Clogged drains are one of the most common plumbing problems and something virtually every homeowner will have to deal with on occasion. When facing this situation, most people simply pour in some chemical drain cleaner and wait for it to dissolve the clog. There is no doubt that drain cleaner can be effective, but most professional plumbers recommend never using it.
Most drain cleaners contain harsh chemicals like sulfuric acid and sodium hydroxide. These chemicals will not just eat through clogs, but also your pipes. Some drain cleaners create a chemical reaction that produces a large amount of heat, which can weaken PVC pipes or cause them to warp. If you use drain cleaner frequently, it will eventually damage your pipes and lead to bigger issues than a simple clog. As a result, we always recommend opting for more natural drain cleaning methods. Here are some of the best options to try before calling in a plumber to help.
Dish Soap and Hot Water
Fat, oil, and grease are the primary causes of clogged kitchen drains. Even if the fat is a liquid when it goes down the drain, it will quickly solidify and can cling to the inside of the drain or drain pipe. This creates a sticky layer that can trap other solids and lead to the drain becoming partially or completely clogged.
If you do ever have a clogged drain in your kitchen, the first thing to try is to clear it using hot water and dish soap. This method is extremely effective against fat, oil, and grease clogs. The dish soap works to cut through the fats and break them up into smaller particles, while the hot water will melt the fat so that it all flows out of the drain and down the pipe.
Of course, this method will only work if there is no standing water in the sink. If there is standing water, you will first need to scoop it out or soak it up until the sink is empty.
Once the sink is empty, pour a few tablespoons of liquid dish soap down the drain and put about a half gallon of water on the stove to boil. If your home still has old cast iron or any other type of metal pipes, you can then pour the boiling water directly down the drain. If you have PVC pipes, you’ll want to let the water cool for two or three minutes before pouring it down the drain as boiling water can cause PVC to warp. After pouring the water down the drain, wait for five or 10 minutes, and then turn your faucet on as hot as it will go and see if the sink will now drain.
Vinegar and Baking Soda
Vinegar and baking soda can also be extremely effective against various types of clogs. This method should help with kitchen and bathroom drains as well as floor drains. The acids in the vinegar help to dissolve any organic solids, while the bubbling action from the baking soda helps to break up the clog so that it can be washed down the drain. Again, this method will only work if there is not standing water. Otherwise, you will not be able to get the baking soda and vinegar to go down the drain.
When the drain is empty, pour a half cup of baking soda down the drain. Let the baking soda sit for a few minutes, and then pour a cup of white vinegar into the drain. You will then want to plug the drain if possible to keep the mixture from bubbling up and out into the sink. This method can still work if you do not have a drain plug, but you may need to do it several times in that case.
After pouring the mixture down the drain, wait for an hour. Then, pour a pot of hot (again, not boiling) water down the drain. The hot water should help to flush away any solids and clear the clog. If it still drains slowly after pouring hot water in, you may need to repeat the process one or two more times to fully clear the drain.
Salt, Borax, and Vinegar
This is usually the most effective method for extremely stubborn clogs, as these three items will work together to eat through grime and dissolve most solids. Start by pouring a half cup of salt down the drain, followed by a cup of borax and a half cup of white vinegar. You will then also want to add a pot of hot water and let the mixture sit for an hour. You should then be able to easily flush any solids down with hot water and completely clear the blockage.
Wire Clothes Hanger
This method is great for removing clogs in your bathroom sink or shower caused by hair. It is also a good option if the drain is full of water, as it usually allows you to remove enough debris so that the water will at least start to drain.
Take a wire hanger and straighten it out, leaving the hook at the end. Then, pinch the hook until it is small enough to fit into the drain. Place the hook end down the drain and use it to try to fish out any hair or other solids. Once you have gotten out as much as you can, you can then use one of the other methods above to make sure that the drain is fully clear.
A sink plunger is also a good option if the drain is full of water. A plunger works by creating pressure that helps to break up any clogs and force the solids down the drain pipe. You can also use a plunger even if the sink is not full, as all you need to do is fill the sink up with enough water that it covers the top of the plunger’s suction cup.
Underneath most sinks is a piece of pipe known as a P-trap that works both to catch any solids that go down the drain and to prevent sewer gases from coming back up the drain. If your drain is completely clogged, most likely the clog is located in the bend of the P-trap.
The P-trap screws onto the collar that extends below the drain and then to the drain pipe at the other end. If your drain is seriously clogged, you can try to unscrew and remove the P-trap and then manually remove any solids. However, you should be aware that the inside of the trap will usually be quite nasty, and water will pour out when you remove it. As such, this may not be something you want to try on your own.
The most effective way to clear stubborn clogs is by using a pipe or plumber’s snake. A snake works by extending an auger down into the pipe, and then using it to pull any solid matter back up out of the drain. While you can easily pick up a snake at any hardware store, we generally would not recommend trying this method on your own. If you do not know what you are doing or use too much force, you could easily break the pipe and create an even worse issue.
At AJ Danboise Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical, our team can help if you need drain cleaning or any other plumbing service. We also specialize in all types of residential electrical and HVAC services. Give us a call today if you need help with a clogged drain or any other home service in Farmington Hills.