Eliminate drain pain: Tips to unblock your drains

Blocked drains can be caused by a number of things, some of which are minor nuisances and others that are big headaches. Before calling out the plumber — and shelling out the dollars — try some tried and true tips for unblocking your drain yourself.

Why do drains clog

There can be a number of reasons for clogged drains. In your bathroom, the culprit is often hair and oils that clump together and gum up the works in your sink and shower drains. In the kitchen, the clog might come from accumulated food debris and grease. If the toilet is stopped up, it might be because you flushed something you shouldn’t have.

Locating the clog

Before attempting to clear a drain blockage yourself, you need to find out where it is. If the clog is somewhere in the plumbing you can see, such as in the stopper or drain trap, you’ve got a good shot at clearing it yourself. If it’s farther down in your pipes, such as in the pipes behind the wall, you may have to call in a plumber. Running water down several of your drains should tell you if you have a local problem or one deeper down in your plumbing.

Unplugging the drain

Once you have located your drain clog, you can set about using several different methods to remove it. Which method you try will often depend on which drain is clogged.

Snaking it out

One of the best and easiest ways to clear a drain is to use a drain snake. A snake is a long flexible tool that you can push into your drain to dislodge clogs. If you don’t have a drain snake, you can make a crude one by straightening out a coat hanger, folding the end slightly and then wrapping it in Velcro sticky-backed hook and loop tape.

Using a drain cleaner

Drain cleaners work by using chemicals to dissolve whatever is clogging the drain so that it will dislodge and move on through. There are dozens of commercial products on the market, although they are caustic and can be harmful if inhaled or if you get them on your skin. An alternative is to make your own drain cleaner using baking soda, vinegar and hot water.

Take the plunge with a plunger

Everyone knows that the best way to unclog your toilet is with a plunger, but you can also use a plunger to try to unclog blocked floor and shower drains. The concept is the same, you just need to use a little bit of water and make sure you create a good seal. You also may be able to use a plunger on a sink, depending on how big of a bowl you have.

Sometimes you just have to take it apart

A common place for drain clogs in bathroom and kitchen sinks is the spot underneath where the drain pipe curves. This is called the “trap,” and it can literally become a trap for debris. You can take apart the pipe at the trap and use your drain snake to probe for deeper clogs. Another piece to disassemble is the stopper in the sink. Hair and other things can gather there and cause a clog that is easy to remove.

Get out the vacuum

If you have a wet-dry vacuum, it’s worth a try. Set the vacuum on the liquids setting and use the highest suction setting it has. Ensure you have a good seal around the drain and vacuum away. The vac may have enough power to suck out the clog.

If you suspect a drain clog, don’t dial up the plumber right away. Trying one of these do-it-yourself methods can bring you success and save you a lot of money.


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