It happens to everyone at some point . . . your drain clogs and you can’t get anything to go down it. What are your options at this point? How do you clear that drainpipe so you can get on with your life and finish washing the dishes?
You have a few options, depending on how clogged the drain actually is. If the situation is just getting worse and you have a blockage that cannot be easily taken care of, you will need to call in the experts. Too much force or other treatment can end up damaging your pipes, so it’s best to have a plumber come in and handle the issue.
Try Boiling Water
For the regular drains that don’t have water in them (anything apart from the toilet, essentially), you should begin with hot water.
First, boil a litre or more of water and while you let it boil, clear out the sink. Take out as much standing water as possible with a scoop or cup.
Once the water has boiled, pour the entire thing into the sink or wherever the drain is clogged. Let it sit for five minutes and then dip out as much as possible if it hasn’t drained. Repeat the process four or five times.
This method works well on many types of clogs, but particularly those that are made up of grease. The hot water melts the fat and washes it away. Other types of blockages may be loosened by the repeated applying of hot water, as well, which is why it should always be the first thing you try.
Another option is to pour half a cup of salt down the drain before you add the boiling water. This can also help increase the cleaning power of the method.
Add Vinegar and Baking Soda
This bubbly mixture isn’t just for science experiments, it can actually clear blockages in your sink too. Remove as much standing water as possible, then pour hot water into the drain and let it sit for a minute.
Next, add a cup of baking soda and a cup of vinegar. Regular white vinegar works just fine. The mixture will bubble up quite a bit. Leave it alone for half an hour and then pour more hot water down the drain. Repeat the process three or four times until the water drains easily, then run hot water down the drain for several minutes to ensure the entire mess is washed away.
Look In the Garbage Disposal
In a kitchen sink, it may be the disposal that’s the issue, rather than the pipes. Many things can cause the disposal to clog up and it may simply be stuck on a chunk of food. Be careful to turn the disposal off if you are inspecting it and use a wooden spoon or similar to move the blockage if necessary.
Often, running boiling water through the disposal will also remove the problem, so this is worth a try, too.
Plunge the Blockage Out
The toilet plunger is particularly useful when dealing with clogs, and not just for the toilet. It’s recommended that you have a second plunger just for household use, as it can be helpful for sink or bathtub clogs, as well.
Add water to the basin or tub until it covers the head of the plunger. Then place the plunger over the drain and press down and up six or seven times. You should be able to hear when the clog is sucked out. At this point, remove the plunger from the drain and run the hot water for a few minutes to clear it completely.
Use a Coat Hanger
Can you see the clog, but can’t reach it? In this situation, it can be useful to use stiff wire, such as the wire in a coat hanger that has been straightened, to hook the clog and pull it out. Another option is to use a plumber’s auger to reach down and break up the clog enough that it can be pulled out or rinsed away.
Clean Out the P-Trap
Under your sink is a curved pipe, referred to as a P-trap. This is designed to hold some water in order to prevent smells from coming back up the drain, but it can also end up collecting a large amount of rubbish. You’ll want to clean this out if none of the previous methods worked.
To clean the P-trap, place a bin or bowl under the drainpipe to catch liquid and anything else that might come out. Then carefully undo the connections on either side. The entire curved piece should come out and you can then turn it and empty out whatever it has collected. It may be helpful to have a wire or brush to push through and ensure there’s nothing else stuck in there.
Check that you can look through the pipe to the sink or vice versa before reattaching the P-trap. Be sure the connections are tight once you’ve reassembled it. Now run hot water through the pipes for a few minutes to flush out anything you may have missed.
Preventing Blockages in the First Place
The best medicine is prevention, as they say and it’s a good idea to simply avoid getting a clogged up pipe in the first place. It’s impossible to prevent 100% of blockages, but you can certainly stop most of them.
Use a hair trap. You can purchase little baskets to put in your shower or tub to catch any loose hair. As you wash your hair, strands fall out and get caught in the drain. It’s not unusual for large hairballs to form together with soap to create a blockage. This is easily preventable by ensuring your hair never reaches the drain and is caught before then.
Avoid all fats. No fat should ever go near your drains. Bacon grease, cooking oil, and butter are all deadly to kitchen drains. Even if they rinse away in hot water, the fats quickly cool in the pipes and form blockages, usually with other unpleasant things stuck in them. While these can be dissolved with hot water, it’s best to simply avoid disposing of fats in the drainpipe. Put them in the rubbish instead.
Flour and coffee grounds should be banned. Flour and coffee grounds are particularly difficult to get rid of as they tend to clump and form hard blockages. You’ll have a difficult time getting rid of these clogs, even with hot water, so try to avoid them. In fact, it’s best if all food goes into the rubbish, rather than getting sent down the drains.
Don’t flush non-flushable products. Your toilet should only contain toilet paper and your own waste. Nothing else should go down it, including feminine hygiene products and other types of waste. Anything else will be likely to collect and cause a blockage in the pipes, which can result in a rather spectacular mess.
All too often, pipe blockages are quite preventable if you avoid putting the wrong thing down the drain. You need to pay attention to what you’re doing and make sure there is a rubbish bin near so you can deposit food and fat into it instead of down the sink.
What To Do If It Doesn’t Work
If none of these methods have worked for you and your pipes are still blocked, it’s time to take more drastic measures. Call in the professionals and have them remove the blockage for you. It usually takes far less time to have a drainage pro handle the whole thing than if you are struggling to get rid of the blockage on your own.
It’s fine to try non-damaging methods on your own and it won’t hurt anything to plunge your sink, but sometimes the clog is simply too stubborn or too far along to come loose with DIY methods. You can give it a go, but eventually, it may be time to call in the experts.
The experts have all the right equipment and while hot water and vinegar may help with minor issues, something that is more serious will need the heavy-duty tools. That’s exactly what the drainage experts will bring when they come to clear the pipes once and for all.
Do you have a clogged pipe emergency? The Drainage Consultants are available to help you with your plumbing emergencies. Call now to learn more.