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how to unclog your drain

How Do I Unclog My Drain?

 |  Blog, Plumbing

We receive dozens of questions from homeowners on a daily basis about various plumbing issues. In this article, we will share ways on how to unclog your drain.

The plumbing system is probably the simplest system in a home or business, but its very simplicity seems to subject it to all kinds of problems. One major problem is clogs. The number of items that can clog a drain are astonishing. Hair, paper towels, cooking grease, bits of food, forks, spoons, knives, toys and other miscellaneous all manage to find their way into a drain pipe and clog it. Some homeowners believe that their pipes clog for no reason at all. The good news is that most clogged pipes can be fixed with little effort.


Things to Consider First

If the drain does look like it is clogging for no reason, the problem might be in the septic system. One sign is sewage coming up through the floor drain in the basement or the first floor. This is a sign that the septic system needs to be pumped. Only a professional should do this, and the homeowner should ask the professional how much scum they found in the tank. If there wasn’t that much scum pumped out, the problem may be in the perforated pipes. These may need to be replaced. Be aware that replacing your pipes is a big job and can be expensive.

Depending on how many people live in your home, it is important that you remember to pump out a septic system every few years.

Another thing that can cause the drain to clog for no reason is a problem with the municipal sewage system. The city, town or neighborhood you are living in might have been doing work on the system recently. Again, tree roots might have penetrated the main drain. Again, clearing them out is a job for a professional plumber.


How To Unclog the Drain

There are many ways to ultimately unclog the drain. Some are more gentle and eco-friendly than others. But with a really tough, intractable clog, the use of harsh chemicals might be necessary. The use of hard chemicals should be avoided and should only be used as your last option. For example, too many harsh chemicals can kill the bacteria that help the waste products break down in the septic tank. Chemicals also weaken plumbing pipes.

First, the homeowner should try to unclog the drain with a plunger. Block off the overflow outlet with a rag or sponge. Apply vaseline to the rim to get a good seal, then with a couple inches of water in the sink or tub, press the plunger straight down to try to clear the clog. It may take as long as 15 minutes to see signs of progress. If it’s a double sink, plug up one drain while the other is being worked on.

If the plunger doesn’t work, straighten out a wire hanger, and use it to loosen the clog. The advantage of using a wire is that it can poke holes in soft metals, so be careful. If that doesn’t complete the task, try a snake. Pass the coil slowly down the drain while using the hand crank. Eventually, the blockage will be felt, then try slowly push the coil through it then work it back and forth until the blockage is loosened. Lastly, rewind the auger, use the plunger again, and let the faucet run for a few minutes to clear the drain.


Recommended Products To Unclog Drain

Most of the products needed for drain clearing can be found inside of your kitchen pantry. Baking soda and vinegar are surprisingly good at clearing drains. Sprinkle the baking soda into the drain, add the vinegar, let it bubble for a few minutes then flush with boiling water. Baking soda and vinegar solution also keep the drain smelling fresh, so some experts recommend it being done twice a year.

Most clogs are made of organic material, so products that contain enzymes or bacteria have the ability to clear the clog inside your drain.

If your drain fails to clear using the methods above, then it might be time for the chemicals which contain compounds such as bleach and lye. The user must follow the instructions, and make sure to not let the drain cleaner sit for too long without flushing it with hot water.


Recommended Tools To Unclog Drain

Besides the snake and the plunger, a few more tools that are good for unclogging a drain. include a pneumatic cleaner. For example, the pneumatic cleaner is a tool that is placed over a stopped drain. The connection is sealed as you force air into the drain. The blast of air should loosen or dislodge the blockage.

For outdoor use, another popular tool is a power auger. This power tool is best worked by a professional plumber. A power auger used incorrectly can do more harm to your plumbing system than good. Always consult with a professional or follow the instructions to avoid damage and unwanted expensive repair costs.

If the problem is in the main drain, the homeowner may clear it out with a garden hose after cleaning it out, or the plumbing contractor can clear it out with a hydrojet. This blasts water at high pressure into the drain to force any blockages down toward the septic tank or the sewer system. Some hydrojets have scouring heads to clean the inside of the pipe as well.


Prevent Future Clogs

Prevent clogs by wiping out the grease and gunk from pots and pans before putting them in the sink to be washed. Clean out the strainer basket on a daily basis, and wipe the sink down thoroughly every time it’s used, especially around the overflow and the faucets.

Keep the drain fresh by pouring a gallon of boiling water down it once a week. Pour in half a gallon, let it drain for a few minutes, then add the rest.
Next month we will discuss our top five tools to keep your drain clear and clean. Subscribe to our blog and make sure not to miss out on our next feature!