Clearing a clogged drain can be a really messy job, which is why many people prefer to call a plumber to take care of it. But if you have the right tools, it's really not so hard. Also, you will save a lot of money by clearing your clogged drain by yourself. Once you've done it for the first time, you will know just how to clear that clog if it ever happens again.
This article will walk you through the tools and equipment you need to clear a clogged drain, and then give you detailed instructions on clearing your clogged drain without having to call a plumber.
What You'll Need to Clear your Clogged Drain
You'll need a few specific tools and items when clearing a clogged drain. You may already have many of these things around the house. If you anticipate needing to clear a clogged drain anytime, like if you've just bought a house, then it's a good idea to buy the items you don't have now. That way when your drain clogs you will be ready to fix it.
Here are the items you'll need when you clear your clogged drain:
- Clean wet cloths
- Wire coat hanger
- Petroleum jelly
- Commercial drain opener
- Drain-and-trap auger
- Stiff brush
5 Easy Steps to Clear Your Clogged Drain
Here are the specific instructions you will need to follow in order to get your drain clear.
- If there is an overflow opening in the basin or tub, plug it up with a wet cloth. There may be more than one overflow vent, so make sure they're all covered with wet cloths. If you are working on a basin that has another basin next to it, then you will need to cover the other basin's drain opening with some wet cloths too. If this other basin has an overflow vent cover it also. The covering with wet cloths is an important step, because you need to do this in order for the plunger to work properly.
- Now, run some water into the clogged basin. There should be enough water to cover the head of plunger.
- Smear the plunger's lip with some petroleum jelly. The point of the petroleum is to create a better seal, so if you don't have any you can try without it, but it works a lot better if you do this.
- Place the plunger's cup directly over the drain opening. Now pump the plunger up and down very fast. As you do this, you'll feel water passing in and out of the drain. With this pumping motion, you are basically trying to create a lot of pressure. Once you've created enough pressure, the idea is that enough force will build up and whatever is blocking the drain will be dislodged.
- After about ten or fifteen pumps, jerk the plunger up rapidly. At this point, if you've been successful, you will see water rushing out and your job is done!
This does not always work the first time. Sometimes you will need to do this two or three times in a row before the drain unclogs. Give it your best effort though, as this is by far the easiest way to unclog your drain and it will save you a lot of time if you can get this done with a plunger.
So you've tried using the plunger and the clog is not budging. Your next try could be a chemical drain opener. I would only use a chemical drain opener if your drain is partially blocked, not if it's fully blocked. That's because if your drain's fully blocked and the chemicals don't work, they could sit in there and damage your fixtures.
What to use if you don't want to use chemicals or don't want to risk damaging your fixtures?
The best bet is a drain-and-trap auger. This is easier than it look to use . First you will need to take off the popup stopper or the strainer from your clogged drain. Then simply work the auger wire into the opening. Go ahead and feed the flexible wire in and at the same time crank the handle of the device. You want to loosen and tighten the thumbscrew on the handle while you're moving the wire forward. If you run into something with the wire, wiggle it backwards and forwards. While wiggling, turn the auger handle. Keep turning the handle and slowly withdraw the auger.
If the auger doesn't clear your drain, what can you do?
There is still something you can try, don't worry. You probably have a really stubborn clog. So now you will want to remove the clean-out plug from underneath your sink. When you do this, use a bucket to catch any water that falls out of the trap. Take a wire coat hanger and make a hook shape in one end. Wiggle this inside the pipe and try to unclog the drain. If this still doesn't work, grab your drain-and-trap auger and wiggle it into the area.
What if your trap does not have a clean out plug?
In this case you will just have to remove the entire drain trap and clean it out with a wire coat hanger. Use a stiff brush and hot soapy water to scrub it and get it really clean. You will probably be able to tell if the clog was in the trap.
If the clog wasn't in the trap and your drain is still showing signs of being clogged, then try one more thing. Get your drain-and-trap auger again and insert it into the drain extension that goes into your wall. Work the auger down into the drainpipe itself as far as you can. Hopefully you will reach the clog this way and be able to fix it, unless the blockage is actually happening in a section of the main drain.
If none of these things work then you may have to end up calling a plumber. But at least you will know you tried everything possible to unclog your drain by yourself. Most drain clogs can be fixed with a plunger and are quite easy to solve, but occasionally there is a really stubborn clog that makes your life difficult. If you live in a house with older pipes, try to avoid clogging your drains in the first place as it is much easier to avoid a clog than it is to fix it!