How to Clean a Clogged Drip System

A drip irrigation system is a convenient way for plants in a garden or yard to get watered. By directing water near the ground to plants that need it, a drip system can reduce the growth of weeds and the risk of disease from overhead sprinkler watering. Water-soluble fertilizers may also be transferred to plants through such a system. Here are some ways to clean a clogged drip system.


  1. 1
    Flush a clogged emitter.
    • Turn on your drip irrigation system.
    • Hold your finger over the clogged emitter's outlet for a few seconds and let the water flush back to clean the emitter.
  2. 2
    Open the emitter and manually clean it if necessary. Check if your irrigation model requires this.
  3. 3
    Turn your drip system on and off several times to send water to the emitters and push debris through.
  4. 4
    Check your system's filters for clogging. Some filters catch sand and could need frequent cleaning. Try backwashing the filters with the drip system's own water or manually remove and clean them.
  5. 5
    Add household bleach to the water-filled drip lines. The bleach's chlorine can reduce calcium carbonate buildup from hard water running through the lines.
    • Introduce the bleach during the final 30 minutes of an irrigation cycle or however long it takes to fill all the drip lines with water.
    • Enough bleach should be added so that by the time the irrigation cycle ends, the residual chlorine at the end of the system would be the same amount as found in 2.6 oz. (78 ml) of bleach mixed in 1000 gallons (4000 l) of water.
    • Use a metering pump to add a food-grade phosphoric acid to the drip lines to keep their water's pH at 7. Injecting acid for a short period of time, then rinsing it through the lines, should not harm the drip system.


  • Check for breaks in your water line if you cannot find any clogs. Any breaks in the line could cause it to look like emitters were clogged or not sending out enough water.
  • Maintain the drip system through weekly flushes. Open the flush valve or plug at the end of the system. Flush all the lines 1 time a week.
  • Monitor the water pressure level for the drip system. If your water pressure gradually increases over several uses of the system, it could indicate clogged drip lines.
  • How often you need to add bleach to the drip irrigation system's water depends on the water's quality and its level of contamination. You may not need to use any bleach if you do not have hard water.
  • How often you need to clean your drip system depends on the quality of its water. If the source of your irrigation water is a pond, for example, it would have more algae and probably be more likely to clog a drip system than water from a city's system.

Things You'll Need

  • Manufacturer's instructions for cleaning a drip system
  • Household bleach
  • Metering pump
  • Food-grade phosphoric acid

Article Info

Categories: Plumbing Drains Waste and Vents | Drains Maintenance