Clogged drains are the worst!
Okay, maybe not the worst thing that can happen in your home, but it can be very annoying.
A natural move when you find yourself in this situation is to call your plumber and have them fix it. However, you can’t always have this luxury. Perhaps it’s the middle of the night or any other urgent situation.
The good news is that you can fix these problems yourself with tools around your house. Not only will this save you time and the hassle, but you also save money. Plus, there is the added bonus of accomplishing something on your own.
Therefore, if you find your drains clogged, try one of these solutions before making that call to your plumber.
In the unfortunate event that you’re still unable to unclog your drain, then you need to quit. Using too much force could permanently damage a pipe or fixture, which would defeat the purpose of this entire tutorial. That is highly unlikely to happen as these are all tried and tested methods, but we thought we might as well put it out there.
Prepare the site for unclogging
Before getting into the nitty-gritty, you should first take a few precautions. This is both to ease the job and also keep you safe. A lot of accidents have occurred when people attempted to clear the drains, but it’s no reason to be afraid. With proper care, you can prevent any accidents.
The most obvious preparation you can make is to clear away any water that has collected around the drain. Drains are meant to direct water away, but when clogged the water just collects. It is not easy to unclog a drain while water is covering the area because you can’t see. Besides, the mess makes it harder to reach the drain itself. This is why you first need to drive the water away. Obviously, this will depend on the amount of standing water to determine what tool to use.
Once the site is clear of standing water, now consider the type of drain you’re looking at. Kitchen sinks are the most often blocked drains, but they are also the easiest to fix, for the most part. Dealing with garbage disposal units may be a bit tricky and risky. To be safe, make sure it’s turned off and even disconnected from the power supply for extra measure. On double sinks, identify the problematic side and cover the opposite side.
It also doesn’t hurt to have a few tools handy. The most useful one for unclogging drains is a plunger. Common toilet plungers are wider, but you can find smaller models that are more effective for sinks, showers and bathtubs. You might also have to snake the drain, and there are specific drain snakes for this purpose. An auger could also be used to remove clogs farther down the drain.
Clearing a kitchen drain
Kitchen sinks usually get clogged because of grease and food particles get stuck inside the drain. A trap should be present at the mouth of the drain, and this is the first thing you ought to check. You can easily clear away any visible debris stuck on the trap to start. If water still doesn’t flow easily, then the problem should be within the drain. Slow drainage means that the drain is not completely clogged, and there are some quick fixes to try.
First try to pour boiling water right into the drain with the trap off. This should wash away debris stuck to the sides. You may have to try this a few times, but it’s the easiest and cheapest solution. If this still doesn’t work, pour salt into the drain followed by hot water. Again, repeat this a few times to make sure.
When that fails, it’s time to get a bit chemical. Clear away any standing water around the drain and pour about 1 cup of baking soda into it. Follow this up with vinegar of an equal amount. A fizzling reaction will occur, and then leave it to settle for a few minutes. Now try to pour hot water into the drain to check if it’s unclogged. Combining salt with baking soda before pouring vinegar is even more effective.
If these don’t work, you may be dealing with a larger object stuck inside, in which case the plunger is necessary. Pour some water around the drain and work the plunger a few times and then quickly pull it off. Try this a few times and then check to see if the water is draining effectively.
Snaking a kitchen drain
When all the above fixes fail, then you may be facing a more serious clog requiring physical force. A specific drain snake is made out of plastic and has some hairs around the side meant to catch any stuck debris. Alternatively, make your own out of a wire coat hanger by straightening it out. Do not straighten it out completely, but leave a hook at the end for extra effectiveness. Drive the snake into the drain and work it up and down a few times to clear any debris along the sides.
Kitchen drains consist of a P-trap beneath the basin, and it can easily get clogged. To clean this, unhook the P-trap by unscrewing the nuts and removing it completely from the fixture. Now use the snake to remove any stuck particles within and rinse off with hot water. Reinstall the P-trap and pour some water into the drain to see if the clog is undone.
Clearing the bathtub/shower drain
Problems with the tub and shower drains are usually because of hair build-up and soap scum. It doesn’t happen overnight but over a period of time. For that reason, you should begin to get a gradual slowdown of water drainage. While the drain is still not completely blocked, the plunger can be enough for the purpose. As with the kitchen sink, pour some hot water around the drain and work the drain severally. Thereafter check to confirm if the drain is clear.
Nevertheless, you may have overlooked the early signs and now the drain is completely blocked. Unscrew the trap from the mouth and attempt snaking the drain similar as you would with the kitchen drain. This should remove any hair and debris stuck within the drain and clear the clog. Assuming that the clog resulted from soap scum, then you may need some drain-cleaning product. There are several options you could find in your local hardware or home-improvement store. Remember to block the overflow plate to focus the pressure on the drain itself.
Clearing the toilet drain
Most of the toilet clogs occur at the curved trap behind the bowl, which is why a plunger may not be the most effective tool for the job. It is also why a toilet plunger is wider to exert more pressure through the drain. For minor clogs, though, the plunger can be very effective for the job to remove loose debris. Try flushing the toilet after doing this to check if the clog has cleared.
Nonetheless, most of the time you will have to snake the drain around the curve. As with the kitchen and shower drain, insert the snake into the toilet drain and work it thoroughly to free any stuck particles. For more serious clogs, the auger becomes necessary because it has more reach and a crank. Such an auger will reach farther down the drain to clear any clogs. Most cable augers reach up to 25 feet, but you may need more. In such cases, rent an electric auger with a motor for better results.