Drain Cleaning 101

Posted On: 07/31/2012

This post comes to us from Len The Plumber, a plumbing company in Baltimore. If you need drain cleaning in Annapolis, call them!

The three most common places for drain clogs to occur are in the curved sections of your pipes (the traps), deep in the toilet and in the main drainpipe leading away from your house. Fortunately, not all of these clogs require professional plumbers! There are a few things you can do on your own before you call for drain cleaning service – many of which will help you knock out the clogs yourself!

Note: try these steps in order. If they don’t work, don’t worry – a plumber will be able to help!

Use your finger

This one’s a little gross, so put on a pair of rubber gloves before you do anything. Once you’ve got them on, remove the drain strainer or stopper and use a flashlight to look for soap, grease, hair or whatever else might be stuck in the drain. Once you’ve found it, reach into the drain and see if you can pull anything out. When you’re done, you can flush the drain with some hot water.

If you don’t like the idea of putting a finger down the drain, you can use a set of chop sticks or a piece of silverware you don’t mind throwing away.

Mix some baking soda…

Pour about a half a box of baking soda into the drain.

…with some vinegar!

Make sure you have a rag ready! Measure out a half cup of vinegar and pour it into the drain. As soon as you finish pouring, plug up the drain completely using the rag – you don’t want the reaction to escape. Let that sit for five to 10 minutes. While you wait, boil some water in a kettle – you’re going to need it.

Flush with boiling water

Remove the rag from the drain opening and throw it away. Next, reach for your kettle and slowly pour the boiling water down the drain – this should flush away any residual buildup. If this worked, great! You’re all done. If not, move on to the next step.

Shut off the water

If the clog is in a sink, use the valves under the sink to turn off the water. For larger clogs you may need to shut off the water at the water main.

Clean the trap

The most common place for clogs to start is in the trap. Instead of going directly to the sewer, every drain has a curved section known as the P-trap that fills with water and blocks odors and sewer gases from getting into your home. Unfortunately, this is also a good place for things to get stuck – hair, grease, dirt, anything – and is the first place you should consider when your drain is clogged. Fortunately, clogged traps are pretty easy to clean out, if not a little messy.

Place a bucket under the drain pipe and use a wrench to carefully remove the two metal slip nuts from either side of the trap. Hopefully they fall right into the bucket! Next, put on the rubber gloves and use a finger to wipe away any oil, hair, soap and whatever else has accumulated in the drain. Once the trap is clean, set it back in place and replace the metal nuts. Flush with hot water.

If this didn’t work, your clog may be much more serious. Consider using a plunger or a drain snake, or call for professional help!