THE MATERIAL CONTAINED IN THIS ARTICLE IS PROVIDED FOR GENERAL INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE PROFESSIONAL ADVICE.LANDMARK HOME WARRANTY DOES NOT PURPORT TO BE A SUBJECT MATTER EXPERT WITH REGARD TO THIS MATERIAL, AND YOU SHOULD CONDUCT YOUR OWN RESEARCH AND/OR SEEK THE ADVICE OF APPROPRIATELY QUALIFIED PROFESSIONALS WITH REGARD TO YOUR SPECIFIC CIRCUMSTANCES BEFORE YOU TAKE ACTION. LANDMARK HOME WARRANTY ASSUMES NO RESPONSIBILITY, AND SPECIFICALLY DISCLAIMS ALL LIABILITY, FOR YOUR USE OF ANY AND ALL INFORMATION CONTAINED HEREIN. Sometimes as you’re staring at a clogged drain or leaking pipe, you wish you had a plumber friend you could call to ask for some free advice. Then you could fix your plumbing problems without paying a dime (or at least not as much as a plumber may charge you to go out and diagnose or fix the problem). Although you might not have a plumber on speed dial, you do have Landmark Home Warranty, which has hundreds of plumbers who can help for much less than you’d normally pay! We asked Ryan Nelson, Director of Contractor Relations at Landmark and former co-owner of Nelson’s Plumbing, this week about drains and what homeowners can to do clean, prevent, and get rid of clogged drain lines. Here is the plumbing advice he gave:
Don’t use chemical drain cleaners
First thing first, Nelson does not recommend using any type of chemical drain cleaner on your pipes. If you have a clog, it’s better to try and remove it by plunging or snaking the drain. «Chemical drain cleaners will only damage your pipes,» Nelson said. According to ConsumerReports.org, most chemical drain cleaners are more trouble than they’re worth. Some react with aluminum and give off unhealthy gas, can solidify inside the pipes and can’t be removed, or mix with other household cleaners and cause the mixture to burst out of the drain. Crystal Chemical drain cleaners are extremely hazardous and can end up damaging your pipes, garbage disposal, and septic system. Liquid, foam and gel cleaners can also cause damage to pipes and usually aren’t as effective taking at least 30 minutes to eat through a clog. There are some bio-clean products Consumer Reports researched, but most of them weren’t as effective at cleaning out the clog. However, they can be helpful for keeping a drain clean after clogs are removed.
So what can you do to unclog your drain? Here are a plumber’s suggestions:
Bathroom Sink and Tub Drains
According to Nelson, the number one cause of bathroom sink clogs is from toothpaste and long hair. If you have a clog in your bathroom sink or tub, Nelson recommends filling the basin with hot water and then unplugging the sink’s drain to (hopefully) flush the drain out to clean the drains. If that doesn’t work, you can plunge the drain, use a snake or physically remove the clog if you can reach it.
Prevent bathroom sink and tub drain clogs by:
You can make sure your bathroom drains are unclogged by running hot water after taking a shower or brushing your teeth to make sure the warm water dissolves the water-soluble materials in your toothpaste or shampoo. If you have longer hair, invest in a drain saver for your bathtub, like this TubShroom that catches longer hair and lets you throw it away, instead of taking it down the pipes where it can clump and cause clogs. When you’re at your bathroom sink, don’t flush hair down the drain.
There are only three things that should go down the drains: #1, #2, and toilet paper. Anything else is probably too large, won’t biodegrade, and will possibly get stuck in the pipes. There’s nothing worse than a backed up toilet. If plunging and snaking a toilet doesn’t get rid of the clog, it may be time to call a professional.
Prevent toilet clogs by:
Make sure to only flush things that are supposed to go down a toilet, down the toilet. Throw away:
- Nail Clippings
- Feminine Hygiene Products
- Dental Floss
- Cotton Tipped Swabs
And never rinse them down the sink, tub, or toilet.
If you have a clog in your kitchen drain, Nelson recommends using hot water and dish soap to loosen and eat away at the clog. Run extremely hot water down the drain to soften the clog, following up with grease-dissolving dish soap. If the clog still hasn’t come loose, use a kitchen plunger and try putting hot water and dish soap down the pipes again. You can also try putting a foaming mixture of equal parts baking soda and vinegar down the pipes to provide a natural way to get rid of clogs and not damage the pipes.
Prevent kitchen drain clogs by:
You can prevent kitchen drain clogs by keeping grease away from the pipes. Grease may go down the pipe hot and in a liquid state but will solidify into a mass as it cools, which can cause clogs. It’s better to put grease in a jar that you can throw away after it has solidified. You can also use a wire mesh filter on top of your kitchen drain to keep clog-causing food out of the drains. If you have a garbage disposal, you should always run it with some extra water after using it to make sure food scraps are pushed down the drain line. Make sure to keep things like eggshells, stringy vegetables (like celery or carrots), and foods that expand with water out of the pipes. All of these can create clogs. If you do end up having a clog and it won’t get out with hot water, dish soap, and plunging, take a look at our how to unclog a kitchen drain article. Overall, plumbers say the best way to clean out clogged drains is by mechanical means (plunging and snaking) and some hot water. Stay away from chemical cleaners as they can damage your pipes and are hazardous to humans. The best way to prevent clogged drains is to first not put anything down the drain that shouldn’t be there — throw it away or compost it. Second, make sure to run hot water after putting anything down a drain to prevent clogs from building up and give the food, toothpaste, or soap a chance to get out of your pipes. Of course, if none of these tips work to get rid of your drain clogs, you will have to call a professional plumber. If you have a home warranty, you’re in luck. Instead of the usual prices to diagnose and repair plumbing issues, you only pay a small service call fee between $60-$100. That flat-rate service call fee covers the diagnosis and repair or replacement if the problem is caused by normal wear and tear. Learn more about what else you can have repaired or replaced in your home here. Then, get a free personalized quote for your home.
Clogs within drain pipes
A clogged drain is annoying, bathroom or kitchen, doesn’t matter, it is annoying. You’re preparing for guests, and the bathroom sink isn’t draining, or the kitchen drain has slowed down and almost stopped. Dealing with clogged drain cleaning right now is not in today’s schedule, but here you are, trying to determine the best and fastest way to get things draining. That clogged drain bathtub problem is getting the kids off their routine, and the kitchen’s clogged drain causing a leak now, the dreaded clogged drain effect apparently. Now that clogged drain cleaning has become a more urgent matter to handle. What is the best way to clean your drains? Any professional plumber will advise you not to use a chemical drain cleaner. The chemicals are hard on the pipes, actually damages them while they are removing the clog. Different consumer reports advise the same thing, stating that using chemicals for clogged drain cleaning will lead to more trouble, even create a gas as they react with aluminum pipes that can make you sick. Even worse, if you’re trying different clogged drain cleaning products because nothing is working, they get mixed together and can burst out, splashing you in the face. Those crystal chemical clogged drain cleaning products can damage not just the pipes, but your garbage disposal, septic system, sewer line, etc. All that results in more problems for you, some of them expensive problems. Often, the damage is done and the clog is still there. Here, we have gathered some clogged drain cleaning methods that professional plumbers recommend:
The Bathroom – Shower, Sink and Tub Drains
The biggest cause of clogs in the bathroom is long hair and toothpaste. When these come together and water mixes with them, you could almost build a hut with the result. For clogged drain cleaning in this area, fill the sink or shower/tub with hot water with the drain plugged. Then unplug and if the clog isn’t too severe, it should flush the drain with the hot water melting the toothpaste, taking the long hair with it to the sewer. If the ‘s drain is still clogged, get a sink plunger and plunge the drain a few times. The next thing to try is a plumber snake, available at your local big box home improvement store.
If anything other than human waste and toilet paper have been flushed in the toilet, that could be why you’re faced with clogged drain cleaning your toilet. Human waste and toilet paper are biodegradable, other things that are supposed to be “flushable” aren’t and those result in the clogged drain cleaning process. Using a toilet plunger (these are different than the sink plunger and should never be exchanged for each other), try to get the clog busted and moving. Like the sink and shower/tub above, if the plunger doesn’t work for you, use a plumber snake and if that doesn’t accomplish clogged drain cleaning, you’ll have to call a professional.
The Kitchen Drain
A clogged kitchen drain is a major inconvenience but using a simple mixture of dish liquid and hot water could be all your need for this clogged drain cleaning process. Let the hot water, as hot as possible, run into the drain, this softens the clog. Then add a grease removing dish liquid and keep the extreme hot water running. If that doesn’t break the clog, then use the sink plunger while the hot water and dish liquid are in the drain. Another natural clogged drain cleaning method is pouring baking soda and vinegar down the drain. If none of this works, you’ll need to call a professional plumber. The best clogged drain cleaning method is not to put things in the sinks, toilet, or tub that don’t belong in drains. The next best thing you can do is practice regular maintenance with your kitchen and bathroom drains by using a natural mix of products like baking soda and vinegar to keep them clean.
Will bleach unclog a drain?
While bleach is a great household product and can do so many things, it is not a clogged drain cleaning product. Bleach will reduce any dirt on surfaces and brightens your white clothes. Bleach is excellent at killing bacteria and terms. You won’t find a better household product that sanitizes around your home, but clogged drain cleaning is one thing it can’t do. Plumbers do recommend using bleach to clean and deodorize the drain once a month in place of baking soda and vinegar. Pour as much as ¾ a cup of bleach in every drain once a month and it will kill the bacteria and germs that have built up in them. Getting that clog of toothpaste and hair busted though, it won’t help with that problem.
What chemical do plumbers use to unclog drains?
Plumbers never rely on chemicals to for clogged drain cleaning. The products on the market are chemicals that weigh more than the water you’re pouring them into, and typically are going right to the pipes and eating the pipes, leaving the clog behind. Potassium hydroxide can be used to change grease clogs into a soft soap-like substance, and thioglycolic acid will dissolve hair. Other ingredients that have been used for clogged drain cleaning are lye, sodium hydroxide, or sulfuric acid. These are toxic products and need to be handled with special care. At this point, the safest thing you can do is call a professional plumber.
What do plumbers use to clean pipes?
Plumbers do not use chemicals for clogged drain cleaning, instead they use any of the following mechanical methods:
- DRAIN AUGERS OR PLUMBER SNAKE: A standard tool for any plumber that demolish any obstruction in the pipes. This motorized drain auger has a long, flexible metal coil that works like a corkscrew. The plumber puts the end down the drain and when they feel it hits the clog, they activate the motor, and that metal coil forces the end through the clog. It will either break it up and push it on through or pull it out when the plumber removes the auger.
- HYDRO-JETTER: This piece of equipment will break through practically any clog while it comprehensively cleans the drains inside, removing any grease, soap scum, and more.
- VIDEO INSPECTION EQUIPMENT: This small video camera is attached to a long fiber-optic cable and the plumber puts into the clogged drain. It isn’t there for clogged drain cleaning, but it will show the plumber on a small TV-type screen if there is a clogged drain or broken pipe. The plumber then knows what needs to be done for a clogged drain fix, which at this point, is repairing or replacing sewer pipes.
Clogged drains are aggravating and in the heat of the moment, it is tempting to pour a chemical that claims to be fast acting and strong into the drain. Avoid doing that if at all possible, and if you are going to give that a try, then be sure to follow the instructions exactly. Call (508) 272-1196 today for your clogged drain needs in Somerset, MA. Learn how to naturally clean a clogged drain and unstop a slow running sink without using toxic chemicals or calling a plumber! (Hint: You probably have the supplies in your home and it’s not baking soda and vinegar!) This post uses affiliate links.They don’t cost you a thing and help us bring you all natural cleaning tutorials. Read more in Policies and Disclosures. Have you ever had a clogged drain? The most embarrassing clog of my life occurred the year we hosted Thanksgiving dinner for my entire family. Somewhere between the liquid turkey fat and potato peels my kitchen drain gave up and began regurgitating murky brown water mixed with bits of food from the disposal. Watching me frantically plunge the kitchen sink was NOT the most appetizing pre-dinner activity.
Commercial Drain Cleaners
What’s even worse than an embarrassing clog? Being forced to use dangerous chemicals to unstop backed up sinks and clean slow flowing drains. Flush the toxic chemicals and learn the easy way to naturally clean a clogged drain and speed up slow flowing pipes. (Hint: You probably have the supplies in your home and it’s not baking soda and vinegar!)
What Causes Disgusting Drain Clogs?
Have you ever tried to stop a leaking air mattress from deflating? It’s impossible to stop the air loss until you find the hole. The same principle applies when cleaning a clogged drain… you cannot clean and declog if you don’t know the cause of the problem. Most household drain clogs are caused by four substances.
Kitchen Sink Clog Causes
- Fat, Oil and Grease (or FOG): Fatty substances are the number one cause of kitchen sink clogs and slow draining sinks. – they go down the drain easily in a liquid state (think hot grease in a pan or dissolved fat in warm dishwater) BUT as they move through your pipes the fat cools. This solid fat coats the pipes’ insides getting thicker and thicker until you have a slow drain or complete blockage.
- Food Particles: Large food particles or vegetable peels that become trapped in the curved pipe beneath the sink (also known as the p-trap) are another common cause of kitchen drain clogs.
Bathroom Sink Clog Causes
- Hair: Hair is the most common cause of bathroom drain clog. The hair easily goes down the drain with water then accumulates inside the pipe building up until the line is blocked. These clogs usually occur right below the drain.
- Soap Scum: Greasy soap residue and particles can also coat the interior of pipes and cause a blockage. In some cases the soap buildup can become so bad it can actually corrode the pipes.
The Right Tool (or Trick) for the Clog
After you make an educated guess about the cause of the clog, four tools and tricks will help you naturally unclog your drain and remove debris without calling a plumber.
1. A Plunger
- Works On: Food particles or objects stuck in the p-trap (the curved pipe) beneath your sink. Try this on completely clogged or slow-draining drains.
- How to Use: Clear the surrounding area in case of water splashes. Fill the sink halfway with warm water then give your sink a good plunging using a rubber plunger. Rinse drain with hot water.
- Why This Works: The plunger dislodges stuck food particles and allows them to pass down through the drain pipe. The water rinse washes them down the drain.
2. Long Wire Hook
- Works On: Hair or small objects stuck in bathroom drains. Try this on completely clogged or slow-draining bathroom drains.
- How to Use: Bend the end of a long piece of wire into a small hook using pliers (a coat hanger works great) or get a drain cleaning tool. Carefully remove the drain cover, remove any visible debris, then insert the hook. (You’ll want to wear gloves, it is gross.) Pull the hook back up and remove any debris (this will be a bunch of decomposing hair and gunk). Use the hook a few times in the drain to make sure you entirely clear the debris. Dispose of the debris in the garbage.
- Why This Works: The hook removes the hair and debris that was blocking the drain, leaving it clean and free-flowing.
3. Liquid Dish Detergent and Hot Water
- Works On: Grease clogs or fat narrowed pipes. Try this on slow-draining kitchen drains.
- How to Use: Heat 2 liters (a large pot of water) to a boil then stir in a few tablespoons of natural hand washing dish detergent or Sal’s Suds. Slowly pour the nearly boiling water down the slow running drain and then flush with hot tap water. This can take several pans of detergent and hot water.
- Why This Works: The hot water melts some of the grease narrowing the pipes, and the dish detergent helps to dissolve the fat. This combination of cleaners removes the gunky buildup and allows drain pipes to run more freely.
4. Salt and Hot Water
- Works On: Grease or soap clogs and fat or soap narrowed pipes. Try this on slow-draining kitchen and bathroom drains.
- How to Use: Pour one-half cup of salt down the slow-moving drain. Heat 2 liters of water until it is nearly boiling then slowly pour down the drain and flush with hot tap water. It may take several rounds of salt and hot water. You can use any type of salt (table salt, sea salt, or kosher salt).
- Why This Works: The hot water melts some of the grease that is narrowing the pipes. The salt has an abrasive texture that acts as a natural scouring agent, forcing more greasy build up out. This combination of cleaners removes the gunky buildup and allows drain pipes to run more freely.
5. Biological Enzyme Cleaner
- Works On: Organic based clogs like grease, hair, and soap. Try this on slow-draining kitchen and bathroom drains and homes with septic systems. Enzyme cleaners can also be used regularly to keep drains free of organic material and odors.
- How to Use: Follow package directions. Best used overnight when drains are not being used.
- Why This Works: Biological cleaners such as Earth Enzymes Drain Opener or Biokleen Drain Gel contain enzymes and/or bacteria that eat through the organic material in the clog to clear the drain. These cleaners can be used in homes with septic systems because they don’t kill beneficial bacteria. (Green Gobbler Drain Clog Remover is another popular solution, it uses monosodium sulfate, a non-toxic acid, to remove drain gunk.)
How to Prevent Drain Clogs From Coming Back
After you declog a drain, follow these five guidelines to prevent the problem from reoccurring: 1 – Never put FOG (Fats, Oil or Grease) down a drain or garbage disposal. Any substance high in fat (think bacon grease, coconut oil, butter, peanut butter, and other high fat food) should be cooled and then disposed of in the trash or wiped into the trash before washing. 2 – Don’t use hot tap water to melt fats so they can be rinsed down the drain. They will cool and clog your pipes! 3 – Dispose of food waste and vegetable peels in the trash! Do not put onion peels, potato peels, banana peels, egg shells, rice, pasta, celery, and so on down the garbage disposal or sink drain. Check your manufacturer’s guide for details. 4 – Install a hair filter in bathroom drains. Never flush hair down the drain when cleaning, wipe loose strands up and throw them away in the trash. 5 – Flush kitchen drains once a month with salt and hot water. This combination prevents greasy build-up and keeps drains running at full capacity.
Get More Green Cleaning Advice
- See my baking soda and vinegar experiment and learn why you should never use it to clean drains!
- Learn more about green cleaning combination that are dangerous or do not work.
I hope these tips keep you from getting an embarrassing drain clog and help you flush the toxic chemicals! Sign up for my free newsletter below for more green cleaning tip and tricks. In the United States, there are almost 500,000 plumbers. Plumbers know how to clean and maintain all the plumbing in a house. Drainage line cleaning is not a problem for a plumber, but chances are you aren’t a plumber. For those of us who aren’t trained to take care of plumbing, it can seem like a daunting task. Sewer lines are long, and all the water and waste we flush goes down them. If your drains start making strange noises, or if they start smelling bad, it is time to clean them out.
Drainage Line Cleaning
All drainage lines run to the sewer system of your house. Every drain, whether it is in a sink, shower, or the toilet, joins the sewer lines running out of your house. These are called lateral lines, and they run to sewer mains or a main line. If your sewer needs cleaning, you will know it. Strange noises, smells, and slow flushing drains are all symptoms that your sewer line needs help. Not every situation calls for a plumber, however, and there are things you can do to take care of a lot of problems.
1. Clean Your Lines Often
One way you can achieve this is by purchasing an enzyme cleaner. Enzyme cleaners come in a great variety of types. Some remove pet stains, but others are useful for cleaning out drainage lines. Any plumbing supply outlet and most hardware stores will have high-grade cleaners for this purpose. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and make sure to put the cleaner in a large drain. The best choice for this is a basement drain, but any large drain will work. Enzyme cleaners work via a biological reaction, so time is required. Be patient and wait for the cleaner to do its work.
2. Get a Snake
Snakes are cheap, and using them is not difficult. Minor clogs that occur inside your house can be removed with little effort using a snake. Snakes are augers that are fed into a drain line and then cut or twist through a clog. Snakes won’t cure every problem, but they are good for small clogs. A simple snake will help keep your drains clean, but be careful not to damage your lines. If you encounter a clog that your snake can’t get through, that’s a good indication that it is time to call a plumber.
3. Baking Soda and Vinegar
A common cleaning solution a lot of people use to degrease is baking soda mixed with vinegar. The chemical reaction that is caused when these two are mixed is foamy and will bubble. The bubbles will help the baking soda scrape away grease that can be causing clogs. When the grease cools off, it can become very sticky. Other types of debris will get trapped in the grease that is sitting in your lines. It is possible to get grease in your sewer lines even if you don’t dump a lot down the drain. Over time build-up will occur, and this cleaning trick is quick and easy and can be done anytime.
4. Flush Your Lines
If you aren’t dealing with a clog, you can clean your lines by flushing them with water. While doing this, put a little bit of drain cleaner into the water. A toilet is a great place to do this, as it allows a lot of water and cleaner to go down together. If you have a clog, this is not a good idea. The more water you put in the line, the more will backup. It might not even be possible if the water is high enough. Any time you are cleaning your sewer lines, you must make sure that you don’t have any clogs. If you do, they need to be taken care of first.
5. Preventative Cleaning
Cleaning sewer lines doesn’t require a catastrophe to initiate. Put some baking soda into your lines every month or two. This will help scour the walls of the pipes clean and can help prevent problems from occurring. You can also use citrus-based cleaners for this.
6. Drain Cleaners Are a Great Option
You don’t want to use abrasive chemical cleaners very often, as they can degrade your pipes. However, a couple of times a year, you can flush drain cleaners down your lines. When you do this, make sure you’re not using too much water or flushing any other drains. The chemical needs time to sit in the pipes to dissolve any debris and waste that might be building up. Reducing the amount of build-up in your line will help to prevent a clog.
7. Look for Professional Drain Cleaning
Not all plumbers have the equipment to clean the main sewer lines. Look for a sewer cleaning plumber that offers this service, and they will have specialized equipment that can help. Question the plumber you hire about what the process will take and how long it will be. Some clogs aren’t easy to clear, and others can indicate damage to your sewer line. If you’ve kept your lines clean and taken the time to attempt to remove the clog, it could mean bigger trouble. Having a professional inspect your sewer lines can save you a lot of stress and money.
Sewer Lines and Your Home
Most homeowners don’t think much about their sewer lines. As long as they are working right, they are out of sight and out of mind. When a problem does show up, it can mean a huge expense either trying to clean it yourself or hiring someone to do it for you. Drainage line cleaning will help reduce the chances of damage to your pipes and clogs. Even with our best efforts, however, it won’t stop all the problems our sewer line may have. If you are near us in South Carolina, Plumb Time Plumbing and Drain Services can help you. No one wants to deal with disgusting sewer backups. The smell is hard to get rid of, and the wastewater sticks to everything it touches. Save yourself time and trouble, contact us for any of your plumbing needs.
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