Tackling A Clogged Drain

There's no good time for a clogged drain. Always an inconvenience, a stopped sink can also be an emergency.

Prevention is always the best approach. Being alert to the warning sign of a sluggish drain can save you time and money. It's easier to open a drain that's slowing than one which has completely stopped.

Sometimes a stopped sink can be unclogged by a few simple procedures.

For example, check if something foreign - a coin, button or small utensil - has slipped down the drain. To check, remove and thoroughly clean the sink's pop-up stopper. Or, a dose of scalding water - especially effective against grease buildup - may do the trick.

Oftentimes, when dealing with a clogged drain, the blockage is close to the sink. Check the drains throughout the house; If other drains are stopped too, you're probably dealing with a clog in the main line. At this time you may want to consider calling a professional plumber. But, if only one drain is stopped, it's likely to be just a blockage in the sink trap of the drainpipe.

The plunger is a good drain-cleaning tool, if it is used correctly. Don't make the typical mistake of pumping up and down just two or three times and expect the water to whoosh down the drain. Many times it takes 15 to 20 forceful strokes, repeated two to three times, to break through a clog.

Chemical drain cleaners can also be helpful in opening a stopped drain. If water is draining somewhat but plunging failed, you may want to try using a drain cleaner. But use with extreme caution. Follow the directions carefully, protect your hands with rubber gloves and avoid splashing or breathing the fumes. Also, be aware that routine use can eventually damage your pipes.

The most effective way to clear a clog is with a snake (also called a drain-and-trap auger). Most rental equipment centers have snakes available and they can be rented in different lengths and types to fit your needs.

One way to clear out a blockage is to remove the trap and snake directly thorough the drainpipe. Or, you can try snaking through the sink drain opening or the trap clean out, if you have one.

Whichever method, feed the snake through the piping until it stops. Position the movable handle about 6 inches above the opening and tighten the thumbscrew; rotate the handle to break the blockage.

Guiding the snake through sharp turns takes patience. Keep pushing it forward, while turning it. Once the head hits the clog, pull the snake back a short distance to free some material from the clog; then push the rest through.

If snaking doesn't succeed, the clog is probably too deep in the pipes to reach through the drainpipe. This means you're probably dealing with a main drain clog that needs to be attacked through the soil stack, main clean out or house trap.