unblocking clogged the drip tape/drip line emitters

 Unblocking the clogged drip tape/ drip line emitters

In unblocking the clogged drip tape/ drip line emitters, let’s understand the meaning of emitters. Dripline emitters are the small outlets/holes that are arranged along with the drip tape. Drip emitters ensure efficiency and consistency in water dripping out from the tape.

Unblocking the clogged drip tape/ dripline has become a major issue in the irrigation field. The cost of unblocking the clogged drip tape/drip line has also increased thus making the cost of production high. However, the use of physical water flashing and chemical treatment has become a commonly used remedy.

In unblocking the clogged drip tape/drip line, one has to estimate the number of emitters. Drip tape varies according to the numbers of emitters along with the tape in terms of spacing. The spacing is dictated by the crop to be planted. Each spacing can either be of a double emitter or a single emitter.

The emitters can get blocked due to bacterial build up in the system or presence of large sand particles or silt deposits in the system that may find their ways during drip tape installation process or during changing of either part of the system such as mainline, drip tape fittings or drip tape itself.


Most ideal steps in unblocking the clogged drip tape/line emitters


  1. Flushing the system with water

Flushing the system with water will ensure the large particles and other minerals present in the line are washed out. This can be done at least three times (3) per season. The period of flushing can be after land preparation and drip installation, mass water application of water especially during the budding stage and after fertilizer application. This will ensure no mineral deposits or bacterial build up in the system will be available to block the emitters.

physical flushing procedure

After flushing the system with water, ensure the filters, mainline end caps and drip line end caps are placed back to the initial positions. Also, ensure the system’s filters are washed to avoid dirt build-up.

NB: the water should flow freely from these and mainline

emitters and notice the color of the water while flowing out or flushing. It is very normal for the initial watercolor before flushing to be brown and clear after flushing.

If water does not clear after twenty (20) minutes of flushing it simply means there is likely of the system to be affected by the bacteria build up hence resolve to chemical flushing or treatment.

  1. Flushing the system with acid and water solution/chemical treatment

In acid and water solution treatment, the commonly used acids are 33% hydrochloric acid and 85% phosphoric acid. Each acid should be used independently.

Procedure for acid /(chemical )water solution flushing/ chemical treatment

  1. Fill a ten liter (10 liters) PLASTIC BUCKET/CONTAINER halfway with cold water
  2. Carefully add fifty millimeters (50ml) of either of 33% hydrochloric acid or 85% phosphoric acid into the plastic bucket and stir the mixture with a plastic or wooden stirring stick to form a uniform solution. Avoid metallic stirrers since they cause corrosion.
  3. Continue adding the acid until the desired solution pH of 2.0 is obtained. If the pH is still low enough, continue pouring small amounts of acid slowly while observing the pH strip dipped into the bucket. The testing of the PH is done by dipping the PH strip with a scale on it into the solution. Ph testing strip can be obtained from recognized agro vets or chemist.
  4. Connect the mainline which usually runs from the water source into the bucket containing acid water solution. In case you have a bigger drip system that has a well or a tank as a water source, pour the acid- water solution into that source (a well or a tank).
  5. Open the gate valve at the water source or when using a water pump, turn the water pump on and run the irrigation system for at least an hour. This will ensure the acid-water solution is brought into the system through the mainline and this will clear up the bacterial buildups within the system.
  6. After acid –water solution flushing into the system, connect the mainline back into the initial water source and flush the entire system ones more with fresh water for at least forty five minutes (45 min). This will ensure the remaining acid solution that was left in the mainline and the drip tapes are flushed out.
  7. Store the remaining chemicals and used containers away from reach of children, sunlight. Store the remaining acid in a well-ventilated room and away from other flammable products.


  1. Hydrochloric acid and phosphoric acid are very dangerous if ingested or spilled.
  2. If you want to dispose of the remaining chemicals, take them to the disposal center or neutralize it  using sodium chloride before pouring it out to drain
  3. Read and re-read acid instructions on the labels or the container.
  4. NEVER use both hydrochloric acid and phosphoric acid at ones. Use only one acid at a time
  5. The acid treatment is ideal for plastic pipes rather than metallic pipes
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