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How to Successfully Unclog a Drain

Updated on March 14, 2010

 

Slightly clogged drains can become major problems. With regular maintenance serious clogs can be avoided. Most people, however, don’t think of maintaining drains or just don’t have time to fit it into busy day-to-day routines. If faced with a clog there may be a simple solution to clearing it before resorting to the use of harmful chemicals or calling a plumber which could result in unnecessary expense.

 

If your sink or bathtub is draining slowly the first thing to check for is any debris in the opening of the drain itself. In bathtubs the biggest culprit is usually caused from soap, shampoo and/or conditioner debris clinging to strands of hair lost normally when showering, bathing or from shaving. If you have a drain stopper attached to the top or back of the faucet, as opposed to using a rubber plug, simply remove the metal stopper from the drain and make a visual inspection. Chances are strands of hair will be noticeable. When a hair build-up is visible the easiest way to remove the nasty remnants is with a pair of tweezers to pull the clog out. The same holds true for bathroom sink drains. If a household member regularly shaves at the sink with a traditional or disposable razor the minuscule hair fragments released from the razor, combined with soap and toothpaste residue, can be enough to cause a build-up over time. By the same token electric razors cleaned in the sink will also contribute to an eventual clog.

 

The problem with slow drains in kitchen sinks is most likely a mixture of food particles and grease. Before reaching for a chemical drain cleaner try running hot water down the drain for two to three minutes. This will alleviate the clog eight times out of ten, unless the problem has been evident for a prolonged period of time. In the case of the later combine a ¼ cup of baking soda with ½ cup of white vinegar and pour it into the drain followed quickly with boiling water.

 

Conversely, if there is no visible evidence for the clog you might want to try a vacuum, especially if you have small children. Kids are notorious for dropping bits of building blocks or other tiny toys in drains. Place a knee high sheer stocking or old piece of pantyhose over the end of the vacuum hose and place it over the drain opening. If there is anything small blocking the drain, when you push the power button it will be sucked out and get caught on the end of the hose. Just be sure to remove the arm of the vacuum before turning it off. This method is also awesome for retrieving valuables, such as rings, that might accidentally fall in the drain.

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    • Silver Poet profile image

      Silver Poet 7 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

      A good preventative measure before the drain actually clogs is to pour carbonated soft drinks down the drain at least once a month. The acids and bubbling action keep it clean.

    • kowality profile image

      kowality 7 years ago from Everywhere

      Great post Carmen..2 tablespoons of baking powder followed by one cup of vinegar..then plug the drain. Leave it for the night, then run some water in the morning.

    • Carmen Borthwick profile image
      Author

      Carmen Borthwick 7 years ago from Maple Ridge, B.C.

      Hey kowality! I've heard that one, always wondered if it would work. Thanks for sharing.

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 7 years ago from USA

      Hi Carmen - Kowalty said it well. One time I blew out the drainpipe of a large whole-house A/C with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)and plain vinegar. It built up lots of gas in the pipe so that when I sealed the in-house open end of the pipe, out the junk (insulation and tape left in the pipe by "repair" guys) came. I had already tried to open the pipe with a plumbers' snake, but it did not work because the drain pipe was so very long.

      Gus :-)))

    • Carmen Borthwick profile image
      Author

      Carmen Borthwick 7 years ago from Maple Ridge, B.C.

      Hey Gus, thanks for the confirmation.

    • GiftedGrandma profile image

      GiftedGrandma 7 years ago from USA

      Great suggestions...we have a drain that always gives a headache.

    • Carmen Borthwick profile image
      Author

      Carmen Borthwick 7 years ago from Maple Ridge, B.C.

      Glad to be of help Gifted Grandma!

    • profile image

      Duchess OBlunt 6 years ago

      hmmm - never would have thought of the vacuum! Thanks for the tip

    • Carmen Borthwick profile image
      Author

      Carmen Borthwick 6 years ago from Maple Ridge, B.C.

      you're welcome!

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 6 years ago

      maybe that was the problem because my cat would pee down the bathtub drain with very good aim!

      Ah yes a fellow Canadian and one who writes rather well.

      Thanks for the wonderful job your province did at the World OLYMPICS - and speaking of which - when are they going to award you a gold medal for hub writing!

    • Carmen Borthwick profile image
      Author

      Carmen Borthwick 6 years ago from Maple Ridge, B.C.

      Always nice to meet a fellow Canadian, thanks for the comments and the visit.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Soda crystals are good also. Handy Hub

    • Carmen Borthwick profile image
      Author

      Carmen Borthwick 6 years ago from Maple Ridge, B.C.

      Thanks, I had a clog not too long ago that was a real hard one to remove. I ended up using a plunger twice, even after my husband took the pipe apart and cleared it out.

    • brightforyou profile image

      Helen 6 years ago from Florida

      Thanks for these great tips Carmen - now I'm off to unplug my bathroom sink!

    • Journey * profile image

      Nyesha Pagnou, MPH 6 years ago from USA

      Good advice Carmen. Thanks!

    • Carmen Borthwick profile image
      Author

      Carmen Borthwick 6 years ago from Maple Ridge, B.C.

      Thank for stopping by, good luck brightforyou, love the hair! Hey Journey*, cute mug.

    • profile image

      Clara 6 years ago

      Hey, you forgot to mention "Don't put egg shells down the garbage disposal." They will settle in the crook of the drain. The only way to unclog a drain from such instances is to uncouple the pipes under the sink and dump out the egg shells. No need to call the plumber!

    • Springboard profile image

      Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin

      All very good and useful info here. I've got an old rental property (built in around 1926) that's always having drain problems. I tend to use a product from CLR that works pretty well...can't remember what its called, but it blasts air into the drain. Seems to work pretty well. But its also $8 a can. Perhaps I'll have to give some of these ideas here a go, save a few pennies, and accomplish the same thing.

    • Carmen Borthwick profile image
      Author

      Carmen Borthwick 6 years ago from Maple Ridge, B.C.

      Its always good to save money... and the environment. CLR is extremely caustic, I don't know how the company gets away with selling it. One commercial suggests cleaning your coffee pot with it, the hands you see in the ad are covered with rubber gloves! Anyway, thanks for the visit, hope you find an alternative way to unclog that drain.

    • guangjiewang profile image

      guangjiewang 6 years ago

      Very glad to see using so articles, thank you for sharing, learn a lot

    • TINA V profile image

      TINA V 6 years ago

      Clogged drain can really be a major problem. You’ve shared useful tips to follow especially the baking soda and vinegar. But I’m glad that I don’t worry about this. I use drain stopper to prevent clog. I also wipe with paper towels any leftover oils in pans or plates before washing them. I use sliced lemon to eliminate odors in my kitchen sink. I hope it will help others, too. Thumbs up!

    • Carmen Borthwick profile image
      Author

      Carmen Borthwick 6 years ago from Maple Ridge, B.C.

      Thanks for adding suggestions, Tina, and for visiting.

    • Peter Owen profile image

      Peter Owen 6 years ago from West Hempstead, NY

      I just use a good old plunger. I too never thought of a vacume. I'll try it next time

    • Carmen Borthwick profile image
      Author

      Carmen Borthwick 6 years ago from Maple Ridge, B.C.

      Thanks for the visit Peter, glad to meet you.

    • deedeelaw profile image

      Deborah S. Lawrence 6 years ago from Deborah's Musings

      Thanks for this, I need to fix my drain.

    • Carmen Borthwick profile image
      Author

      Carmen Borthwick 6 years ago from Maple Ridge, B.C.

      Glad I could be of help deedeelaw! Thanks for the read.

    • Becky Puetz profile image

      Becky 5 years ago from Oklahoma

      I will definitely try the vinegar and baking soda trick for the next slow drain or clog. Great ideas. Thanks for sharing.

    • Carmen Borthwick profile image
      Author

      Carmen Borthwick 5 years ago from Maple Ridge, B.C.

      Hey Becky, thanks for the visit.

    • sarovai profile image

      sarovai 5 years ago

      We used to use only the vacuum type for clog clearing at kitchen sinks. This time , I understood it is made for specific purpose. Starting from hot water to baking soda and vinegar is simple good choice.Thank u for sharing this ideas.

    • Jacy Elsesser profile image

      Jacy Elsesser 5 years ago

      For slow bath drains, check out The Drain Claw at www.thedrainclaw.com. You can unclog slow bath drains because of hair without having to use chemicals.

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 4 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      What a useful hub! I've never tried vacuuming a drain - but next time I loose something down the plug hole, I'll reach for the vacuum cleaner.

      I do try to clean the drains in the showers about once a month - hair is always the culprit.

    • seigfried23 profile image

      seigfried23 4 years ago

      Very practical - thank you!

    • profile image

      sheena 3 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this one. It's really a great help especially to those who want to have an easy and faster outcome on unclogging drains. Kudos!

    • Carmen Borthwick profile image
      Author

      Carmen Borthwick 3 years ago from Maple Ridge, B.C.

      thanks for the visit and the kudos

    • profile image

      Bubba 2 years ago

      I was looking evwreehyre and this popped up like nothing!

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