There is nothing more unpleasant than having a clogged drain that is overflowing with water and gunk or strange smells coming from your kitchen sink or bathroom. Most of the times we let hair and shampoo or food and other residues to clog our drains as time passes, and we usually don’t address the issue until we start to see water pooling around our feet in the shower, or when the kitchen sink or toilet refuses to flush down. It may seem like the only solution would be to call a plumber, but do not pick up that phone just yet.
You will not need complicated tools, special skills or to even apply much strength. Do not fall for highly damaging and dangerous chemical-filled clog removers, that may get the job done temporarily, but may cause further and deeper problems in your plumbing and could also be damaging for your health. Simply follow these simple tips in order to prevent getting your drains clogged in the first place, and then a few simple tricks on how to unclog the most common of cases with tools and solutions you can make with objects and products easily found in any home.
Preventing Clogged Drains
Prevention is always the best policy, and when it comes to drains, prevention will make a huge difference for having clean, smooth-running drains that will not accumulate residues. The easiest and most simple method you should first try is pouring boiling water down your drains. This will usually take care of easier clogs by loosening debris.
Another great cleansing method you can apply can be done once a month and you will not have to deal with clogs or plumbers again. Mix 1/2 cup baking soda with 1/4 cup table salt and pour down the blocked drain. Then, pour 1 cup of heated vinegar down the drain to create foam and bubbles. This will slowly dissolve any gunk that has accumulated inside. Let sit for about 15 minutes and then rinse with hot tap water for about 30 seconds.
Another great way to prevent clogs is never to dump solid objects or oil down the sink, or bathroom products, such as sanitary pads, in the toilet, which will most likely result in blocked drains. Always use screens in the shower to catch hair and in the kitchen sink to catch food and other debris to keep it from accumulating inside.
Manually Getting Rid of Clogs
Before resorting to homemade solutions to pour down and already blocked drain, or calling a plumbing service, try removing the clog on your own with some of these tools.
- Try the good old plunger on the blocked drain. Push all the way down and quickly pull back up in a repeated motion. Do not lose hope if it does not work on the first pumps, keep at it!
- If that does not seem to help, another great tool you can use is an old wire hanger. Try pulling it straight and use one of the bent corners to create a small hook that will fit into your drain without further pushing down the blockage. Insert it in the drain and start fishing for all the gunk or hair you can find. When you are done, run hot water down the drain for 30-60 seconds.
- Another great tool is one called Zip-it, which is a very inexpensive, long and narrow, plastic strip with angled teeth along the edges, that you simply need to push down the drain, spin a few times, and pull it out to find all the gunk stuck to it. Rinse with hot water after removing everything the strip can catch. An alternative if you are not able to find this at a retail store, would be to find some stiff and thick plastic you can recycle (one that won’t bend easily when pushed down the drain), cut a long, narrow strip (about 20 inches long, 1/4 inch wide), and use a knife or cutter to carefully cut small teeth at an angle along the edges.
- Handling the pipes or unscrewing parts of your sink may seem intimidating, but a very easy-to-do solution for most blockages is simply to take apart the U-shaped pipe (the trap) under your sink and flush out the blockages. First, find a big, empty bucket for the water that will spill from the sink, and place it under the U-shaped pipe. Using a wrench, loosen the slip nuts at the ends of the pipe until you feel like you can finish the process with your hand. Remove the pipe and empty it in the bucket, get a bent wire hanger and an old toothbrush to help you get the remaining gunk out, and rinse the pipe. Put it back and carefully tighten the slip nuts with the wrench so as not to get any leaks.
- One greater and more inexpensive tool you can find at your local hardware store is a drain snake. There are more professional versions, but a plain kind is basically a long flexible metal tube that has a metal spiral at the end and handles on top. You can push it down your drain, use the handles to spin it around and try to get the clog hooked, and gently pull it out. Always rinse with hot water when you are done.
Homemade Solution to Remove Clogs
The baking soda and vinegar mix is a powerful cleaning solution with many uses in kitchen and bathroom maintenance. One of them is its power for unclogging sinks, toilets, showers and almost any kind of drain. First, pour 1 cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by 1/2 cup vinegar. Immediately cover the drain using a plug, a Tupperware lid, or a small plate. Let it sit for about 30 minutes, in which the bubbles and foam produced by the mix will dissolve the gunk inside. Remove the cover and rinse the drain with running hot water for 2-3 minutes. If the water flushes down smoothly, you have successfully unclogged the drain, if not, try repeating the process and let sit for another 30 minutes.