How to Unclog a Drain - These Home Remedies Will Do the Trick
First, you must assess the situation. So you've got a clog? Don't worry, it happens! Sinks can get clogged for a number of reasons—the flow of water can be blocked by anything from food rinsed off of plates and hardened grease to lodge foreign objects, hair, and even soap residue.
There are several techniques you can try in order to dislodge the clog before resorting to a plumber. And lucky you—you probably already have everything you need for do-it-yourself clog removal.
Before you get started, assess the situation: Is is a partial blockage or are you full-on clogged? If you've got a partial clog, that means you can at least get a little water down your drain (even if it's slow as molasses). If you're fully clogged, no water will go down at all.
What kind of clog do you have?
What to Do with a Fully Clogged Drain
Plunge Right in: How to Use a Plunger
If you're fully clogged, grab yourself a toilet plunger. (Yeah, it's totally okay for your sink or shower drain.) Fill your sink until it's about halfway full (if it's a bathtub, just fill it about four or five inches high.)
You might want to 'garb up' by covering yourself with a towel, ugly outfit, or a raincoat because this could get messy—in a gross way.
Before plunging, make sure that your plunger has water in it. This is a biggie! When you're plunging, you're going to be transferring energy through the pipe to dislodge the clog. If your plunger is full of air, you're going to lose a lot of that energy. If your plunger is full of water, all that energy is going to stay in the water, which will put more force on that clog.
Take the big plunge:
- Completely cover the drain with your plunger.
- Press and pull rapidly for about 35 seconds.
What to do next:
- If water starts draining slowly, add more water and plunge some more!
- If water starts draining rapidly, you did it! One hundred points! Skip ahead to the section on cleaning your drain: "The Caring for and Keeping of an Unclogged Drain."
- If the only results you've gotten is a slow-moving drain, it's okay, there's other stuff you can try! See the solutions under "What to Do with a Partially Clogged Drain."
- If it's still fully clogged, try a drain snake. It is especially helpful in dislodging hair and gunky build-up. Give it a shot—it may fully clear your drain, but try to at least dislodge the clog enough to drain water or chemicals down.
What to Do with a Partially Clogged Drain
If your drain is partially clogged, there are a few different solutions you can try. You probably already have the supplies for one of these homemade remedies in your kitchen!
Can't Get it Unclogged? Before calling a plumber, try this:
If you can't get your drain unclogged, a drain snake will help you remove any debris blocking the flow of water. These are dirt cheap and you may be able to avoid calling a plumber!
You've Got Yourself in Hot Water
Hot water can be your best friend when it comes to clog removal, especially if that beast was caused by grease buildup.
How to make hot water (it's not as simple as you think!):
The water should be hot before you pour it down the drain. This is because cold water will just further harden any grease. This can be a rough ticket if it takes a while for hot water to come out of your tap because you don't want any of the cold or lukewarm water sitting on top of the clog.
You could take the largest stock pot you have and place it under the tap as it warms up, dumping it down another drain until you've got hot water.
However, a great alternative is to heat a stockpot of water on the stove. If you do this, you can try adding salt to the water to make it boil faster—many people say that they notice a big difference when they do this.
Dump the hot water down the drain so that it can melt away some of that grime and any hardened grease. If this method appears to work for the clog, continue doing so until you've got the drain cleared!
Pepsi, Not Just for Removing Tooth Enamel!
Pop (you might call it soda), particularly Coca-Cola and Pepsi, is great for beating a clog. It's arguably better than commercial chemical clog remover!
Get your hands on a room-temperature can or two-liter of Coke or Pepsi and dump it down your drain. Let it bubble or fizz and work its corrosive magic for an hour or two before rinsing with hot water.
Why does this work? Pepsi is loaded with goodies like phosphoric acid, which is more acidic than lemon juice! Phosphoric acid packs a punch when it comes to removing gunk from your drain; it's even effective at dissolving calcium!
Which would you rather dump down the drain?
Baking Soda and Friends
Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and sodium carbonate (washing soda) are both great for cutting grease. On top of being amazing drain cleaners, they are great everything cleaners. You can use either for preventing a smelly fridge, doing laundry, or scrubbing anything shiny, squeaky clean. In fact, if your drain is a bit smelly, baking soda is the first thing you'll want to use to cut that odor.
There are three different soda mixtures that are worth trying when it comes to clog removal.
- Baking Soda + Vinegar
Everyone knows that baking soda mixed with vinegar makes great volcanoes, but what many people don't know is that it also makes great clog remover. Sprinkle one part of baking soda down your drain and follow up with one part of white vinegar. Let this bubble in your drain overnight and flush it out with hot water in the morning.
- Baking Soda + Salt
Mix one part of baking soda with one part salt and four parts of boiling water. Dump this mixture down the drain and let it sit overnight. Flush your drain with hot water in the morning.
- Washing Soda/Sal Soda/Soda Crystals
Whatever you wish to call it, sodium carbonate can be found in the detergent aisle of your local grocery store. Combine this with an equal part of hot water and let the mixture sit in your drain. Again, this is an overnight activity that you'll want to follow up with a flush of hot water in the morning.
What to Do with Your Drain Now That It's Running Smoothly!
The Caring for and Keeping of an Unclogged Drain
Now that you've gotten rid of that nasty clog, you'll want to keep your drain nice and clean, so it's not a repeat offender.
Follow up any clog removal efforts with a full scrub down of your sink. Remember to keep your sink clean and free of debris. If you don't have a garbage disposal, make sure you really scrape off your plates before rinsing them in the sink.
Since it makes a fantastic drain cleaner, pour any leftover pop down your drain. This is a surefire way to prevent future clogs.
Use a mixture of baking soda and vinegar about once a week on your drain. The mixture will not only break up any greasy buildup in your pipes, but it will also help keep the room smelling nice and fresh. By using household products like baking soda in your drain, you will not only have a cleaner smelling kitchen, but you also won't have the unexpected expense (and stress) of having to call a plumber.
Best of luck clearing up your drain and keeping it that way!
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© 2011 Melanie Palen