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Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Drain Service
  • Plumbing
  • Sewer and Drain Cleaning
  • Sewer repair and replacement
Founded 1935 (1935)
Founder Samuel Oscar Blanc
Headquarters Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Key people
Number of employees
3,600 [1]
Parent Chemed Corporation

Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Drain Service is a United States company which originally specialized in clearing tree roots and other obstructions from sewer lines. Today[when?] it employs thousands of plumbers, water restoration and sewer and drain service technicians throughout the U.S. and Canada, and offers home services using its patented, proprietary Roto-Rooter machine.[1]


Sam Blanc and an early Roto-Rooter sewer cleaning machine.

In the late 1920s, Samuel Oscar Blanc (1883–1964) was motivated by a stubborn clogged drain in his son's (Milton L. Blanc) Des Moines, Iowa apartment to seek a better solution.

By 1933, Samuel Blanc had fashioned a sewer-cleaning machine from a washing machine motor, wheels from a child's little red wagon and a 3/8" steel cable. The cable rotated sharp blades to cut tree roots out of sewer lines, eliminating the tedious and expensive need to dig up pipes and clear obstructions by hand. Blanc's wife, Lettie (née Lettie Jensen), called his invention, a heavy-duty plumber's snake, the "Roto-Rooter."[2]

By the mid-1930s, Blanc was selling his patented "Roto-Rooter" machines for $250 and incorporated a business around it called Roto-Rooter Corporation. Many who were eager for work in the midst of the Great Depression started their own Roto-Rooter businesses throughout the upper Midwest, the Great Plains and the Northeast. Sewer cleaners are not required to have a plumbing license so in the 1930s a man could earn a decent living with only minor training operating the Roto-Rooter machine and a willingness to advertise his local business. Roto-Rooter's sewer cleaning service allowed homeowners to avoid digging up lawns and landscaping to reach underground sewer pipes. This modern breakthrough was such a revolutionary concept in the 1930s and 40s that Roto-Rooter featured an illustration of a mound of dirt over a recently excavated sewer pipe with the caption, "Why put a grave in your yard?"

In 1980, the Blanc family sold Roto-Rooter Corporation to Cincinnati-based Chemed Corporation. Chemed began purchasing independent Roto-Rooter franchises and operating them as company-owned service locations under the newly formed Roto-Rooter Services Company, whose corporate headquarters is in downtown Cincinnati. Chemed sold off some of its holdings in Roto-Rooter in both 1984 and 1985, bringing its ownership stake to just below 60%, and launched a bid in 1996 to reacquire the 42% of shares that it had earlier sold off.[3]

In the 1980s, some Roto-Rooter franchises and company-owned locations began to offer around-the-clock service and general full-service plumbing repair for both residential and commercial customers. Today,[when?] Roto-Rooter's plumbing services represent approximately half of the company's business, while the other half is sewer and drain-cleaning work. The company has more than 600 service locations operating throughout North America that serve more than 90% of the U.S. population and more than 40% of the Canadian population. Roto-Rooter is the largest provider of plumbing repair and sewer & drain cleaning services in both countries.[citation needed]

In 2009, Roto-Rooter introduced a book titled Chilling Tales From The Porcelain Seat that featured "true tales of the strange & unexplained things that happen and the Roto-Rooter Heroes that can fix them."[4] Roto-Rooter asked its plumbers throughout North America to submit true stories about the odd things they have encountered on the job such as strange items recovered from toilets and sewer pipes.

2010 marked the company's 75th anniversary.

International franchise operations have been established in Canada,[5] Japan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, and South Africa.


Roto-Rooter remains the largest provider of plumbing repair, sewer and drain cleaning services in both the U.S. and Canada.[citation needed] The company does little or no new construction plumbing work. Its primary work involves making plumbing repairs to existing residential and commercial plumbing systems. Roto-Rooter is featured in the SyFy television show Ghost Hunters (2004–Present) as the two founders of TAPS work for Roto-Rooter as plumbers in the company's Providence, Rhode Island branch. There are segments featuring Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson working as plumbing technicians in their day jobs at Roto-Rooter in between paranormal investigations on the show. Additionally, a Roto-Rooter van is shown in the opening segment of each episode.

Roto-Rooter Corporation, based in West Des Moines, Iowa, maintains a manufacturing plant, which produces Roto-Rooter tools, machinery, drain cleaning cable and blades for the plumbing and drain-cleaning industry. The company also produces two lines of commercial drain-care products, one is available only through Roto-Rooter and the other is a line of retail products sold in stores and via mail order.

Employees of Roto-Rooter are mostly non-union. The CEO of Roto-Rooter Group is Spencer Lee. The CEO of Chemed Corporation, Roto-Rooter's parent company, is Kevin J. McNamara. The CFO of Chemed Corporation is David P. Williams. Frank Castillo is president of Roto-Rooter Corporation in West Des Moines. Rick Arquilla serves as president and COO of Roto-Rooter Services Company, based in Cincinnati, and appeared in an April 2010 episode of the CBS reality show Undercover Boss. A Roto-Rooter service van is shown jumping across an open section of a bridge in the 2015 motion picture, The Wedding Ringer and one of the characters in the film portrays a Roto-Rooter service technician.


At first, service vehicles bore the slogan "Roto-Rooter's patented cutting blades slice through roots and cut them away...Razor-Kleen!"

The Roto-Rooter advertising jingle used today on TV and radio was created in 1954 and has been one of the longest-running and best-remembered musical jingles in history:[6]

"Call Roto-Rooter, that's the name, and away go troubles down the drain."

The memorable bass voice in the commercial was that of Tom Fouts, more widely known as Captain Stubby of Captain Stubby and the Buccaneers. The company offers a new recording of the jingle as an MP3 download on its website.

Roto-Rooter serviceman using the same kind of machine in the modern day.

Many memorable Roto-Rooter TV commercials were introduced over the years that featured the iconic Roto-Rooter advertising jingle, helping to make it a familiar piece of Americana.

In Popular Culture[edit]

The Science-Fiction Comedy "Futurama" parodied the Roto-Rooter jingle in the episode "Why Must I Be a Crustacean in Love"

A robot and an unseen singer recite the jingle as the robot motions with its extendable rooter arm.

"Call Robo-Rooter, when you flush the towel, and we can also help with that impacted bowel."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Abrams, Paul. "Journalist Center". Roto-Rooter Plumbing and Drain Service. Retrieved 2006-10-08. 
  2. ^ Staff. "Interview: Jerry Richards discusses his group's recording of the Roto-Rooter jingle 50 years ago", National Public radio, May 24, 2004. Accessed June 9, 2009. "In 1933, as legend has it, Sam Blanc sought a way to unclog drains without digging. He took some sharp blades, attached them to a washing machine motor..."
  3. ^ Staff. "CHEMED TO START ROTO-ROOTER TENDER OFFER", The New York Times, August 9, 1996. Accessed June 9, 2009.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Roto-Rooter Plumbers Canada Domain Name. "A list of Canadian Roto-Rooter locations", Accessed July 28, 2009.
  6. ^ Boyer, Mike. "Roto-Rooter's Ditty Turns 50", The Cincinnati Enquirer, May 13, 2004. Accessed June 9, 2009.

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