Eventually it happens to us all. The bath is over but for some reason when you pull the plug your dirty water refuses to go down and nothing can force it out of the tub and down the drain. Even with the plunger it only moves somewhat. In addition to the inconvenience and unsightliness, a clogged drain also becomes a haven for drain flies. It is best to eliminate it.

So what’s to be done with that pugged tub or sink? First things first. You’re going to need to locate the clog which should be easy if you only have one place water won’t drain. Once you have it locked down try out some of these easy steps to clear the clog yourself before calling and expensive plumber. Usually you can get the job done yourself for a fraction of the cost.

Best Ways to Unclog Drains

Take out your stopper or strainer to get unrestricted access to the drain.

Bathroom drain clogs are usually caused by hair, and kitchen drain clogs are usually cause by food, especially vegetables.

Pull out anything you can see initially like hair, food, dirt or that lovely unidentifiable grime. You really should do this on a regular basis as well since it will minimize the likelihood of future clogs. Think of it like cleaning your workspace before getting to the nitty-gritty of things.

Home Made Cleaner

Next we’re going to mix up a batch of homemade drain cleaner from boiling water, vinegar and baking soda. This is recommended if your drain is merely slow and not completely backed up where water will not drain at all. Dump 1 cup of the baking soda down the drain followed by 2 cups of vinegar. Wash it all down with boiling water and the mixture should eat away at your nasty clog.

The boiling water part is optional.  It is really the baking soda and vinegar that do all the work.

We like this method because vinegar is not as harsh on your pipes as some of the more industrial-strength cleaners.  Be careful if you have a fruit fly problem though — the flies love vinegar and it probably won’t kill them.  You will need to follow-up with other measures to get rid of the fruit flies.

This method doesn’t work as well if your clogged drained has created a massive backup of water, because the water will dilute the mixture.  But if it is just a bit of water, this is a great way to address your clog.

If water is really backed up and not moving then more desperate measures might be required

A plumber’s snake will mechanically remove the clog by breaking it apart so the pieces can fit down the drain. Just remember, if you’re using a snake, to get one of appropriate length. I recommend the 50ft Metal Spring-Steal Auger from Amazon.

Having a snake on hand might seem excessive, but when you need it, you need it.  It is one of those things that doesn’t hurt to have tucked away in the garage, versus having to go and rent one when an emergency arises.

Apply force to the offending clog with a plunger.

If you can’t wait for a snake to show up express mail then there is a fix with the plunger. Find all the drains that go to the same pipe and plug them up tight. Usually these are the other fixtures that are in the same room such as a sink or tub. Apply a film of petroleum jelly to your plunger to create a solid seal and push with all your might. With the other drains plugged you’ll be gaining a little advantage with nowhere for air to escape when the pressure increases.

You may need to plunge it many times.  Each time you can plunge with good suction, you are loosening up the clog even if it doesn’t seem like you are making progress.

Tough chemical solutions can dissolve tough clogs.

Products such as Drano or Liquid-Plumr (both available at Amazon) are specifically designed to clear up clogged drains. Be sure to try the other options first since the chemical involved can be less than healthy for the environment and/or yourself if they splash on you.

Professional Plumbing Solutions

Let’s face it, not all of us are cut out do our own plumbing. There’s a lot that can go wrong and you don’t want to dig yourself into a deeper hole than you are already in. If you’ve done all the fixes listed above but you’re still staring down a clogged drain then it’s time to call for backup. You know, the professionals who know how to clear a clog correctly.

You’ll want to do some shopping around first and not go for the first name in the phone book. Find someone who will clear your clog and not also clear out your wallet. Once you’ve found someone with a good reputation you can get those drains flowing again. If you’re paying for their help it doesn’t hurt to get some advice while they’re there. A good plumber should go over what caused your clogged drain and how you can avoid expensive service calls in the future.

Preventing Clogged Drains

Don’t pour or flush substances that can potentially clog drains

Coffee grounds, hot wax or grease, paper products, potato skins, large food stuffs, all of these things will clog your drains.  These types of clogs are actually responsible for nearly half of all drain issues!

The problem is that after you dump grease or oil into your drains, their chemistry changes.  They harden, or in some cases break-down into chemicals that can easily cling to your pipes or bind.  This is made even worse when the oil or grease finds other things you have recently sent swimming down your drain, and together the chemicals can great a reaction worthy of a lab experiment.  It can be like putting clay in to your pipes.

Clean your drains on a regular basis

Remove hair and food, pour boiling water down the drain, and perhaps mix some baking soda/vinegar down there to keep things flowing well!

Keep in mind that one drain can impact another.  Cleaning your washing machine might help keep the drains around it free, believe it or not.  And your kitchen sink, garbage disposal, and dishwasher drains are closely linked.  Making sure each is free and clear will help the others run much better.

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