So there you are, minding your own business while having a shave over the bathroom sink, when you see it. The water. It’s not draining. And your sink is threatening to overflow. You turn off the faucet and consider your options. Option 1: You freak out and start screaming. Option 2: You find a useful blog much like this one and learn how to handle a drain clog on your own.
Your Basic Clog-Clearing Toolkit
Depending on the age of your home and the type of pipes in your plumbing system, any of these items may be useful to keep around the house:
Rubber gloves. There’s a lot of fairly gross stuff that could be causing your clog. You really don’t want to touch that. Trust us on this.
Pipe wrench. When your sink trap is the source of the clog, this is all you need.
Bucket. Buckets are good for many things, including bailing out tubs and keeping clogged drains from dripping all over when you take them apart.
Hand plunger. These tiny plungers are great for sinks and tubs. Make sure you have caps for any double sinks in your house to help you create a strong vacuum..
Manual auger. When the going gets tough, or your drain is clogged a little bit deeper than a plunger can handle, sending an auger into the pipe can help you get things moving again. The longer the auger’s line, the further you can reach. Some are even made to hook to a power drill, giving you a little extra torque.
What’s not on this list, you may notice, is a chemical drain cleaner. There are several reasons for this. First, chemical drain cleaners can also cause pipes to corrode from the inside. When that happens, bits of rust can break off over time and cause a really hard clog that’s impossible to remove on your own. Secondly, if you do need to call in a pro, or you get feisty and want to give the drain another go, the standing water will be caustic. You seriously don’t want that.
Time to Get To the Drains!
Clearing a drain is a pretty simple process. You can approach most drains in this order:
Step 1: Remove any drain covers or plugs.
Step 2: Use a flashlight to look inside the upper part of the drain. If you see hair or other debris plugging the way, put on gloves and pull it out. For stuff that’s really stuck, try a pair of needle nose pliers to get a better grip.
Step 3: If you don’t see anything immediately clogging the drain, open the trap and clear it out with a burst of water from another faucet that doesn’t drain using that particular trap.
Step 4: Nothing in the trap? Take the manual auger and feed it into the drain with the trap still detached, going into the wall. You’ll be flying blind here, so go slow and easy. Keep feeding the line until you meet the obstruction or run out of line. When you do find the clog, you will be able to punch a hole in it by rotating the feed line rapidly. Once the feed line moves smoothly, withdraw it from the drain line.
Step 5: Put everything back together and test the drain line by running the water again.
Did you succeed? If so, hooray!
If you still have standing water, you have a few options. You can plunge your heart out in hopes that you can move the clog along. You can also try repeating the steps above in case there is a clog deeper in the drain that you just missed.
This technique will work for most types of household drains, though those encased in cement or that drain up from a basement are a lot more complicated and will probably require a pro to unclog.
Drains can be incredibly frustrating to clear. Take your time and be thorough, that way you don’t have to keep going back into the drain.