Drain health is one of those things we tend to not think about until there’s a problem. You probably have some vague ideas about proper drain treatment – don’t wash oily substances down the drain, don’t put bones in the disposal – but beyond that, you and your drains tend to coexist without much thought.
That all changes the moment a drain backs up. Suddenly, your sink or tub is full of water (or worse) and you’re remembering all the stuff you’ve washed down that could, at this very moment, be making its way back to the surface. All you can think is, “Gross.” Followed closely by, “How do I make this stop?”
Keep reading to discover the signs of a clogged drain, steps you can take to remedy the situation, and what to do to keep it from happening again.
Signs that a Clogged Drain Is in Your Near Future
Ninety-nine percent of the time, your drains offer warning signs that trouble is on the horizon. Taking action as soon as you notice one of these signs helps resolve many issues while they’re still easy to deal with, before true problems form.
Signs that you’re about to have a drain problem include:
- Water begins backing up out of your sink drain
- The area around your kitchen sink smells like rotting food
- Water pools around shower drains
- Water pools on the floor close to your bathtub or sink
- Water pools around the drain before finally draining slowly
- Your drain makes gurgling sounds, particularly after operating the washing machine or dishwasher
- The toilet bubbles when you run the sink
How to Clean a Clogged Drain
Most of the time, a clogged drain can be cured without the help of professionals. You may have some remedies in your kitchen right now; others may require a visit to your local hardware or home improvement store.
If you’ve tried a couple of home solutions, it’s probably time to call in a plumber. It is possible to permanently damage the fixture or pipe, particularly if you exert too much force in your unclogging efforts.
The Kitchen Pantry Solution: Baking Soda and Vinegar
Most experts agree that the only time you should combine vinegar and baking soda is when you’re attacking a clogged drain. It’s an eco-friendly yet still effective alternative to store-bought drain cleaners, particularly if your main problem is a slow-moving drain. The only ingredients you need are vinegar, baking soda, and water (hot from the tap if working on a drain with a disposal, boiling for non-disposal drains).
Non-Disposal Drain Cleaning
- Pour a pot of boiling water down the drain.
- Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain and leave it for 3 minutes.
- While the baking soda sits, mix 1 cup of vinegar with 1 cup of very hot water. Then, pour it down the drain. It will bubble, but that’s good.
- Cover with the drain plug and leave it for 10 minutes.
- Flush the drain with another pot of boiling water.
The baking soda and boiling water work together to loosen the build-up at the bottom of the drain. Dropping the vinegar on top of it causes a chemical reaction that helps break it all apart, and the final rinse of boiling water flushes it all away.
Cleaning Your Disposal
- Run the water until it becomes nice and hot, let it run for a minute, and then stop the flow.
- Pour 1/4 cup of baking soda down the drain and then flip on your disposal for 2 seconds. Leave it for 15 minutes.
- Pour 1 cup of vinegar down the drain. Again, the bubbling is good.
- Rinse with very hot water and run your disposal for 5 seconds.
As before, the baking soda and hot water break up the sludge that forms over time, while also deodorizing those nasty smells that often build up in our kitchen sinks. The vinegar reaction takes care of any lingering particles.
Chemical Drain Cleaners
At Isley’s, we recommend flushing your drains with Bio-Clean every few weeks, preferably at night, since the enzyme in the cleaner needs a good 8 hours to do its work. You find it, or a similar product, at Home Depot, Lowe’s, or your area hardware store. Just follow the package’s instructions to keep your drains flowing.
The Right Way to Use a Plunger
The Plumber’s Friend earned its name due to how well it works, but you have to use it the right way. Start by using a wet rag to plug up the sink or bathtub’s overflow hole (don’t forget the drain on the other side of a two-bowl sink). Then, if the sink is empty, add a few inches of water before using your plunger. Once you clear the drain, attack it with Bio-Clean.
How to Keep Drains Healthy
Here are a few common issues our plumbers see when they’re called out to deal with drain issues:
- Your garbage disposal is not a trash bin. Don’t use it to dispose of paper or plastic, and never flush bones down there, not even tiny chicken bones. Also, fibrous foods tend to wrap around the blades. This includes artichokes, asparagus, celery, and corn husks.
- If you don’t have a disposal, clear all scraps from dishes before placing them in the sink. Even if you do have a disposal, get rid of most of it.
- Never pour grease, fats, or other oily substances down the drain. Let them cool and solidify and then scrape them into the garbage (or a food container).
- Clean your drains at least once a month, using either a chemical cleaner or the baking soda/vinegar mixture.
- Don’t allow food to accumulate in your disposal. Always run it after doing the dishes, and always make sure the water runs with the disposal.
If your drain becomes clogged and you’re unable to solve the problem, please call a plumber (even if it isn’t Isley’s Home Service). Hiring a professional to address the issue is a lot cheaper than repairing damage caused by using a snake incorrectly.