20 July Close-up of a hydro jetting machine being tested

Can Hydro Jetting Damage Old Pipes?

Posted by PlumbWize

A hydro jetting machine is capable of delivering so much pressure that it can damage old fragile pipes. For this reason, you need a professional plumber to assess your pipes first before choosing hydro jetting as a method of clearing them. 

In some cases, when hydro jetting cannot be done, snaking can be used as an alternative. However, hydro jetting and snaking are different in terms of the results they deliver. 

In this complete guide, we talk all about hydro jetting, the basics of a hydro jetting machine, how hydro jetting compares to snaking, and more. 

Let’s get started!

A plumber assessing pipes before using the hydro jetting machine

How Does A Hydro Jetting Machine Work? 

Hydro jetting is a non-invasive plumbing service that can clean and unblock pipes. It makes use of a hydro jetting machine also known as a “jetter.” A hydro jetting machine consists mainly of the following parts: 

  • A water tank;
  • A hose;
  • A nozzle; and
  • The mechanism for pressurizing water.

After a visual assessment of the pipes via a drain camera inspection, the plumber can determine if the pipes will be able to withstand the high water pressure from a hydro jetting machine. Jetters can deliver up to 35,000 psi. The nozzle can direct this pressurized water forward, as well as against the pipe’s surface. In so doing, blockages in the pipe (e.g. tree roots), as well as buildup on the pipe’s surface, are cleared away simultaneously. 

Because the nozzle is fastened to a long hose, hydro jetting machines can reach deep into places that are otherwise hard to access. It is common for hydro jetting machines to either be assisted with a separate drain camera or to have their own integrated camera. This helps plumbers determine the effectiveness of pipe cleaning and clearing.

Is Hydro Jetting Safe for Old Pipes? 

In some cases, hydro jetting is not safe for old pipes. If the old pipes already have cracks and other damages, the water pressure generated by a hydro jetting machine can aggravate it. Excessively brittle pipes may also sustain new damage from hydro jetting. 

Typically, the following materials are used for either drain lines, sewer lines, or both. In the table below, we talk about what happens to these pipe materials as they age. 

1. Copper Copper oxidizes over time and becomes prone to corrosion and forming pinhole leaks.
2. PVC As a polymer, PVC will degrade over time. Even if PVC is not old, it becomes brittle when exposed to low temperatures for a long time. 
3. ABS Similar to PVC, ABS is a polymer. It also degrades over time and becomes brittle when exposed to low temperatures
4. Cast Iron Though cast iron is a durable material, it is susceptible to forming rust over time. Rust will slow down the drainage and make the pipe more brittle.  
5. Clay Clay pipes can crumble over time and are particularly susceptible to tree root invasion, which can erode the clay away. 


Because of the above manifestations of old age for various pipe materials, it’s clear why pipe age is important to consider before hydro jetting is performed. In some cases, snaking is done instead of hydro jetting—but this doesn’t mean that snaking is entirely safe for old pipes. 

Alternatives to Hydro Jetting to Avoid Pipe Damage 

Snaking relies on manually pushing or extracting the clog, while hydro jetting uses water pressure to dislodge or break apart clogs. 

It’s important to establish that neither of these methods is completely safe for clearing damaged or old brittle pipes. Both snaking and hydro jetting can aggravate existing damages (e.g. pinhole leaks, cracks, failing joints) or cause new damage to very brittle pipes. 

However, relatively speaking, snaking gives the plumber more control, especially if the clog is just isolated. A drain snake can be maneuvered to the clog and only activated when needed. In the hands of an experienced plumber, this process should not scratch the surface of the old pipes. 

With all that said, damaged or brittle pipes should be addressed as soon as possible. After an assessment by a professional plumber, you may find out that clearing the drain or sewer line alone is not the long-lasting solution you need. It might be time to actually have brittle or damaged pipes replaced. 

For more information on the difference between snaking and hydro jetting, read this blog.

A broken sewer pipe that is not safe for hydro jetting or snaking and needs to be replaced

Professional Pipe Assessment and Hydro Jetting by PlumbWize 

Looking to restore your home or establishment’s drains? At PlumbWize, we’ve got you covered. Through the years, we have encountered every kind of plumbing issue imaginable in both residential and commercial settings. 

If you’re dealing with problems like clogged drains or blocked sewer lines, our plumbing professionals can assess if hydro jetting or snaking is the solution for you. If your pipes are safe for hydro jetting, you can be assured we use a state-of-the-art hydro jetting machine that our professionals are fully trained to use. 

Got any questions about hydro jetting or dealing with old drains? Contact us today! You can also reach out to our 24/7 hotline if you are facing a plumbing emergency. 


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