Coping with plumbing problems in the kitchen - blocked sinks and drains
Clogged kitchen sink
This hub is not about how to fix plumbing problems but how to cope with them until you can afford to get a plumber in. Of course, it is about what to try when a kitchen sink is blocked or leaking but it is also about what to do if you still cannot come up with a solution. It is a look at what you can try when you want to fix a clogged kitchen sink.
For most of this year so far, I have been living with plumbing problems in the kitchen and bathroom of this apartment. Now you could say, well why not tell the landlord or landlady? That is a good question and the recommended solution under normal circumstances but when you are in rent arrears it is a different matter. Whoever you are renting from is hardly likely to want to spend their money on repairs for a clogged sink when they don't have the income they expect coming in. I don't have the sort of pay I was getting coming my way any more too and that is how I ended up in this mess.
However, necessity is the Mother of Invention it is said, and confronted with plumbing problems I have not been able to solve I have had to find ways of coping with a minor domestic disaster.
Unblocking a kitchen sink and waste pipe
Plumbing solutions to try for a blocked kitchen sink
I have had two problems with the kitchen sink here. The drainpipe was blocked and also the U-bend was leaking.
Now it can be fairly simple to unblock a U-bend trap. These traps often get clogged with hair, food fragments and other muck that gets stuck there. The usual answer is to put something underneath to catch any spills and to unscrew the fixture, clean out anything you find blocking it and screw it all back together again. This works fine if the blockage is immediately under the sink in the trap there.
Unfortunately in my case it wasn't. The blockage was further along the drainage pipe that went under a kitchen unit and into the wall. Now there are various methods to try to clear a blocked drainpipe.
You can try using a plunger. You can have a go at pouring baking soda or bicarbonate of soda followed by vinegar and then boiling water down the sink, you can try tipping salt down there followed by more boiling water, you can try straight vinegar, but if all these methods fail then there are commercial chemical drain-cleaners and caustic soda available from the hardware store.
Something else that should be attempted first though is to get a drain auger or drain-snake. These tools are flexible and can be pushed down the pipe in the hope of pushing through the blockage or hooking into it and pulling it out. There are expensive electric power-driven augers too but I certainly couldn't afford one of them.
I bought two basic drain augers, which are handy tools for unclogging a kitchen or bathroom sink, and had a go with them but unfortunately the blockage was out of reach and still the pipe would not drain.
I tried all the methods I knew of unblocking the pipe apart from caustic soda or drain cleaners and they all failed. Making matters worse, the U-bend would leak whatever liquid was in it and make a mess all over the floor in the cupboard space it is in. This, of course was no good because the force of gravity would mean that if it wasn't cleaned up then it would make its way through the floor into the apartment below. That gave me something else to worry about.
An additional worry is that the chemical cleaners such as Mr Muscle and caustic soda can burn you if you get them on your skin and they give off toxic gas as they go to work. This means you have to be very careful not to get these substances on you, to stand well clear when they are put down the pipe, and to make sure you clean up any spillage safely.
I must admit I was somewhat scared of taking this drastic step because I knew that if it failed the the burning liquid could end up leaking all over the floor. Because of that I gave up on that as a solution.
I decided at one point that maybe if I bought a new U-bend trap that would at least solve the leak problem but it didn't. The part immediately under the sink has nothing to hold it there properly I discovered and the drainpipe appears to be just cut lengths of plastic piping more or less shoved into place and held with plumbing repair tape. It was a very primitive and ramshackle affair, a problem waiting to happen and now it had done so!
Kitchen sink U-bend trap
Blocked drain poll
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How to cope with a blocked sink?
I ended up having to give up and decided that if I couldn't use the kitchen sink I could still wash the dishes and cutlery in the bathroom. That was my temporary solution. I did the washing up in the bathroom. It's the same principle really and what is important is whether you can clean your pots, pans, cups and dishes, not what drainpipe the dirty water goes down.
After a while I got used to this and if I had guests staying I simply said that I was sorry about the kitchen sink being a disaster area but not to use it and to do all washing up in the bathroom. My friends are used to my eccentricities anyway so I suppose they just accepted this as the latest.
The months went by and every now and again I thought I would try it just in case it was miraculously fixed somehow. Usually I found I was hoping in vain but to make sure now water leaked all over the floor under the sink I rigged up a means of holding it all in place. I knew that the bulk of the water would eventually drain because it wasn't totally blocked but it would take ages. In the meantime I had to ensure it didn't leak out.
I turned an old saucepan upside down and put this on top of several layers of newspaper, just in case of accidents, then balanced a rock on top of this that I wedged right under the U-bend trap. The pressure pushing upwards holds it all in place.
One day I tried turning on the water and it ran away OK. Excitedly I boiled some more and tipped that down there just to make sure that any blockage was got rid off and that went down the pipe too.
So I have carried on with my kitchen sink working again. Time was the solution for clearing the blockage, newspaper an inverted pan and a large stone formed a contraption to stop the trap leaking, and the bathroom served as somewhere to wash the dishes in the meantime.
Do-it-yourself and home repairs have never been my area of expertise. I am a writer and musician not a handyman!
Copyright © 2012 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.
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