Clogged drains are one of the most common household problems. Nothing is more frustrating than a sink that is slow to drain or a bathtub that won’t empty. Before reaching for harsh chemical drain cleaners, know that clearing a drain clog can often be done easily and naturally using common items you already have at home.
In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn how to unclog any drain in your home using simple, inexpensive homemade drain cleaners. With just a few basic supplies like baking soda, vinegar, boiling water, and a plunger on hand, you can break up hair and gunk causing obstructions and get your drains flowing freely again.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Why drains get clogged and signs you have an occlusion
- When to DIY vs contact a certified pipe specialist.
- Using a plunger to free up sink and bath drains
- Baking soda and vinegar – the dynamic unblocking duo
- Removing obstructions with boiling water
- Snaking the drain with a wire hanger
- Preventing future plugges
So put on some rubber gloves and get ready to make your drains sparkling clean! An obstruction-free household is just minutes away.
What Causes Clogged Drains and How to Tell You Have One
Drains can become obstructed for a variety of reasons. Most commonly:
- Buildup of hair, soap scum, and debris. Over time, strands of hair and bits of soap get stuck in pipes. When they accumulate, they form a mass that blocks water flow.
- Grease and fat. Cooking oils and fats poured down the kitchen sink congeal and coat pipes.
- Toys, jewelry or other foreign objects. Kids may accidentally drop small items down a drain which then become lodged.
- Tree roots. Roots from shrubbery and trees near your home can grow into and plug underground sewer pipes.
- Collapsed pipes. Pipes that have become damaged or shifted underground can collapse and get blocked.
You’ll know you have a blocked conduit if:
- Water drains very slowly. This is the most obvious sign. If it takes several minutes for sink water to go down the drain, you have an occlusion.
- Gurgling sounds. Listen for bubbling or burbling sounds when you drain water. This indicates a partial blockage.
- Standing water. Sinks or tubs that don’t fully drain and have standing water left in them are plugged.
- Unpleasant odors. A backed up drain or one filled with rotting debris can create sewer gas smell.
Don’t ignore slow draining water! Clogs only get worse over time. The sooner you can clear the occlusion, the better.
Should You Call a Plumber or DIY It?
Before you attempt to unclog drains yourself, consider whether calling in a professional is the better option. Plumbers have the right tools and snakes to clearing a drain clog.
Calling a plumber is a good idea if:
- Multiple drains in your home are blocked. This indicates a larger problem best addressed by a pro.
- You’ve tried DIY methods and they haven’t worked. Don’t keep wasting time and money on homemade remedies. Let a licensed water systems technician take over.
- Your main sewer line is backed up. Only a drainage systems specialist has the equipment to free up impediments from the main line.
- You have a collapsed or damaged pipe. If your sanitary system needs repairs, you’ll need a specialist to snake the occlusion and fix any issues.
- You rent your home. Many landlords require tenants to call professionals for any plumbing issues.
However, for simple sink, bathtub, or toilet congestions – a DIY approach is often faster, cheaper, and effective. Arm yourself with the right techniques and supplies and you can definitely handle unblocking drains on your own.
Unclogging Drains with a Plunger
The trusty plunger is one of the best tools for clearing minor sink and bath backups. While it may seem old-fashioned, pushing and pulling creates suction and pressure to forcefully dislodge plugs. Here’s how to do it:
For Sink Drains
- Fill the obstructed sink halfway with water.
- Place the plunger over the drain opening and plug the overflow hole by covering it with the palm of your hand or a wet rag. This lets pressure build up.
- Start plunging vigorously, working the force cup up and down 10-15 times. This forces the obstruction fluctuates within the conduit until it breaks apart.
- Remove the plunger and let the sink drain fully. Rinse with hot water.
- Repeat steps 1-4 if needed until water flows freely.
For Tub Drains
- Fill the bath with 2-3 inches of water. More water creates more plunging power.
- Firmly position the force cup over the drain hole.
- Make just a couple of thrusts of a plunger vigorously 15-20 times, slightly twisting the handle as you push down and pull up.
- Lift the force cup to let the bathtub drain. Turn on the faucet if needed to flush away any loosened debris.
- Pour a kettle of steaming water down the drain to help melt soap scum. Then repeat plunging if needed to unblock the stoppage fully.
With some quick intense plunging, you can successfully unclog many simple blocked drains.
Mix Up a Baking Soda and Vinegar Drain Cleaner
For a chemical-free drain unblocking solution, try the classic DIY combo of sodium bicarbonate and vinegar. When vinegar and baking soda combine, a fizzy chemical reaction occurs. The foam and bubbles help dislodge and break up gunk. Here’s how to mix this effective homemade drain cleaner:
- Pour 1/2 cup sodium bicarbonate down really coat the insides of the blocked conduit.
- Follow with 1/4 cup white vinegar. It will fizz and bubble immediately when it hits the baking soda.
- Let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes so the foam and gases can work to scrub away debris and waxy deposits.
- Flush with hot water for 30 seconds to wash away any grime.
- If your drain remains clogged, use a plunger for 1-2 minutes to force through drain with sodium bicarbonate and vinegar mixture.
- Rinse well with hot water. The drain should now flow freely!
Use this baking soda and vinegar treatment weekly to help prevent future clogs and keep drains clear. It is cheap, non-toxic, and safe for PVC, metal, and plastic pipes.
Boiling Water to Melt and Flush Away Clogs
For drains obstructed with globs of fat and greasy sludge, boiling water is an effective treatment. The heat melts and liquefies solidified oils so they wash away easily. Follow these steps:
- Boil a medium-sized pot of water on the stove. You want around 4-6 cups of water.
- Carefully pour the steaming water slowly down aim for the sides of the blocked conduit.
- Let the hot water sit for up to 5 minutes so it can melt and remove fatty build-ups.
- Flush the drain with cool water for 30 seconds to wash away the melted grease.
- Repeat steaming water flushes as needed until water runs down the drain smoothly.
If your kitchen sink is clogged from greasy dishes, make steaming water your first line of defense. The heat breaks up and flushes away oily goop with minimal effort compared to other drain cleaning methods.
Unclog Drains with a Wire Coat Hanger
For DIY drain unblocking on a budget, a simple wire coat hanger does the trick. Straighten out the hanger and bend one end to create a small hook. Insert the hanger down the drain and wiggle, twist, and pull to dislodge debris. Follow these steps:
- Straighten out the coat hanger and then bend 2-3 inches of one end to a 90 degree angle. This will act as your “hook” to pull up gunk.
- Carefully insert the hooked wire down the drain opening as far as possible. Don’t poke or scratch the inside of the pipe.
- Twist and turn the wire in different directions to catch hair or objects in the hook.
- Pull out the wire slowly to bring any tangled debris up with it.
- Run hot water for 30 seconds to flush away any gunk.
- Repeat probing, twisting, and pulling with the wire hanger multiple times until water flows smoothly
Plastic drain snakes are available at any hardware store. But for a quick, cheap DIY decongesting, bend an old coat hanger and get to work fishing out hair, soap scum, and sludge.
Prevent Future Obstructed Drains
The best way to deal with obstructed drains is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Here are some preventative measures to keep your drainpipes unblocked for the long term:
- Use drain strainers. Fit strainers over all drains to catch hair and food particles before they go down the pipes. Clean them out regularly.
- Avoid grease down the kitchen sink. Let oils and fats solidify and dispose of them in the trash.
- Only flush toilet paper. Never flush wipes or feminine products which can catch on pipes.
- Never pour fats down the drain. Butter, bacon waste and oils will plug.
- Clean conduits regularly. Use a mix of Sodium bicarbonate and vinegar every 1-2 months to scrub away scum.
- Mind items going down the drain. Toys, jewelry, and other objects can get stuck and cause stoppages.
- Check for leaks. Drainage systems with drips or leaks can allow soil and roots to infiltrate the conduits beneath your residence.
- Hire drain cleaning service annually. Professionals can snake problem areas and prevent future issues.
With some diligence to keep hair, fat, and debris out of your sanitary system, you can avoid stoppages and keep drains free-flowing for years.
Overcome Your Sewer Occlusions!
There you have a variety of homemade solutions for unblocking simple obstructed conduits using common household items like baking soda, vinegar, steaming water, and a plain wire hanger. With these unblocking methods, you can tackle blocked bathroom and kitchen sinks, tubs, and shower drains yourself. No harsh chemicals needed.
To recap, key things to remember include:
- Plunging vigorously works well for sink and bath stoppages
- Sodium bicarbonate and vinegar combined make a chemical-free drain cleaner
- Hot steaming water melts fat buildup easily
- Try fishing out debris from drains with a wire coat hanger
- Prevent occlusions by using drain covers, avoiding fat in sinks, and regular cleaning
With the right techniques and a little elbow grease, you can get obstructed conduits flowing freely again. No need to reach for the drain cleaner or call an expensive plumber. Have patience, try these DIY methods, and you’ll save money while successfully restoring clear and working drains throughout your home.
How can I unclog a sink drain?
There are several methods you can try to unclog a sink drain. One simple method is to pour boiling water into the drain to break up the obstruction. Another method is to mix equal parts sodium bicarbonate and vinegar, pour it down the drain, and let it sit for about 30 minutes before flushing it with hot water. You can also use a force cup to try and push the clog out, or use a plumbing snake to manually remove the blockage.
What can I do to unblock a clogged bathtub drain?
To unblock a clogged bath drain, you can try pouring a mixture of baking soda and vinegar down the drain. Let it sit for about an hour, then flush it with hot water. Another method is to use a drain snake to remove the obstruction manually. If these methods don’t work, you may need to call a drainage systems specialist.
How do I unclog a shower drain?
One method to unclog a shower drain is to remove the drain cover and use a plunger to try and force the plug. You can also try using a wire hanger to remove any hair or debris that may be blocking the drain. If these methods don’t work, you may need to use a toilet auger or call a licensed water systems technician.
What should I do if my toilet is clogged?
A clogged toilet can be a real inconvenience, but don’t worry, there are steps you can take to resolve the issue yourself before calling in a professional. Here’s a simple guide to help you navigate this common household problem:
- The Plunger Method: Your first line of defense should be a good old-fashioned plunger. Make sure you have a force cup with a flange on the bottom, as these are designed specifically for toilets. Place the force cup in the bowl and ensure it creates a seal over the hole. Then, apply firm, steady pressure downwards and pull up sharply, repeating this motion several times. Often, this will be enough to dislodge the obstruction.
- The Dish Soap and Hot Water Method: If the plunger doesn’t work, you can try using hot water and dish soap. First, squirt some dish soap into the bowl. Then, heat up a gallon of water (make sure it’s hot, but not boiling, as steaming water can crack the porcelain). Pour the hot water into the bowl from waist level – the force of the water can help break up the stoppage.
- The Toilet Snake Method: If the clog is stubborn, you might need to use a toilet snake or auger. This tool can reach further into the pipe and remove the blockage. Insert the end of the snake into the drain hole and turn the handle to break up the plug.
Remember, if these methods don’t work, it’s time to call a professional plumber. They have the tools and expertise to handle more serious clogs. It’s always better to seek professional help than risk damaging your plumbing system.
Can I use baking soda to unblock a congested pipe?
Yes, it can be an effective method for unblocking a congested conduit. Mix equal parts of baking soda and vinegar and pour it down the drain. Let it sit for about 30 minutes, then flush it with hot water. The combination of sodium bicarbonate and vinegar can help to break up and dissolve the clog.
What is the best way to clearing a drain clog?
To unclog a floor drain, you can try pouring hot water down the drain to break up the clog. If that doesn’t work, you can use a drain snake to remove the clog manually. If the clog is difficult to reach or you are unable to clear it yourself, you may need to call a licensed water systems technician.
Can I use liquid drain cleaner to clear a clog?
Yes, you can use liquid drain cleaner to eliminate obstructions. However, it’s important to read and follow the instructions on the product carefully, as some drain cleaners can be corrosive and may cause damage to your pipes. If you’re unsure about using drain cleaner or if the clog persists, it’s best to reach out to an expert.
What should I do if I can’t free up the drain on my own?
If you’re unable to unblock a congested sewer on your own, it’s best to call a drainage systems specialist. They have the tools and expertise to effectively clear the clog and ensure that your sanitary system is functioning properly.
How can I prevent future clogs in my drain system?
There are a few steps you can take to prevent future clogs in your drain system. First, avoid putting any large or hard-to-break-down items down the drain. Use a drain cover or strainer to catch hair and debris before it can clog the pipes. Regularly clean the drain cover or strainer to remove any accumulated debris. Finally, avoid pouring fat or oil down the drain, as it can solidify and cause clogs.
Should I call a professional plumber for clearing a drain clog?
While it’s not always necessary to call a professional plumber for every blocked conduit, there are certain situations where their expertise may be needed. If you’ve tried multiple methods to clearing a drain clog and it persists, or if you’re unsure about using certain techniques or products, it’s best to reach out to an expert to avoid causing further damage to your plumbing system.
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