Clogged drains are a common home plumbing issue, occurring when hair, waste, or food products-depending on the use of the drain-get stuck in the pipe, stopping water or waste from draining. You can deal with some clogs on your own, but for serious issues, you may need to call in a professional.
One day, your shower, toilet, or kitchen sink is working just fine. The next, you take a shower, use the restroom, or wash the dishes and you’re left with dirty water that just won’t drain-or worse, is overflowing from the basin. What happened? Most likely, the drain is clogged with solid material-hair in the shower, waste and paper in the toilet, or food in the kitchen sink. Clogs start small but can get nasty fast, especially if you don’t deal with them in a timely fashion. There are a number of DIY fixes for minor drain clogs, but if you’ve exhausted your options or the problem is severe, you’ll need to call a professional plumber.
You can attack a clogged drain head-on using a standard plunger. Fill the basin with enough water to cover the plunger head, and then place the plunger over the affected drain so that it creates a seal. Pump the plunger up and down rapidly, forcing water in and out of the drain, and then pop it off to break the seal. Repeat, if necessary. This should loosen and flush away minor clogs. If plunging several times fails to loosen the blockage, purchase a chemical drain opener and use it as directed on the package. Be aware, however, that the caustic agents in chemical drain openers can actually harm some fixtures. If a plunger and a full container of drain opener don’t do the trick, it might be time to bring in an expert.
What the Pros Do
Professional plumbers have an array of tools in their arsenal to fight clogs. One of the most basic is the drain snake, also known as a drain auger. Plumbers spiral this long, flexible cable down into the pipe until it reaches the clog, displacing it. A more modern piece of plumbing technology is the hydro-jet, which is designed to blast through and eradicate pipe blockages. While a drain snake is generally effective on basic clogs, hydro-jetting can get rid of years of accumulated sludge inside your pipes.
Most plumbing systems will need occasional maintenance and professional drain cleaning, but you can take steps to decrease the frequency of clogged drains. In the kitchen, avoid pouring cooking grease down the drain, as it can accumulate and harden inside the pipe. If you have a garbage disposal, always flush it with water to keep food from sticking to the pipe. In the bathroom sink and shower, use drain stoppers or strainers to keep hair and other materials from going down the drain. Only flush items down the toilet that are labeled “flushable.” Anything else may clog the plumbing. And finally, always address minor clogs before they become complete blockages. When you notice your water draining more slowly than usual, especially if it gets a little worse each day, it’s time to take action.