Everything You Need to Know About Clogged Drains
Clogged drains, broken pipes, and backed-up waste systems typically rank at the top of homeowners' nightmares. While there's never a good time for a clogged drain, these plumbing mishaps — or downright disasters — often occur at the worst possible times! The resulting after-hours call to your local plumber can cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, leaving your house in disarray and your bank account depleted.
You may have accepted clogged drains as an unavoidable, intermittent problem — but think again. With a few DIY remedies, a greater understanding of your home plumbing system, and preventative measures courtesy of our team of clean-drain experts at TubShroom, you can make sure your drains stay in working order.
Your Home Piping and Drain System
Your home plumbing system is a complex, interconnected network that works together to create a comfortable, clean environment for you and your loved ones.
From your kitchen pipes to restroom fixtures, your residential plumbing system consists of:
- Commode or toilet
- Garbage disposal
- Septic tank/sewer system
- Water supply
- Water filtration systems
- Water heater
- Washing machine
- The pipes, couplings, seals, and levers that move and drain water from your home
Two types of drainage pipe systems work to direct water through your home:
- those that drain water used when cooking, washing clothes, or showering
- those that collect and divert rainwater
The water you use for your daily tasks or personal hygiene drains from your kitchen sink, bathroom sink, or shower drain to the main drain.
From there, the main drain transports it to your septic tank or a public sewage treatment plant. On the other hand, collected rainwater travels through a storm sewer pipe system to dry wells or catch basins that naturally treat precipitation.
While the components of your plumbing system may seem disconnected, when one device or appliance malfunctions, the repercussions can spread throughout your entire home and affect all of them. Even a clog in your storm drainage system can result in a complete backup, requiring professional services from a licensed plumber.
Signs of a Clogged Drain
Your drains can develop clogs at any point in your private plumbing system, both indoor and outdoor. While a clog in the P-trap of your sink drain or standing water in your shower may be easier to spot, other blockages may be hiding below feet of dirt or in the crawlspace of your home.
It's critical to learn the signs of a potential clog before it turns into an emergency plumbing call.
Backed-up water or sewage into your bathroom sink, toilet, or shower drains is the most obvious sign of a clog. You may notice backed-up wastewater more commonly in low points in your house, such as your basement or downstairs restrooms.
Additionally, any gurgling noises, bubbling, or gathering of water in your floor drain, kitchen drain, or bathroom sink drain indicates a partial blockage in your pipes. A clogged drain releases oxygen when water hits it, releasing bubbles and foul-smelling gases through your fixtures.
Insufficient water pressure or an easily overwhelmed plumbing system may also indicate a potential clog building up somewhere in your water or sewer lines. If you notice low pressure in your shower, or if only one component of your plumbing system can drain at a time, your drains likely need cleaning.
Finally, if your sink, shower, or bathtub drain slowly, or if you notice water accumulating in your shower while bathing, you may discover a partial obstruction in your pipes, which could result in damage, leaking, or a backed-up system.
What Causes a Clogged Drain
Several factors cause clogged drains, including:
- pipe scale (rust and corrosion)
- undersized pipes
- breakdown of old concrete, terra cotta, or clay pipes
- the slope of the lines in your house and yard
Gravity pulls water and waste through your drainage system, and if the pitch of the pipes is less than 1/4 inch per foot of pipe, your waste system may struggle to clear correctly.
Additional causes of drain clogs include:
Hair clogs in your sink, tub, or shower are some of the most common blockages in your house. We all shed hair, but when it accumulates in your shower or tub drain, it can slow or stop drainage. Pet hair contributes to blockages and clogs, too, as soap, grease, and other substances attach themselves to the strands and created knotted masses in your pipes.
- Plants, Roots, and Dirt
Tree roots, leaves, dirt, and rocks can work their way into your plumbing system, especially outdoor water and sewer main lines. When combined with soap scum, hair, and grease, these natural elements can create or contribute to significant blockages.
- Grease, Oil, and Fat
While most homeowners know better than to pour a pan of grease down their kitchen sinks, other forms of grease, oil, and fat disappear down the drain without a second thought.
Unfortunately, these everyday pantry items bind to your pipes, creating thick buildups even when washed out of your sink basin with hot water.
- Soap Residue
Soap scum slowly builds up in your kitchen sink, shower, or tub drains to form a sticky, oozing ball. When combined with hair, grease, dirt, or other small objects, your septic system drain lines can experience blockages and clogs. Soap scum clogs often occur in busy homes and keep plumbers on their toes as they hurry from one call to another to clear out clogged kitchen or bathroom drains.
- Toilet Paper
Using liberal amounts of thick, quilted toilet paper can create clogs in your toilet drain pipe. While biodegradable toilet paper and human waste are acceptable to flush, quilted toilet paper doesn’t always move well through your commode and septic or sewer systems.
- Grooming and Personal Hygiene Products
Feminine hygiene products (tampons), diapers, baby wipes, and even "septic-safe" flushable wipes should never go down your toilet drain. These products do not degrade in your septic tank or sewer system. Additionally, they contain cotton and other fibers that catch in the curves and on the edges of pipe fittings, resulting in potentially catastrophic clogs and backups in your system.
How to Unclog a Drain
After familiarizing yourself with the signs of a clog and the most common potential culprits, you may wonder what to do in the event of a clog.
At The Shroom Company, we've got you covered with our well-engineered products. Our team of experts at TubShroom knows a thing or two about keeping drains clear. We've combined our favorite DIY remedies for your clogged drain into a beginner-friendly guide to keeping your piping systems in working order — and hopefully preventing an expensive visit from a professional plumber.
DIY Drain Cleaning Methods
Every homeowner should have a few tried-and-true methods for cleaning a clogged drain, from a bent clothes hanger to vinegar and baking soda. In most cases, you probably already have everything you need to disintegrate an ordinary clog without reaching for a chemical drain cleaner, which can be corrosive and cause additional damage to your lines.
Save yourself the time, money, and hassle of calling a plumber and head to your pantry or closet so you can get your pipes running smoothly once again.
- Clothes Hanger
A bent wire clothes hanger can work as a hook to remove hair or other clumps of materials, especially in your floor drains. Straighten the coat hanger, then bend one end to create a curve. Push your tool down the drain and work to catch the clog on the hook.
After removing the blockage, run hot water down your drain to help dissolve any remaining substances.
- Boiling Water
If your sink won't drain or your toilet won't flush, try a pot of boiling water.
Simply boil water on your stove, then carefully transport it to your kitchen sink or bathroom. Pour the water down the drain or into your toilet slowly to ensure that you don't splash or burn yourself.
However, before you use boiling water, it's critical to check your pipe system to make sure you don't have PVC pipes. Using hot water to clear clogged PVC pipes can melt the piping and seals, resulting in further damage.
- Baking Soda and Vinegar
When you combine baking soda and vinegar, the results are explosive — and powerful enough to clear a stubborn clogged drain.
Pour one gallon of hot water down your drain, then 1/2 cup of baking soda. Wait for a few minutes, then follow with one cup of vinegar. Let it sit for another few minutes before flushing with a cup of hot water.
Alternatively, you can combine 1/3 cup of baking soda and 1/3 cup of vinegar, then pour the solution down the drain to break up coagulated dirt, hair, and scum. Let the vinegar and baking soda sit for at least an hour, or overnight if possible, to make sure that the clog disintegrates.
Baking soda and vinegar can also maintain clear, unclogged drains. Repeat the flushing process once every month or two to keep your pipes sparkling clean.
- Hot Water and Salt
Like baking soda and vinegar, hot water and salt help break up a tub, shower, or sink clog and maintain the flow of your lines without the use of chemical drain cleaners. Any salt will work: table salt, sea salt, kosher salt, and even Epsom salt.
First, pour a few cups of hot water down your drain, then follow with 1/2 cup of salt. Let it sit for a few minutes, then follow with another cup or two of boiling water.
Do you have a box of Alka-Selzer in your bathroom cabinet? If so, you've got a quick, chemical-free remedy for a clogged drain.
Simply drop a few Alka-Selzer tablets into your sink, followed by one cup of vinegar, for a fizzy reaction similar to that of baking soda and vinegar. Let it sit for roughly five minutes, then flush with hot water.
- Hot Water and Dish Detergent
If you suspect a clog in your sink, hot water and dish detergent work to break up blockages. Hot water breaks apart the clog, while dish detergent dissolves grease or fat and removes sticky buildup.
Bringing a large pot of water to a boil, then stir in two to three tablespoons of dish detergent. Pour the mixture down the drain, then flush it with more hot water from your tap.
You may notice some improvement after the first try, but your sink clogs will likely require multiple rounds to flush away all the food particles, grease, and grime.
More than likely, you've reached for a plunger as a quick solution to many residential piping problems. When it comes to clearing food particles or other blockages in the P-trap of your sinks, though, a plunger is especially helpful.
Be sure to clear your countertops before using a plunger in your sink to avoid water damage. Fill the sink with warm water until it's about halfway full, then use your plunger to dislodge trapped pieces of food or other objects in your clogged drain.
When managing a toilet clog, we recommend trying our ToiletShroom for faster results rather than using a traditional rubber plunger. Made from high-quality materials and rust-roof stainless steel, the ToiletShroom will clear blockages in 30 seconds or less by pushing out the clog in one easy step.
- Drain Snake
Professional plumbers typically use a large drain snake — also known as an "auger" — to unclog the most stubborn blockages and keep your drainage systems clean.
You don't have to call your local rooter company to reap the benefits of a drain snake, though, or even make the drive to the hardware store. Our 42" DrainShroom tub and sink drain snake makes it easy to unblock your fixtures. Simply attach the DrainShroom to a power drill and feed the snake into your drain.
Once you reach the clog, continue to rotate the DrainShroom until you feel it catch the clog and pull it out of your drain.
Preventing a Clog: How to Keep Your Drains Clear
Rather than accepting the inevitability of a clog, you can make sure that your systems stay clean with a few simple preventative measures.
You can call a professional plumber to conduct a regular camera inspection at your house to ensure that roots, dirt, toilet paper, and wipes don't create blockages in your lines. Pipe cleaning companies will visit your residence for periodic cleanings as well.
However, in between cleanings, it’s vital to ensure that only human waste and frugal amounts of septic-safe, biodegradable toilet paper go down your drains. For ongoing maintenance, you can combine baking soda and vinegar for regular pipe cleaning in your kitchen and bathrooms. You can also use the coat hanger trick mentioned above to routinely clean sink and bathroom drains to prevent the buildup of hair, shampoo, and soap.
However, if you continue to struggle with frustrating blockages, want to eliminate the chance of a system-wide backup, or would rather relax on your days off instead of pouring hot water down your drains, we offer several hassle-free options at TubShroom for your kitchen and bathroom.
How to Use TubShroom to Prevent Clogged Drains
At The Shroom Company, we believe that the best offense is a good defense. That's why we're so obsessed with developing products to defend your drains against blockages. By preventing common clog culprits from ever entering your drains, you can stop clogs before they begin to block your piping.
Our Kitchen SinkShroom fits inside of the drain, rather than outside, for enhanced protection. The mold- and mildew-resistant piece catches grease and food particles before they reach your drain, guarding against blockages and buildup and keeping customers happy, all for just $12.99.
If your bathroom pipes continue to clog, we've got your back, too. The TubShroom Ultra + StopShroom Plug catch every piece of hair, dirt, and grime every time, reducing the risk of a bathroom drain clog. When you're ready to clean the TubShroom, pull it out of the drain, wipe it down, and replace it.
Finally, to prevent toilet or commode catastrophes, pair our innovative ToiletShroom with the DrainShroom drain snake and kiss clogged drains goodbye. The mushroom head of our ToiletShroom unclogs piping faster than a regular rubber plunger while also doubling as a scrub to keep your commode squeaky clean.
Clogged drains happen to everyone, but they don’t have to happen to you. Stop worrying about your pipe systems, and let us help keep your pipes clear, clean, and flowing smoothly. With a few simple maintenance techniques — and the help of our revolutionary ToiletShroom products — you'll be one step closer to hassle-free plumbing for good.