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What is a Roto-Rooter?

The famous Roto-Rooter machine was invented to cut through sewer clogs caused by tree roots and other debris then clean the entire length of an underground sewer pipe to get it flowing like new again. The machine was invented in 1933 and was patented by its founder, Samuel Blanc of West Des Moines, Iowa.

In 1935, Blanc built a company around his invention and Roto-Rooter Corporation was born. Today, Roto-Rooter is North America’s largest provider of plumbing and sewer & drain cleaning services. Its famous electric sewer cleaning machine has been improved markedly over the years and the company even introduced smaller versions for clearing smaller household and sink drains. Its machines are not sold to the public and are only licensed for use by genuine Roto-Rooter branches and franchises.

Like any great design, the Roto-Rooter machine inspired many copycat designs, usually of inferior construction and capability. Some tool rental companies rent sewer cleaning machines to homeowners trying to save a few bucks and resolve their own sewer problems. But operating an electric sewer cleaning machine without proper training has proved to be dangerous and sometimes fatal.

Tool rental companies will require you to sign a waiver stating you won't hold them responsible if you cut off a finger or hand while using their machine. This is because these machines feature a stiff but flexible cable, housed on a reel that is turned by an electric motor. The cable itself has a spring-loaded C-shaped cutting blade bolted to its end. To use the machine effectively, the user inserts the blade and cable into a sewer cleanout access port, then pushes the cable several feet into the sewer pipe before turning on the Roto-Rooter machine. Tough work gloves need to be worn to protect the hands since the user is required to hold onto the cable as he feeds more into the pipe.

How Did Roto-Rooter Get Their Name?

What is a Roto-Rooter?