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Hydro Jetters vs Rooters - What’s the difference?

Rooters (snakes)

rooter machine

The Rooter machine was invented in the 1930’s to cut and clear out entire underground sewer pipes. A rooter, sometimes called a cable machine, or a snake, is a machine fitted with a metal head attached to blades. It is often manually pushed into a pipe opening, and the blades will spin to cut up tree roots and remove debris.

This method is supposed to be an effective way to remove rust, tree roots, trash, and other obstacles. However, rooters have many weaknesses. The strength of rooters (and the damage they can do) is hard to control. Sometimes, the sides of pipes are scraped and damaged more than necessary.

There are many plumbing snakes & plumbing augers on the market to let you do your own sewer line de-clogging. Be very careful when deciding to do it on your own. Plumbing snakes are difficult to use, and for inexperienced homeowners, trying to clear out clogs in your own drain can cause real damage to pipes.

If there are indications of clogging within the pipe (slow draining, backups, flooding, or offensive odors), you should seriously consider having your line professionally inspected with sewer cameras before moving forward with solutions.



Hydro-jetters are specialized pressure washers that use high-pressure water to efficiently clean out pipes. They consist of high-pressure water hoses, fitted with many different types of spray nozzle heads. While being operated, Jetters have many different settings including water pressure level and flow rate. While rooters scrape the sides of a pipe, the hydro jetter will blast off all debris in the pipe and wash it out. In addition to being 30-50% more efficient, the hydro nozzles spraying pressurized water can be as aggressive or gentle as they need to be – which makes a huge difference in the quality of the work.

Hydro-Jetting is generally done via a cleanout, or an opening that allows technicians to clear out clogs & other pipe problems. Hydro-jetting is also generally a more expensive option than using a cable machine / rooter (though rarely my much). Hydrojetters use pressurized water without any chemical additives, so there is no danger of affecting your pipe with things like bleach or ammonia-based soap.

Because Hydro-jetting uses water, the insides of a pipe can be cleaned out and simultaneously washed out. The streams of water are also pressurized enough to break up debris, grease, and tree roots, removing them from a pipe’s inner walls. Generally fitted with 360-degree spinning nozzles, jetters are set with parameters fixed for their planned use. Different jet nozzles, pressure, and ‘spin speed’ can be used to customize the jetter for the problem pipe. In almost all situations involving a clog, hydrojetters are the best choice.

The Difference between snakes and hydro-jetting

Hydrojetters are better at cleaning pipes than snakes in almost every way. They can do everything that a cable machine can; additionally, hydrojetters excel where cable machines can’t perform. Their pressure can be controlled, so the washing out can be as gentle or aggressive as it needs to be. The spray nozzles can also be configured to fit in pipes of all shapes and sizes and can have many different spray-settings to deal with everything from sludge and grease to rotting walls.

There are, of course, some jobs where a snake is a fine choice. Snakes are generally inexpensive and are good at cleaning out single blockages in an otherwise clean pipe. These include simple clogs, caused by toys or wads of debris. Because of the nature of its spinning blades, rooters are not always efficient at cleaning out pipes when the problem is on the pipe walls (grease and tree roots).

Rooters can cause problems and are often the culprit of unfinished jobs. When pipe walls are coated with grease, or being damaged by intruding tree roots, the spinning blades on the snake’s head can rarely get the job done well. Hydro-jetting shines when it comes to cleaning the interior walls of pipes efficiently, and washing all harmful debris away, clearing out sewer lines with ease.

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