed into your main sewer pipe, the blades at the end will seamlessly cut the roots. Once you are done, flush the roots out of the pipe.

Will Vinegar Kill Tree Roots in Sewer Line?

Yes, vinegar has the potential to kill tree roots in sewer lines. Add foaming action to a salt solution by adding baking soda and vinegar. Vinegar and baking soda is environmentally friendly root killer that can get rid of tree roots in your sewer line without causing harm to your sewer or drain line.

Ideally, mix a cup of each of the regular table salt, vinegar, baking soda, and boiling water and immediately flush it down your toilet drain. Once the vinegar and baking soda are mixed together, it immediately starts to fizz. The fizzing action enables the solution to fill the sewer line thus making the solution come into contact with the obstructing tree roots. The tree roots take up the solution just like its takes up wastewater draining through the drain line. With time, the tree roots die and are washed away. Therefore, vinegar won’t deliver immediate results of tree root removal.

How to Prevent Future Tree Root Incursion in Your Sewer Line

Once you dissolve and get rid of the tree roots in your sewage lines with time. However, the removal does not prevent other new tree roots grow to intrude on your drain lines again. To prevent future sewer line blockages, it is best to keep the roots away for good. So, how do you do this?

One of the best ways to keep new roots incursion is by saturating the ground around your sewer line with a root killer like copper sulfate. You can do this by digging a small deep hole or a series of holes parallel to your drain line. Insert a length of 11/2-inch pipe into each hole and pour copper sulfate crystal into the pipes. Fill the pipes with boiling water and cap the pipes. With these, tree roots will be killed before they even reach your main sewer line. Moreover, with the pipes in place, you can repeat the treatment occasionally.


If you think you might have tree root intrusion woes in your sewer pipes, we recommend that you contact a sewer line professional for an inspection. A camera inspection could be ideal as it is a non-destructive procedure and it will take about 30 minutes. It is best to know the exact location where the roots have penetrated and their extent to get the best solution to tackle them.

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