Fixing drain clogs can be a frustrating process. Often, you have to try multiple approaches to see what eventually works. If you're at a loss for how to fix a stopped-up sink or tub, here are a few tips that might be able to get things flowing smoothly again.
A Simple Plunger Works Wonders
It's already common knowledge that a plunger can help you unclog a stopped-up toilet, but did you know it can be used for other drain clogs too? Any time you have a solid clog and you can create a good vacuum seal, a plunger should be able to at least move the clog, if not pull it all the way out.
If the stopped-up drain is in a bathroom tub, you'll need to cover up the overflow hole with a wet rag before you start plunging. This hole leads to the same pipe as the drain does, so as long as it's allowed to take in air, you won't be able to get a good seal on the drain. Next, fill the tub part of the way with water, and use the plunger just like you would with a toilet. Keep in mind, because this works best with solid clogs, a plunger may not be able to pull out common hair clogs.
In a kitchen sink, the principle is much the same. If your sink has two drains, be sure to plug up the one that isn't clogged so you can get better suction. Then, just like with a tub, fill it up part of the way with water and give it a good plunging. If the clog is close to the drain, this should pull it out. If not, hopefully the movement will help break it up.
You Don't Have To Buy Chemical Cleaners
For very stubborn clogs it can be tempting to use a chemical drain cleaner. However, if these fail to pass through your system quickly enough, their acids can eat away at your pipes. Instead, consider using gentler remedies that won't harm your pipes if they have to sit for longer periods.
If you know the clog isn't a hair clog, the first solution you try should be plain old boiling water. While this seems like an underwhelming solution, boiling water is actually excellent at dissolving solidified gunk. For kitchen clogs, boiling water is especially good at liquefying pesky grease clogs.
When boiling water doesn't work, your next step is to use the one-two punch of baking soda and vinegar. The weak acids in the vinegar will help to dissolve clogs without damaging your pipelines, and the foaming action created by the baking soda will also help to dislodge stuck particles.
Hair clogs can be pretty tough to deal with using these solutions, but fret not! You can still deal with them by coating the inside of your drain with hair removal cream. Like vinegar, hair remover is weaker than drain cleaner, so isn't likely to damage your pipes. It's also specially formulated to dissolve hair, which makes it perfect for bathtub hair clogs. Once it's had a few minutes to sit in the drain, wash it down with some boiling water to get rid of any residue.
Sometimes Pipes Just Need A Thorough Cleaning
Over the years, sediment and gunk can gather inside your pipes, reducing their diameter and making them clog more easily. Regularly flushing your system with high-pressure water can help to prevent this, but homeowners rarely do this as often as necessary, and drain pipes may not benefit from this procedure. If your drains are clogging up more frequently, it may be time to clean them yourself or have a professional come and give them a good scouring.
With gentle cleaners, good old-fashioned plunging, and preventative care, you should be able to get rid of your drain clog without damaging your plumbing. If you have more questions about how to prevent clogs, or you have a stubborn clog that just won't budge no matter what you do, contact your local sewer and drain cleaning service. With a little luck and a little work, your drains will be ship shape again in no time.