You start washing the dishes, and the water won't go down the drain. You clean out the gook from the bottom of the sink, trying to unclog it, but it makes no difference. The sink is hopelessly clogged.
That happened to us last week. Only it was my husband who came home to that mess I left, no supper, and a clogged sink, while I was busy sleeping over at my sister.
He tried to unclog the blocked drain himself, but it didn't work. He ended up washing the dishes in the bathtub.
The next day, when I arrived home, I called the plumber. He named a relatively high price for unclogging the drain, but said that since we're friends of his, he'd make it cheaper. We said we'd think about it, and decided that first we'd try to take more measures to unclog it ourselves, and if that didn't work, only then we'd call the plumber back.
Fortunately, with just a little bit of outlay on equipment, some time, and the willingness to get our hands dirty, we managed to unclog the drain, and the plumber didn't need to make a visit.
So, if you find yourself in a similar situation, how can you also unclog a stuck drain without needing to shell out the cash on a plumber? Here's what we've learned.
If your drain is a little slow, you can often clean it out and speed it up by mixing 1/4 cup of citric acid and baking soda, pouring it down the drain, and then pouring boiling water over it. This will create a volcano like effect, with a lot of bubbling and a lot of steam, but when it clears up, the water should go down your drain much quicker.
If that doesn't work well, or if the sink is clogged entirely, we've discovered that pushing a wooden skewer down the holes in the sink drain in a few places will usually open up a clog and get things moving again, without needing to go to drastic measures.
Unfortunately that didn't work for us this time, so it was time for step 2- clean the P trap. The P trap is the bend in the pipe underneath the sink, and often debris gets caught either in there or between the sink drain and there. Removing it and cleaning it out does the trick in 75% of the cases of clogged sink drains, from my experience. Only... our kitchen sink has no P trap.
And cleaning it out from the Y where our two drains connect didn't work either. The clog was further down.
My husband tried using a snake that he bought at the dollar store, and while it's worked for us a bit in the past, what you pay for is what you get, at least in this case.
We needed a better quality snake, and a longer one.
Mike went to the store and priced snakes- he found one that suits our needs- approximately 10 feet long, for 20 dollars, which is a fraction of the price the plumber quoted to us. Our apartment is built a certain way that we have 2 access ports to our pipes in the bathroom, which is in the room next to the kitchen, so we didn't need a snake longer than that.
If you don't have those access ports, and your clog is further down, a 10 foot long snake may not suit your needs- it may need to be a longer one.
After pushing it back and forth, he twisted the snake around clockwise, to get even more stuff out, and to widen the space he created.
Because we have these access ports in our apartment, we used the snake going from the kitchen sink pipe towards the bathroom port, and then from the bathroom port in the direction of the kitchen. He then did it in the direction from the first bathroom port to the second. That is actually what is shown in the videos.
Once doing that, our sinks were unclogged!
Thats it, right?
Only... Mike thought that putting caustic soda down the drain would be a good idea. Caustic soda is "drain cleaner", also known as "Drano", sodium hydroxide, or lye.
I'll tell you why, I'll tell you something that my husband didn't think about before putting the caustic soda down the drain, and what people who recommend using Drano probably don't know.
Do you know one of the most common and old uses of lye/caustic soda is in soap making?
The way you make soap, in short, is that you mix lye with water, mix that with oil, and mix it up. With enough mixing, it will create a bar of soap.
Well, can you imagine what happened when our drains, filled with kitchen grease, got mixed with lye and water?
That's right. It made soap.
One huge, thick, goopey, gross "bar of solid soap", the entire length of our pipe between the kitchen sink and the bathroom.
Stopped up entirely. Nearly as thick as cement.
I apologize in advance for the grossness, but this picture over here is what our pipes were filled with. Packed with it.
Gross kitchen waste "soap".
In case you don't believe me that that's soap, it made suds, and was slippery like soap. It definitely is soap, though not the way I recommend making soap, because I would NEVER wash anything with "soap" that filthy and gross.
Please, please, please, listen to me- never, ever, ever put caustic soda down your kitchen sink drain, or any place else that ever has greasy things poured down it.
If you're wondering how we got THAT clog out...
We first put a plunger over the drain in our kitchen sink. Because we have two sinks with two drains next to each other, and we wanted to make sure that there actually was some vaccum, and things were being forced down the pipe instead of coming out the sink next to it, Mike and I simultaneously used plungers over both sinks. I've since heard that you can just cover one sink with a wet rag, but I haven't tried that. We pumped and pumped with the plunger, but nothing came out, but it probably did loosen something in there.
I then put in the snake from the bathroom port, in the direction of the kitchen. There was a lot of resistance and I wasn't able to push it in far. When I removed it, a chunk of the gross soap came out with it. I then put the snake in, pulled it out, and even more soap came with it. I did it again and again and again, pulled out more and more soap, until at one point, all the water that was in the kitchen sink and pipe started flooding out the port in the bathroom- I'd cleared the pipe!
I then widened the opening in the pipe by rotating the snake as in the second movie above. I then used the pipe between the two ports in the bathroom.
Our sinks and pipes are no longer clogged.
It was a team effort, it was gross and dirty, but we managed.
And we have the snake for the future, so even though the small investment already paid off, it'll pay off even more every time we need it from now on.
When you have a clogged drain, what happens to it? Do you deal with it? Your spouse? Your kids? Neighbors? Call a plumber?
Do you own a snake? How long is it? What do you usually do to unclog drains? Do you use Drano? Why or why not?
If you usually do these things yourself, have you ever had a clog so bad that you needed to call the plumber, after trying to fix the problem yourself and having no luck?
See my disclaimer.