One of the most common issues facing any homeowner is a clogged drain. People knowingly put all kinds of things down their drains (hair, grease, fingernails, food, etc), not to mention the objects kids try and stuff down there for fun. Often this can be fixed with a simple plunger or liquid drain cleaner, but these issues can at times be building up unnoticed under the surface. Maybe your drains clog easier than usual, or occur more often. The longer and more frequent the clogging problem, the greater health risk it presents. Keep in mind, every time there is a clog in your drainage system, if effectively cuts off water movement between your house and the sewer system within your area. This can cause damage to your piping, residue buildup and germ contamination issues. So what are some of the common things that can give your drains fits, and how can you prevent them?

1. Foreign Objects: One of the biggest culprits of clogged drains (and often the most unnoticed), is the presence of a foreign object. Foreign objects can take various forms, and can gain access to your drains through various ways, which is why it is important to conduct a normal routine of drain awareness and maintenance. Removal of these small nuisances is often uncomplicated with the right tool, and is usally as simple as locating and pulling out your drain invader. Keep in mind that you do not want to push the object down the drain because it can easily block another pipe!

2. Neglect is another common reason as to why our drains get clogged. Constant use without maintenance can lead to the build up of things such as grease, hard water deposits and dirt particles…all of which seem harmless enough until they accumulate unnoticed in your plumbing. To avoid this issue, you should get in the habit of conducting regular cleanings of all the drains in your home, with a thorough, detailed cleaning to take place every few months.

3. Deteriorating pipes is the last on our list of common drain clogging culprits. There are several reasons for this occurrence, including age, neglect, pipe quality, and so forth. This is something commonly skipped or ignored during home inspections, so it is important for new homeowners to be aware of the condition on their plumbing before purchase. Encountering these problems too late can often lead to expensive repairs and replacement.

Snaking bathroom plumbing fixtures is a very effective way of clearing blockages that are not far from the fixture itself, and in fact the vast majority of blockages are in this category.

Typically, bathrooms have three standard fixtures: a tub/shower, a basin, and a toilet. Each of these three is capable of developing a blockage, and each needs a specific approach to snaking.

Bathroom blockages are unique, not just in the fixtures involved, but also in the materials that can form blockages. Tubs and bathroom basins are likely to become blocked with hair, particularly if the bathroom is being used by people with long hair. And of course toilets are susceptible to blockages from any number of things, sanitary or otherwise. A toilet can be blocked not just by waste and toilet paper, but by paper towel (which does not come apart in water as readily as toilet paper), hard items such as children’s toys, and so forth.

Types of snakes

Snakes come in a couple of basic designs. The most simple is a short basic handle with the flexible snake rod and its auger-like tip.

drain_snake1

A more advanced version coils the snake in a holder, and includes a better set of handles for easier snaking. Some of these devices can also couple with an electric drill for even more effective snaking.

drain_snake2

First steps

The first step in removing a blockage in the bathroom is actually NOT to snake. First, see if the blockage can be simply removed. A bathtub drain might have a mechanical plug that can be easily removed and that might be collecting hair. A toilet blockage might be solved with the use of a plunger. A bathroom basin blockage might be solved by opening and cleaning the trap beneath the bathroom counter.

The symptoms of the blockage might also give a clue as to whether snaking is appropriate. If, for example, running the tap in the bathroom sink causes water to rise up from the tub drain, you might be seeing evidence of a blockage farther down the system from the immediate area of the sink. The problem could, for example, indicate a problem with the drainage system outside the house itself, such as [root penetration][http://masterdrain.wpengine.com/drain-pipe-blockage-getting-to-the-root-of-the-problem/]. In that case, professional drain clearing might be indicated.

When these courses of action fail, then a snake is appropriate.

Snaking a tub

Snaking a tub is a bit unintuitive. You would think the logical entry point for the snake would be the tub drain, but in most cases the best approach is to start with the tub’s overflow drain, located above the bottom of the tub. To do so, first remove the overflow drain cover and diverter stopper.

Once that assembly is removed, then send the snake down, entering at the overflow drain opening. If this does not remove the blockage, then also send the snake down the tub floor drain, before reinstalling the drain cover.

tub_snake_03

Snaking a bathroom sink

A bathroom sink can be unclogged using a standard snake, but it is best to attempt removing the blockage first by fishing out any hairs that might have collected on the strainer in the drain opening itself.

Also, many bathroom sinks have integrated stoppers that use a horizontal pivot rod that pushes a stopper up and down using a vertical stopper rod. This assembly can collect material that will impede flow. Finally, most bathroom sinks have traps that are easily accessible and can contain material that is blocking the drain.

snake_a_basin

When it comes to snaking a bathroom sink, you can start with the snake entering the drain, as shown. Alternatively, you can use the trap, once opened, as a snake entrypoint.

Snaking a toilet

Before snaking a toilet, first see whether the blockage can be dislodged using a plunger. If not, then snaking the toilet is the next step.

While a toilet can be snaked using conventional snakes of the sorts shown above, there is also a more specialized form of snake called a “closet auger” that is designed for toilet work.

closet_auger
Once the blockage is removed from the toilet, it should flush freely, developing a strong suction. If not, a problem remains. That could be in the form of a blockage still in the toilet’s exit pipe, or it could be that insufficient or slow water flow is entering the toilet bowl from the toilet tank, perhaps caused by a badly adjusted float or poorly seating flapper. Lift the lid and inspect the flushing operation to ensure that the flush of water being sent down to the bowl from the tank is sufficient to generate a strong flushing suction.

Master Drain can handle any sort of pipe blockage. Contact us for help with snaking or pipe clearing.