Drain Cleaning and Clogs
Drain Cleaning and Clogs
The sad truth about drain cleaning is that all plumbing systems develop clogs - it’s just one of those things you cannot avoid. And just about every plumbing fixture in the home can get backed up, from the kitchen sink, to your bathtub and shower drain, toilets, and floor drains.
Here, we discuss the usual causes for drain clogs. We will also show you effective drain cleaning techniques that will dislodge most clogs.
Keep in mind, however, that if you can’t clear a clog after several attempts, it’s better to call a licensed plumber to help you rather than to risk permanently damaging a pipe or fixture.
Drain Cleaning 101 - Common Causes of Clogged Drains
Bathroom Drain Clogs
Shower or bathtub drain clogs are caused by an accumulation of dirt, skin flakes, and hair that bind with soap scum on the walls of drain pipes. Over time, this build up reduces water flow.
Kitchen Sink Clogs
The most common causes of kitchen drain clogs are as follows:
● Fats, oil, or grease
● Starchy products including pasta, rice, and potatoes
● Coffee grounds
● Fibrous or stringy foods
Grease, in particular, is the worst thing you can flush down your kitchen sink drain. It solidifies as it cools and passes through your pipes.
Dishwasher clogs are another source of kitchen clogs.
Clogged toilets often happen because people flush down items that do not dissolve or breakdown in water. Only organic waste and toilet paper should go down your toilet. Other paper products, including the following can clump up and cause clogging:
● Feminine hygiene products
● Tissues and paper towels
● Pre-moistened wipes, including those labeled as “flushable”
● Cotton swabs
● Dental floss
Do It Yourself Drain Cleaning Techniques
Prevention is still your best defense against a blocked drain. What can you do to help keep your drains clear?
● Install drain guards to catch solid particles such as pasta, rice grains, coffee grounds, or hair. Make sure that only water flows down your drains.
● Dispose of grease properly in the trash by pouring it into jars, ensuring that it has solidified before disposal.
● Regularly flush your drains with boiling water. You may also use a mixture that includes baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt to maintain your drains.
However, as we have mentioned before, blockages will happen. Fortunately, in most cases, it is possible to remedy the situation using common household items. Below are some do-it-yourself drain cleaning techniques you can try:
Hot Water. The most basic, yet effective remedy is to pour a pot of hot water (not boiling) down the problematic drain. Allow the hot water to soften the build up by pouring gradually. Flush away the clog melted by the hot water with cool water.
Detergent + Hot Water. This mixture is appropriate for clogs caused by solidified grease. Use two tablespoons of dishwashing detergent with a pan of boiling water. Pour the mixture slowly into the clogged drain.
The hot water will liquify the solidified grease while the detergent will help move the grease out of the drain and down the pipes. This effective drain cleaning mixture can also be done as a preventive measure once a week to keep grease from building up in your drains.
Baking Soda + Salt + Vinegar + Hot Water. Make your own drain de-clogger using items you commonly find in your kitchen pantry. Mix ½ cup of baking soda with ¼ cup salt. Pour down the problematic drain. Follow this up with 1 cup of heated vinegar.
This will cause the baking soda and salt mix to foam and bubble. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes by covering up the drain with a plug or some duct tape. Run hot tap water or pour hot water down the drain for 30 to 60 seconds.
You may need to repeat the process for really stubborn clogs. This method is also effective as a preventive maintenance measure. Done regularly once a month, this will keep your drains clear and fresh smelling as well.
Cream of Tartar + Baking Soda + Salt + Hot Water. Use this home remedy to dissolve bathroom clogs caused by hair and soap scum.
Start by combining 2 cups of baking soda and 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar with ½ cup of salt. Shake everything in a jar to ensure that they are well mixed. Pour 2 cups of hot water down the problematic drain and add the mixture. Let stand for one hour to allow it to work. Cream of tartar works to clean metals while the baking soda and salt works on softening the clog.
For more stubborn clogs, there are tools that you can use to move them down your drains:
Plungers. These are used for small clogs and can either be:
● Tapered - used for toilets
● Flat bottomed for tubs and sinks
Plungers increase the force of the water driving through the clog, moving it along the pipe until it reaches the point where the diameter is bigger and where it can flow out more freely.
Snake or Auger. The snake or auger is used to physically break up clogs in the pipe. A cable or wire is fed through the drain pipe and a handle is turned to keep the tool spinning inside the pipe. This spinning action breaks up the clog and moves it along the drain pipe. Alternatively, the clog may be pulled up as the tool is withdrawn out of the drain.
Take note that if you have not worked with this tool before, you are better off calling in professional help to prevent making the clog worse or damaging your pipes.
A Word On Commercial Drain Cleaners
While it is tempting to reach for that bottle of chemical drain cleaner, they do more harm than good. They contain harsh chemicals that can damage your pipes and fixtures and may even be hazardous to your health. When used frequently, they can create fractures and cracks in your pipes and fixtures.
Drain Cleaning - When To Call In the Experts
Most clogs can easily be resolved using our recommended drain cleaning methods above. However, there are clog situations that can potentially cause serious problems. For times like this, it is best to call in the experts to help you. Here are some of the signs to watch out for:
There are leaks or pools. If you notice leaks or water pools on your walls or floors when you have a clog, it’s best to call a plumber as soon as possible. Water damage is a serious issue. It is important to find the source immediately to avoid further damage.
The clog is very stubborn. If you have tried all home remedies and you still have backed up drains, this is an indication that the clog is located deep in your pipes. For clogs of this type, it is best to call the plumber.
Frequent clogs in a particular drain. If a clog is a perennial problem in one drain, this may be an indication of a valve problem, may be partially filled with grease, or may indicate other serious issues. A plumber can do an inspection and suggest solutions to prevent future clogs.
Sewer clogs. Sewer clogs create a lot of backed up water. Worse, it can cause your home to stench up. This type of clog can only be fixed with the help of a professional plumber.
Professional Drain Cleaning
Here are drain cleaning techniques that professionals employ:
Camera Inspection of Pipes
For difficult-to-reach clogs inside the pipes, plumbing experts use a video snake inspection system. Using specialized equipment, they are able to view images on a monitor so they are able to plot their plan of action on how to clear the clog.
Cable Drain Cleaning
Depending on the severity of the clog, professional plumbers employ a variety of tools which range form the basic hand snakes or augers to powerful drain machines that can clear large sewer pipes to eliminate clogs.
For typical clogs, a flexible cable is inserted into the pipes. Attachments help clean the clog either through cutting, scraping, boring, or recovering the blockage in the pipe.
Used as a last resort when all methods have been employed, hydro jetting uses a hose with a special nozzle that forces pressurized water through the pipes to clear out blockages and heavy clogs.
The advantages of hydro jetting:
● Clears clogs fast
● Removes even dangerous blocks such as tree roots and other serious blocks
● Works for all types of pipes
● Clears out pipe walls and can eliminate grease, minerals, and other serious clogs
While hydro jetting is highly effective, it is important that your plumber assess your pipes carefully before proceeding. If your home has older pipes, the strong pressure of a hydro jet may cause damage in some areas.
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Tags: Clogs and drain cleaning, unclog a pipe, fix a clogged pipe, DIY unclog pipe, clean a pipe, unclog a drain, fix a clogged drain, DIY drain cleaning, drain backup