In the United States, the average household uses over 300 gallons of water per day on routine activities like washing their hair, doing the dishes, and cleaning their pets. However, these routines often lead to clogged drains.
Do you want to save plumbing services for clogged drains as a last resort? Then, you need to learn how to fix a clogged drain yourself.
Continue reading to learn what you need, how to get started, and when you actually need to call a professional.
Common Causes of Clogged Drains
If you want to learn how to fix a clogged drain, it's important to understand the common causes of clogged drains. This can also help you decide which is the best method to unclog a drain.
Hair or Fur
Hair and pet fur are one of the most common causes of clogged drains in bathtubs. However, it can also be a problem in bathroom sink drains.
This is especially a problem for people with long or thick hair and pets with thick fur. Hair can also act as a net that traps soap residue or grease. This only makes it thicker and more difficult to unclog a drain.
Kitchen sinks and garbage disposals are prone to clogs caused by food waste. Food particles can get trapped between disposal blades. Gradual grease buildup can also stop water flow through your drain.
This is more likely to happen when food is improperly disposed of but can happen over time. For example, when you pour hot or warm grease down the drain, it flows easily but quickly solidifies lower in your pipes.
Soap can be a problem for any drain in your house since it's used so regularly. Soaps and detergents are high in fat and minerals to help water mix with dirt and oils on your body, clothes, and dishes.
Like grease, these ingredients can accumulate over time, leading to blockages. When they mix with other materials such as hair and food waste, they become a problem more quickly.
Hard Water Minerals
Many American households rely on a hard water supply in their homes, which contains a lot of insoluble minerals. This means that it contains minerals that don't dissolve easily in water.
This is a problem in small amounts. However, these minerals build up inside of your pipes over time and cause blockages. You need professional plumbing services for clogged drains like this.
Small Objects and Foreign Materials
Other common causes of clogged drains include small objects and other foreign materials. This includes children dropping toys and coins down the drain or in the toilet.
This also includes flushing non-flushable materials such as feminine hygiene products, cotton swabs, and non-flushable wipes. Absorbent materials like these can easily become lodged within your pipes.
How to Fix a Clogged Drain
Now that you understand some of the common causes of clogged drains, you can determine how to fix a clogged drain based on the situation. However, you should also be sure you have the tools you need to unclog a drain.
We recommend having the supplies listed below on hand:
- Baking soda
- Plumbers snake or clothes hanger
You may not need all of these for fixing a clogged drain. The steps listed below start with the least invasive with the most common household supplies and increase to the most invasive with specialty supplies.
Create a Natural Chemical Reaction
Most homes have vinegar, baking soda, and salt on hand, which is one of the reasons we recommend starting with a natural chemical reaction. Effective combinations include those listed below:
- Baking soda and vinegar
- Baking soda and salt
- Baking soda and hot water
- Salt and hot water
- Vinegar and hot water
Put your chosen ingredients together and mix them until they're well combined. Pour the mixture into the clogged drain and allow it to sit for about 20 to 30 minutes before flushing with hot water only.
Things to Watch For
When using hot water, be sure the temperature isn't too high. Excessively hot water can damage plastic pipes. You should also avoid using commercial chemicals, as these can eat away at your pipes if used frequently.
Use a Plunger
If the chemical reaction didn't unclog a drain, you can try using a plunger. While this is an obvious choice for a clogged toilet, it can also be used on other drains as well, including a sink.
Be sure you have at least a few inches of water to cover the base of the plunger to create a seal between the plunger and the drain. Pump the plunger up and down for a few seconds at a time until the water drains.
Things to Watch For
If you're using the plunger method on a double sink, be sure you have enough pressure. To do this, cover the unclogged side with a stopper or wet rag before plunging on the clogged side.
Try a Plumber's Snake or Clothes Hanger
You can also try fixing a clogged drain with a plumber's snake or wire clothes hanger if you have one. If you're using a hanger, straighten it out for maximum reach.
Start by removing the drain cover and slowly feeding the snake or wire into the drain. Once you reach the clog, try to break it up or wind the snake through it and pull it out. Then, flush with hot water for up to a minute.
Things to Watch For
If you're having trouble fixing a clogged drain with a drain snake, don't fight it. If not used properly, a drain snake can push a clog further into the drain or wedge it in tighter.
When to Call Plumbing Services for Clogged Drains
While fixing a clogged drain may seem simple, doing it yourself runs the risk of damaging your pipes or sink/shower fixtures. For that reason, it's essential to know when to call plumbing services for clogged drains.
You Don't Have the Right Supplies
Most homes have access to the above list of supplies to unclog a drain, but you shouldn't try to improvise if you don't. Pouring different chemicals down the drain could be dangerous if you don't know how they'll interact.
Trying to find a substitute for a plunger or drain snake/clothes hanger can also be problematic. You could hurt yourself or damage your belongings.
When the Right Tools Won't Work
If you've run through all of the above methods to learn how to fix a clogged drain but can't get it, it's time to call a professional. The problem could be user error or it could be that the clog is more serious than you thought.
Multiple Drains Are Clogged
If you run into a clogged drain, it's important to check other drains in your home for clogs as well. One clogged drain isn't necessarily a big problem, but multiple could be a sign of something more severe.
How to Prevent Clogged Drains
Once your drain is clear, you should focus on learning how to prevent clogged drains in the future. Knowing the cause of the clog will help the most with prevention, but the below tips are good practices regardless.
Clean Your Drains Regularly
One of the best methods of learning how to prevent clogged drains is to plan regular cleanings. Every week, you should flush your drains with hot water as well as after every bath or shower.
You should also schedule monthly deep cleanings. These cleanings involve manually removing hair and other debris from the drain. You can also use the natural chemicals monthly to keep your drains clear.
Properly Dispose of Food Waste
Whether you have a garbage disposal or not, there are some foods that shouldn't be put down your drain. These include things like grease and large food particles. Trash these items instead of flushing them down the drain.
Cover Your Shower Drains
If you want to avoid calling plumbing services for clogged drains, invest in drain covers for your showers. This will help collect hair and prevent it from entering the shower drain. Be sure to remove these collections of hair daily.
You can also remove excess hair before your shower by brushing. This will dislodge any loose hair, which you can toss in the trash.
Mind What You Flush
Taking care of your toilet and avoiding costly repairs requires you to mind what you flush. Be sure you only flush materials that are approved for flushing, such as toilet paper.
Things like feminine hygiene products and dental floss can be difficult to remove. You also need to use common sense. Some wipe manufacturers advertise 'flushable wipes,' but these can still result in clogged pipes.
Invest in a Water Softener
The process of descaling pipes from mineral buildup requires the expertise of a professional. While the buildup can take many years to become a problem, it's best to prevent it altogether by investing in a water softener.
A water softener filters your home's water supply by removing nonsoluble minerals. Once the water moves through the water softening device, it flows into your home's plumbing system.
Fixing a Clogged Drain: Now You Know
If you want to know how to fix a clogged drain, you should know what causes them. This will help you choose the best solution. It will also help you learn how to prevent clogged drains in the future.
To get help fixing a clogged drain, call us today for more information or to request an appointment.