A CO2 Drain Gun Can Unclog Stubborn Sewer Blockages

CO2 drain gun sewer cleaning in progress.

A CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) drain gun can be used for clog removal in many cases. However, since the plumbing installation of a typical household is rather complex, it must be used by a skilled technician. Your house plumbing is comprised of a rather complex network of interconnected pipes. They are designed to carry a supply of water into your property and drain your wastewater to a treatment facility.

While the water that goes through your potable water supply line has a minimal amount of minerals or any residual substances, the same cannot be said for the flow of wastewater that goes in the opposite direction.

Wastewater may contain non-soluble materials such as grease, soap scum, sand, hygienic products, and cigarette butts. Not to mention other solid objects, which restrict proper water flow, and even damage the pipes. Objects and other materials typically get stuck in the inner surface of the pipes over time. In other cases, they simply become obstacles in some bends or connection points, of which there are many in plumbing installation.

CO2 drain gun sewer cleaning in progress.
CO2 drain gun in action

Some solid objects, such as toys and plastics, may appear to flow freely down the sink, toilet, and bathtub. But they likely get stuck at some point down the line. Because of the particular shape of foreign objects, they are not a match for pipe fittings and drain designs.

What is a CO2 drain gun?

When the obstructions become too stubborn or big enough that it won’t budge by the force of water flow, you need something that produces a stronger push to get rid of the clog A plunger and a plumbing snake are the first things that come to mind; these tools are quite simple and readily available in just about any hardware store.

It does not take a professional to use the equipment, but you still need to understand what and where the clog is. Either of the tools are effective for a “solid yet soft and slightly loose” type of clog – one that only partially clogs a drain pipe and is located close to the drain tailpiece.

A plumbing snake can reach far enough into the pipe indeed, but it is only good for breakable obstacles it can shred. A motorized electric auger is a better alternative thanks to its more powerful modular blades. Unfortunately, the cable and hooks can damage porcelain water fixtures. A plunger is safer but less powerful. For any other kind of clog, you will need professional equipment including a pressure washer and a CO2 drain gun.

A drain gun, in the hands of an experienced plumber, can get rid of most types of clogs from food residue to plastic. For tree roots, you want to use a combination of motorized auger and hydro jet to do a complete removal.

How does CO2 work?

A CO2 drain gun is a type of pressurized air burst cleaner. It uses carbon dioxide to shred or blow out a stubborn clog in a drain pipe. In its most rudimentary design, the gun consists of only three major components: a trigger mechanism, a CO2 cartridge, and a hose fitted with a tapered rubber cone/plug at the tip. More complex models may include a pressure gauge and more accessories. Think of it as a paintball gun modified for plumbing application.

When used for removing an obstacle in the drain pipe, accelerated gas from the container flows out rapidly. The pressurized gas pushes standing water with enough pressure to dislodge or disintegrate the clog.

Depending on the model and CO2 container attached, the gun can deliver hundreds (if not thousands) of psi in a single shot. Whether the problem is a slow-running drain, or total blockage, a CO2 drain gun can clear a water passage almost in an instant. This is as opposed to a plunger or augers that may take more time to get the job done. Compared to most drain cleaning tools, the gun offers a quicker and more effective method. CO2 will get rid of a clog without damaging the inner surface of the pipe, joints, and fixture finish.

When is a CO2 drain gun used?

As a rule of thumb, a CO2 drain gun works best when the clog completely blocks the flow of water in your drain pipe. This is not to say that you cannot use the same equipment to deal with a partial clog, but it functions far more effectively with a greater build-up of pressure inside the pipe. There must be standing water between the tip of the gun and the clog itself.

The gun works by releasing compressed gas – in this case, CO2, although some plumbers use nitrogen. The gas pushes the now-pressurized wastewater against the clog. As water does not easily compress, it has the force of a solid object. A partial blockage is harder to work on because it allows some pressure inside the drain line to escape. So, when you pull the trigger, it renders the compressed air inefficient to shred the obstruction. It can still work, of course, but you can get the job done quicker by using the more appropriate equipment such as a plumbing snake.

Another important consideration is the location of the clog and the pipe diameter. Any clog located between a drain tailpiece and vent is easy to remove using a CO2 drain gun. Vent piping provides an opening for the pressure to escape upward, rather than forward to push the blockage. The distance from the water fixture to the clog as well as the pipe diameter also affects efficiency. An experienced drain technician can use higher pressure to compensate for these factors.

The conditions required for success with a CO2 drain gun

1. Only a full blockage will allow the pressure from CO2 gas to forcefully make the backed-up wastewater blow through your stoppage.
2. A full grease blockage is ideal for using CO2 gas. It will allow for a full build-up of pressure.
3. The 2nd type of blockage ideal for using pressurized gas is a full sand blockage.

Is there a danger to drain pipes when using CO2?

In the hands of experienced professional plumbers, a CO2 drain gun is an effective tool to remove a clog. Because it is relatively easy to use, some people may be tempted to try using it. But note that without important safety precautions, you are at risk. Keep in mind that the pressure inside the pipe will always find the easiest route to escape.

If the clog is made of a solid object or an accumulation of hardened grease, low pressure is possibly too weak to dislodge the blockage. As a result, the pressure bounces backward to the user. The higher the pressure means the greater the risk to the user. Goggles and non-slip shoes are mandatory safety requirements to help minimize the risk of injuries.

CO2 drain guns will not damage most pipes, fittings, and plumbing fixtures. The only point of contact is at the entry to your drain system, so it will not scratch ceramic, porcelain, and stainless steel finishes. One possible exception to damaging your drain pipes is if they’re made out of Orangeburg pipes. Orangeburg sewer pipes are made from wood pulp and tar. As these pipes are almost always in extremely poor condition, CO2 can damage them further. As an FYI, the Borough of the Bronx has a preponderance of home sewers made from Orangeburg pipes.

Do all drain cleaners carry CO2?

Considering the effectiveness of the equipment, it would be strange to say that some plumbers have never heard of or used CO2. However, a professional-grade CO2 drain gun is quite hefty and bulky (mainly the gas container) so there is a good chance that some plumbers do not always have the guns at the ready at all times. You may not know whether or not the problem in your drain pipe requires a CO2 drain gun, but it is wise to call only an established reputable company to take a look and handle the issue.

Why trust the Balkan Drain Team for all your clogs

In NYC, and all across Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, Balkan Drain Cleaning is the most experienced drain cleaning company. The Balkan Team has a reputable track record that spans over 65 years. Balkan utilizes a central dispatch system and a GPS-equipped fleet which is spread throughout the boroughs of New York. Balkan Drain Cleaning is available virtually 24/7, and always ready to handle plumbing issues and emergencies of any sort.

Every vehicle of the fleet comes to your location loaded with heavy-duty plumbing tools and equipment. Of course, a CO2 Drain Gun, hydro-jet, and motorized augers are included in the arsenal. Each service vehicle is operated by a knowledgeable technician, fully versed in the operation of all drain tools. Contact the Balkan Drain Team for prompt and professional service.