Like many homeowners, you have probably experienced the frustration of blocked drains. Besides being an eyesore, clogged drains usually produce unpleasant smells and could even be a health hazard. Plus, if not dealt with early, you might end up paying a lot of money to get the problem fixed.
Fortunately, there are many ways of unclogging drainage pipes without incurring huge costs. This guide will cover those methods plus give suggestions for keeping your drains clear and preventing blockages in the first place.
Before we look at the solutions, let’s examine some of the most common causes of clogged drains.
Common Causes of Blocked Drains
To fix clogged drains effectively, you must first understand the root cause of the problem. Here are the top reasons for blocked drains:
- Grease build-up: When grease or fat is poured down the drain, it solidifies and sticks to the inside of the pipes. Over time, it builds up to the point where water cannot pass through.
- Toiletries: When it comes to blocked toilets, nappies, baby wipes, and sanitary products are a common culprit. When such items are flushed down the toilet, they absorb moisture and enlarge. As a result, they end up blocking pipes and sewers.
- Broken pipes: Besides general wear and tear, broken pipes can also be caused by tree roots growing underneath in search of water. When the pipe begins to fracture, it allows dirt to enter and thus becomes more vulnerable to blockages.
- Leaves: Falling leaves can be a major problem for drains, especially after autumn and spring. If leaves are not swept away regularly, they will be washed down your outdoor drains and cause an obstruction.
- Hair: Hair is notorious for blocking shower drains and bathroom sinks. When strands of hair get stuck in your pipes, they also trap other debris washed down your drain. This means water will not be able to drain freely.
- Poor pipe installation: Blocked drains can also be caused by shoddy pipe installation. When the incorrect size of pipe is used or pipes are laid in the wrong way, it could cause problems with the water flow. Learn more about evaluating your home's plumbing here.
How to Unclog Blocked Drains
When you discover blocked drains, you don’t have to call a professional plumber immediately. There are several DIY methods you can use to deal with the problem and avoid costly repairs. Here are some options to consider:
When it comes to clearing blocked drains, boiling water is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Hot water will break down soap scum, grease and other debris that is blocking your pipes. For more effectiveness, mix a liter of boiling water with half a cup of detergent.
Baking Soda and Vinegar
Baking soda and vinegar can work wonders on all kinds of drains.
Start by pouring a cup of baking soda down the drain. Wait for a few minutes, and then pour 1 cup of vinegar down the drain. The baking soda and vinegar will bubble up within the drain, breaking up and dislodging the clog. Let the solution sit for about 10 minutes, then flush the drain with hot water.
Baking Soda and Lemon Juice
This method is especially ideal for those who can't stand the smell of vinegar. Start by flushing the drain with a liter of hot water. Then, pour half a cup of baking soda down the drain followed by half a cup of lemon juice. Wait for half an hour, then flush again with a liter of hot water.
Baking Soda and Table Salt
Table salt is especially effective at unclogging kitchen sinks, since it breaks up fat and grease. Pour a liter of hot water down the drain, followed by a mixture of salt and baking soda (half a cup each). Let it sit for about one hour, then pour a liter of hot water down the drain again.
Cream of Tartar
Not many people are aware that cream of tartar can be used to unclog blocked drains. As usual, flush the drain with hot water before starting. Then, mix 1/4 cup of table salt and 1/4 cup of baking soda with 1 tablespoon of cream of tartar. Pour the solution down the drain, followed by 1 cup of hot water. Let it sit for an hour, then follow with more hot water to flush the pipe clean.
One of the best-known tools for clearing a clogged drain is a plunger. If you don't already have a plunger at home, simply walk into any hardware store and buy one.
Plungers come in different styles that serve different purposes. Here are the most common types of plunger:
- Cup plunger: A cup plunger is designed to unblock sinks.
- Flange or beehive plunger: This is suitable for unblocking toilets. The ToiletShroom Plunger is one of the best tools in the market for dealing with toilet clogs. Made of natural ABS plastics and rust-proof stainless steel, this plunger doubles as a squeegee that you can use to clean the insides of your toilet.
- Tiered plunger: This plunger can be used for both sinks and toilets.
When plunging a sink, you'll want to partially fill the sink with enough hot water to cover the bell of the plunger. However, be careful when plunging using very hot water since you could get burnt.
If plunging doesn't work to dislodge a clog, you can use a drain snake. Also referred to as an auger, this is a long, flexible cable that you feed through a drain. The drain snake will either break up the blockage so it can be washed down or hook the clog so you can pull it back up.
You can use a manual, electric, or battery-powered drain snake. Here’s how to use them:
- Feed the snake cable into the drain.
- Crank the cable until you feel the clog.
- Depending on the amount of resistance you feel, you should be able to tell if the cable has broken up the clog. If it hasn't, pull the cable back out. The clog will often hook itself on it and come up with it.
A drain snake, especially an electric one, might seem like a large expense at first glance. But this cable tool is less expensive than calling a plumber for a simple drain clog, so it may be worth the investment.
A more economical alternative is the Shroom Company's innovative DrainShroom, a 42-inch snake/auger that removes clogs from tubs and sinks. This tool attaches to any power drill and goes deep into your drains to clear nasty clogs. Priced at only $14.99, DrainShroom is more affordable compared to other augers out there.
Chemical Drain Cleaners
When all the above methods fail, you might have to resort to a chemical drain cleaner. Popular drain cleaning products in the market include Drano Max Gel, Liquid-Plumr, Bio-Clean, Green Gobbler, and XionLab Safer Drain Opener. While such cleaners can be effective at clearing clogs, they can also cause major problems.
Commercial drain cleaners contain harsh chemicals like sodium nitrate, aluminum, and bleach. Such chemicals are terrible for the environment and can be harmful to your family and even pets.
In addition, these cleaners cause chemical reactions that can damage your pipes, especially PVC pipes.
How to Prevent Clogged Drains
Prevention is always better than cure. Knowing how to prevent blocked drains will save you a lot of headaches and unnecessary expenses.
There are several things you can do to prevent blocked drains:
- Keep the outdoors clean: To prevent leaves, dirt and foliage from blocking drains, be sure to clear fallen leaves and other debris from your outdoor areas. You might also want to hire a professional plumber to check if there are any roots beneath your home that could crack your pipes.
- Remove loose hair: Brush your hair before you shower or bathe to remove as many loose hairs as possible. Since hair is the number one cause of shower and bathroom blockages, this helps minimize the number of strands going down the drain.
- Get rid of excess dirt: Brush any excess dirt off of yourself before getting into the shower or bathtub. This will prevent dirt clods from going down the drain and clogging up your pipes.
- Use a drain cover: Cover the drain with a product like TubShroom or ShowerShroom to catch hair before it causes any problems. These products allow water to pass through while catching hair and other debris that might otherwise wind up down the drain.
- Collect fats and oils: Instead of pouring excess cooking oil or grease down the drain, collect it in a container and throw it in the trash. This will save you a lot of trouble down the road.
- Dispose of toiletries properly: Paper towels, baby wipes and sanitary products should be taken out with the garbage, never thrown down a toilet.
- Check for broken pipes: If you suspect a breakage in your pipes, call a professional immediately. They will use leak detection equipment to diagnose and repair any fractures in your pipes.
- Catch food particles: A common cause of blockage in kitchen sinks is food particles washed down the drain. To prevent this, you could use the Kitchen SinkShroom. This revolutionary kitchen sink strainer fits inside the drain hole and traps food particles while allowing water to flow freely.
Make blocked drains a thing of the past
Blocked drains are an unfortunate fact of life. However, the good news is that they can be cleared using simple home remedies like boiling water, vinegar, baking soda, a plunger or a drain snake. If all these strategies fail, you can resort to chemical drain cleaners.
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