There are a number of ways to unclog a drain. The first step is to determine what type of clog it is. If the clog is a result of a matted clump of hair or soap scum, baking soda and vinegar can break it apart.
For more intense clogs, you can use a drain snake or plastic drain cleaning tool. You can also try using a notched zip tie.
1. Check the Pipes
Clogs can build up in your drain lines and even lead to pests like drain flies, so it’s important to address the issue as soon as you notice a problem. If a clog persists, it’s time to call a plumber.
Some experts recommend using baking soda and vinegar to break free light clogs. They suggest pouring a cup of baking soda followed by a cup of white vinegar, covering the drain, then flushing it with boiling water.
Another easy DIY way to clear a blocked drain is to remove the foot plug or drain cap and inspect the p-trap. If you can see a visible obstruction, use a wire hanger (straightened out with a hook on one end) or closet auger to fish it out. Be careful not to use too much force, as you could damage the pipes.
2. Run Hot Water
One of the easiest ways to clear a drain is to run hot water down it. This loosens hair, grime and other organic material that can clog pipes. Then, flush it with more boiling water. This technique works well for bathroom sinks that are often clogged with hardened toothpaste, shaving fallout and other bits of bathroom waste.
Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) cleans a drain and has slight disinfectant properties that combat odor-causing bacteria. Pour half a cup of table salt and half a cup of baking soda down a drain, let it bubble, then flush with hot water. Repeat this as needed to keep drains clean and smelling fresh. It’s a safer alternative to chemical drain cleaners. However, if a clog is stubborn, call a plumber. Larger clogs, like those caused by roots, are best handled by an expert.
3. Untwist a Wire Hanger
Clogs can be caused by a variety of things, including hair, food, and soap scum. Liquid drain-cleaning products like Drano can help, but it’s always best to start with more gentle methods to prevent damage to your pipes.
A wire hanger is a classic tool that can be used to fish out foreign objects from your shower drain. Straighten out the end of the hanger with a pair of needle nose pliers, then bend it into a hook shape. Push the hook down into the drain, then jiggle and “fish” it out to pull out the gunk.
This method works well for showers, but a snake is the best way to reach more serious clogs in sinks and toilets. Be careful, as a coat hanger can scratch or puncture your pipes if it gets stuck inside them.
4. Pour Baking Soda and Vinegar
When used together, baking soda and vinegar can refresh a stinky drain and help break up any gunk that may be stuck. The fizzing action of these two ingredients exchanges molecules, releasing carbon dioxide gas that bubbles through the clog and helps to loosen it. Then, the boiling water poured down afterwards helps to flush away any food waste or other debris that was loosened by the reaction.
Pour half a cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by half a cup of vinegar. Cover the drain with a cloth or stopper and let the mixture sit and fizz for an hour. Then, pour a pot of boiling water down the drain to flush it. If the drain is still clogged, try using a plunger to agitate the material and dislodge it. You can also use Borax or cream of tartar, both of which contain weak acids that are good for cleaning drains.
5. Use a Plunger
Clogged drains can be a major nuisance and cause significant delays in your daily routine. However, these problems can easily be fixed using simple tools and household items. For example, plunging is a simple, affordable way to clear most sink clogs without damaging your pipes.
To plunge, find a standard plunger with a bell shape and cover the opening of the sink with it. Make sure that the bell is completely sealed and that overflow holes or other drains are blocked with cloth, duct tape, or other objects. Press down on the plunger and pull up several times. This creates a vacuum and forces a clog to move up and out of the drain. If this doesn’t work, try a drain snake (available at hardware stores and most big box stores) or a power auger.
6. Use a Drain Snake
A drain snake is a handy tool for dealing with many types of clogs. It has an auger end that can dig through the clog and break it up. Then it can be pulled out along with whatever is causing the clog.
To use the snake, first loosen the set screw and pull out six-to-10 inches of the cable. Then thread the tip into the drain stub-out and start turning the crank to feed it down the pipe.
You may feel resistance as the tip turns a corner or hits an obstruction, but continue cranking to maneuver the snake until you feel it bite through the clog and clear it. Then flush the pipe with lots of hot water. It’s a good idea to wear rubber gloves when using the snake. This helps prevent the cable from catching on or tearing anything in your pipes.
7. Use a Power Auger
An auger is a long, snake-like tool that can remove clogs from drains and pipes. Also known as a plumbing snake, an auger is an effective way to clear a clogged drain when a plunger doesn’t work.
Start by locating the clogged drain. Place a drop cloth or dishpan below the drain opening and wear gloves. Next, loosen the setscrew and push the coiled cable into the pipe. Lock the wire and crank the handle to advance it into the pipe.
If the auger reaches the clog, twist it to physically agitate and break up the clog. Continue this process until the drain is free. For stubborn clogs, you may need to try multiple methods or even call a plumber. If you do, make sure you use a licensed plumber. They can help you avoid costly pipe repairs down the road.
8. Use a Snake
If you have a major clog that doesn’t respond to clearing traps and plungers, it’s time to use a drain snake. Also known as a plumber’s snake or an auger, this long flexible metal cord has a hooked end that can corkscrew through a clog and break it up.
To use it, remove the P-trap to expose the drain stubout and thread the snake’s tip into it. Start cranking the handle to push and feed the snake into the pipe until you feel resistance or the tip bites through the clog.
Wear rubber gloves when handling the snake to protect yourself from its coiled length and whatever it’s wrapped in. After using the snake, reassemble the trap and run plenty of warm water to flush the line. If the clog persists, consider calling a plumber for help.
9. Pour Boiling Water
We’ve all heard the old life hack about pouring boiling water down a drain to clear clogs. However, this method is actually a bad idea and can cause serious damage to your pipes.
To use this technique, boil a kettle of water and slowly pour it down the drain in two or three stages with several seconds in between each. This will help loosen clogs and may even dissolve hair. If this doesn’t work, it’s time to call a Lansing plumber.
Baking soda and vinegar can also be used to clean your pipes. Mix one cup of baking soda and a cup of vinegar down the drain to create a fizzing reaction that will help break up clogs and force them through your pipes. You can also try mixing salt with your vinegar, which will act as a natural scouring agent to remove grease and soap clogs.
10. Use Paper Towels
At some point in life, everyone experiences a clogged drain. These are usually the result of soap, food, hair, or other materials that build up in your pipes and inhibit water flow. If left unattended, this can lead to flooding in your home or even sewage backups.
There are many ways to clean a clogged drain, but some methods require expensive tools that most homeowners don’t have. One of the best ways to get a handle on your drain clogs is by using the baking soda and vinegar method. This creates a bubbling reaction that works to loosen organic clogs. It’s also a great way to avoid buying chemical drain cleaner, which is harmful for your home and the environment. For major clogs, it’s important to call a professional plumber. Our team of plumbers at Plumbing Today can use a variety of tools to solve any drain problem you may have.