Clear Drain Clogs
Do you remember what really went down the drain? There is often more to a clogged drain than meets the eye. To clear a clogged drain – in the sink or the bathtub – sometimes it’s just a matter of moving the clog further through the pipe to the sewer line. You’ll want to use rubber gloves and maybe a clothes pin (to pinch your nose and block the smell). Here are a few tips to help with common clogs:
- Use the old stand-by, the plunger: A plunger is a basic tool used for generations that needs only a strong effort and the ability to withstand any foul smells. To clear a toilet, it’s all about pushing through the clog. For sinks and tubs, try for a tight seal of the plunger over the drain followed by repeated plunges.
- Pull out the junk and gunk – Rotting debris, i.e. food or hair, mixed with leftover liquids, i.e. saliva or personal cleaning products, can build up a nasty blockage in a sink. It’s usually a clog you notice all at once after it builds up over time, slowing the water drainage more each day until nothing washes down the drain. You can attack this clog with boiling hot water (WARNING: Be extremely careful with boiling water). If this doesn’t free the clog, try a store-purchased plastic wand or a wire coat hanger with one end bent like a hook. Push the appropriate end down the drain into the clog and pull out the mess.
- Apply grandma’s clog recipe – Our elders have always been wise, so follow one of two recipes. One mixture calls for ½-cup baking soda and ½-cup table salt poured into the drain. Allow this to cure for 20 minutes or so, then chase with boiling water (WARNING: Be extremely careful with boiling water). A second mixture uses 1/3-cup baking soda and 1/3-cup vinegar mixed together, and then pour the bubbling concoction down the drain. Let this work for 45 minutes to an hour, then send boiling water down the drain (WARNING: Be extremely careful with boiling water). Either of these two recipes can break down and clear even the yuckiest of clogs.
- Grab a snake and hang on – No, this isn’t a real snake, but a plumber’s tool made of a strong, flexible wire that comes in various lengths of a few feet up to hundreds of feet rolled into a dispensing drum. A shorter snake is available at any hardware store. Grab the snake when the clog just won’t budge, or it is further down the pipe beyond the reach of a wire hanger or plastic hair plug remover. Just force the snake into the drain to push or break up the clog. Run some water to make sure the pipe is clear.
- For the brave and strong – Some sink clogs are just out of reach or too tough for basic remedies. Those who want to venture into the realm of the plumber can tackle the do-it-yourself project of clearing a sink drain trap. This is the U-shaped pipe in the cabinet under the sink. Place an empty buck beneath the trap and alternately loosen the nuts at both ends of the pipe using a plumber’s wrench. You need the bucket underneath the trap because the water and gunk will start flowing out before you know it. Once the nuts are loosened, you can flip the trap over and let it drain. Use a wire hanger or old toothbrush to scrub the inside of the trap tubing and clear as much gunk as you can. Rinse the trap with clean water (take it outside and hose it down if you can). While you’re under there, scrub and clean the pipe that runs from the drain in the bottom of the sink down to the trap. Reverse the process to put it all back together. Turn on the faucet to run some water down the drain. Any clog in the trap or drain area should be free and any foul smell should be gone.
- Gravity and common chemicals – Here’s a quick and simple bathtub drain clearing hack. Follow the baking soda and vinegar mixture above, pour it into the bathtub drain, seal the opening with the drain plug/stopper and let it sit for an hour. Now, without removing the drain, turn on the hot water and fill the bathtub. You have created a power pressure tool in your bathtub with 50 or more gallons of water and all its weight ready to rush down the pipe. After an hour, pull the plug in the drain. The common chemicals should have loosened the clog enough for the water pressure to flush it free in the pipe. If not, don’t give up. Grab the plunger or the snake and get to work.