How to Clean a Drain

How to Clean a Drain

Don’t let a clogged drain ruin your day! With a variety of solutions available, there’s no need to stress. In the meantime, while you discover how to clean a drain, lifting the lever to stop the water flow may not be enough to solve the problem. The water may remain stagnant in the basin, making a gurgling sound.

We’ve all been there. That moment when you realize you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves (maybe put on some gloves) and unclog the beast. But drain cleaning doesn’t have to be a dreaded chore. With some simple tools, techniques, and elbow grease, you can clear that clog right up and get your sink or tub draining freely again.

Start With a Good Old Fashioned Plunger

The trusty plunger is typically the first line of defense against any clogged drain. It’s cheap, simple to use, and surprisingly effective. Now I’m not saying you want to go sticking that thing from your toilet all Willy nilly into your bathroom sink. Better to have a designated sink plunger if such things exist in your world.

Start With a Good Old Fashioned Plunger

Create a Tight Seal For Best Suction

The key to drain plunging success is creating a tight seal over the drain opening, whether in your sink, tub, or shower. This allows you to generate the best suction power with each plunge. Be sure to wet the plunger bell first and press it firmly over the opening, squeezing out excess water and air pockets first. You may need to fill the basin with an inch or two of water as well if working in a sink or tub.

Work That Plunger Up And Down

Once your plunger is sealed tightly in place, it’s time to put those arm muscles to work. Raise the plunger several inches up and then push it firmly back down over the drain opening.

You’ll need to repeat this motion vigorously 10-15 times to properly agitate things and dislodge the clog. It’s best to use quick, vertical strokes rather than angling the plunger or using side-to-side motion. Let gravity help pull the clog free.

Didn’t Work? Try A Few Tricks:

If after several rounds of forceful plunging you still don’t have action, try these tips before giving up:

  • Fill basin with hot water and try plunging again: Heat helps melt and dissolve gunk.
  • Use a second plunger over the overflow hole if present. Creates a wider seal.
  • Plug second basin if double sink. Prevents air escaping and improves suction.
  • Check for hair caught in plunger bell affecting seal. Remove and try again.

Give it some solid plunging effort with these tweaks before turning to harsher chemical measures or disassembly. With the simple mighty plunger, you’ve got a least a fighting chance at drain clearing success.

Still Clogged? Bring Out The Chemical Guns

When that sink or tub drain absolutely refuses to budge after repeated plunging attempts, it’s time to call in the chemical guns. Hardware stores offer a range of potent drain cleaners designed to melt, dissolve, andbreak down all types of gunky clogs.

Just be aware that many classic liquid drain cleaners contain caustic and corrosive ingredients like lye or sulfuric acid. We’re treading in hazardous chemical territory here folks, so safety first!

Start With Safer Enzyme And Acid Combination Cleaners

For easier household drain cleaning jobs, start with enzyme and acid combination drain openers. These break down all types of organic matter like hair, soap scum, and food grease using natural enzymes and the cleaning power of acids like citric or sulfuric acid.

While still requiring caution, enzyme and acid cleaners offer a less harsh and safer option compared to classic caustic lye drain cleaners. Just make sure to check that they are specifically marked “safe for pipes”.

Follow Directions Carefully

Whichever chemical drain cleaner you use, carefully read all label safety warnings and directions first. Important steps typically include:

  • Removing standing water from basin first
  • Wearing gloves and eye protection
  • Measuring out exact amount needed (don’t waste or spill!)
  • Allowing cleaner to work 15-30 minutes before rinsing
  • Only using small quantities in bathroom sinks (2-4 oz)

Paying attention to usage guidelines reduces risks considerably when harnessing the real clog-busting power of chemical drain cleaners. Exercise additional caution around kids or pets to keep paws safely away while cleaner sits.

Use a Funnel or Turkey Baster for Precision

For sinks and tub drains, using a small funnel or turkey baster allows carefully directing drain cleaner directly into the drain itself. This prevents spillage and maintains full concentrate strength right where the clog li(k)es.

When addressing chronic sink clog issues or drains running slower than a 3-legged turtle over time try using a gel-based drain cleaner formula. Gels cling directly to pipe surfaces longer, enhancing cleaning action.

Give It Time to Work Before Rinsing

Once drain cleaner is in place, resist the urge to test the drain right away. All chemical drain opening products require 15-30 minutes minimum to fully break down the nastiest blockages. Set a timer and grab a cup o’ Joe, or put those rubber gloves to use scouring the bathtub while you wait.

Flush With Hot Water

After the cleaner has done its molecular bonding handiwork, flush the drain with plenty of hot water. This sweeps away residue and helps lift deeper gunk loosened by the corrosive action but still clinging inside.

A few test flushes may be needed, or you can follow up by snaking the drain as outlined next. With patience and proper use though, liquid chemical drain cleaners can dissolve even epic clogs without requiring full disassembly.

Pull Out The Drain Snake

Alright, so plunging produced pitiful results and chemicals failed to vanquish the villainous void-clogging villain. Time to call in the mechanical superhero of drain cleaning: The Drain Snake!

Choose Your Weapon: Hand or Power Snake

For regular sink and tub cleaning, a hand crank snake is usually sufficient to dislodge most clogs after chemical cleaner failure. Use a length suitable for reaching deep bends of pipework.

However for attacking serious sink obstructions, frequent repeat tub clogging from masses of hair, or any drain connected to a broader plumbing system, step up to an electric power drain snake. Their motorized force lets you spin cutting tips faster and drive cables much further to clear deeper blockages.

Protect Your Pipes

Important safety tip: Always be aware of potential pipe material before snaking to prevent damage. Traditional metal snakes can puncture plastic ABS pipework. Upgrade to a plastic-safe cable model or use a hand snake if uncertain what lies beneath that stubborn clog.

Feed Like Spaghetti

Time to get twisting! Insert the metal coil end of your sink snake down the drain opening. Crank handles slowly and gently feed the cable downward at an angle, allowing it to twist through the curves of pipe naturally. Don’t force too fast and hard!

Think feeding spaghetti noodle strands gently into hot water rather than trying to cram an garden hose down there. Have patience grasshopper.

Cut and Remove for Freedom

As the snake spins deeper into the pipes, it will grabbing hair, gunk chunks and whatever else is causing restrictions. Crank out cable periodically pulling debris up to remove.

Power snakes often feature hooks, barbs or small cutting blades on tip to help saw through more tenacious clogs. Once the snake moves freely again you know the drain is clear!

Give one last twist clean sweep to capture any remainders before slowly retracting metal hero. Send it off to battle another day.

Time to Call In the Pros?

Despite your most valiant efforts plunging, pouring, and snaking, if the clog still remains jammed in place, it may be time to phone in professional reinforcements.

Signs it’s time to call in the pros:

  • Water drains very slowly even after using cleaners
  • Sink or tub won’t drain at all after vigorous snaking
  • Standing water won’t recede out overflow holes
  • Water bubbles back up drain when doing laundry or dishes
  • Unpleasant sewage smells emerge from drainpipes
  • Leaks around pipe joints under sinks or tubs

Continued extreme clogging can potentially indicate collapsed or damaged drainage pipes now requiring replacement. Professionals have commercial-grade snakes reaching 100 feet to clear such extreme blockages, advanced camera equipment to inspect buried pipes, and knowledge to determine repairs needed.

Most plumbers offer free estimates and reasonable rates for basic power-augured drain cleaning services. This makes hiring help an affordable and headache-free solution when up against truly nasty slabjects.

Time to Call In the Pros?

Planning Ahead to Prevent Clogs

Exercise a bit of preventative care and you can avoid playing drain surgeon quite so often. Teach everyone in the home these proactive tips:

  • Use drain catchers and traps to grab excess hair and debris near sinks and tubs
  • Let hot water wash down for 30-60 seconds after bathing or washing greasy dishes
  • Pour 1/2 cup baking soda followed by 1/2 cup vinegar monthly as cleaning flush
  • Use enzyme bacterial drain additives monthly to safely break down organics
  • Consider getting old metal traps replaced with new PVC models
  • Install bold plastic hair catchers if hairbuild up is excessive

A few minutes attention practicing these clog prevention habits will have your drains flowing free day after day. But when you do find things getting sluggish, now you know all the secrets to demolishing drain clogs quickly, safely, and confidently using your own home remedies.


What exactly causes drains to clog in the first place?

Common culprits include accumulations of hair, globs of grease and soap buildup, masses of food particles down kitchen sinks, toothpaste gunk, and more. These adhere to the inside walls of drain pipes forming restrictive blockages.

Is it safe to use drain cleaners?

Classic caustic liquid drain cleaners contain very corrosive ingredients requiring caution. Safer options include enzyme/acid cleaners or baking soda and vinegar combinations. Always wear gloves and follow directions carefully with any chemical cleaners.

How can I prevent my drains from clogging frequently?

Use drain baskets and traps to catch debris near sinks and tubs. Flush with hot water after greasy cooking or bathing. Use preventative enzyme drain additives monthly. Replace old corroded piping if chronic issues persist.

When should I call for professional drain cleaning help?

If you’ve plunged and snaked thoroughly with no improvement, it’s time to call a plumber. Professionals have high-power electric snakes reaching 100 feet to clear buried clogs at greater depths than feasible at home.

What methods work best for cleaning shower drains specifically?

Showers clog readily from hair buildup combined with soap and oils. Use enzymatic drain cleaners formulated for showers monthly to break down and prevent clogs before they form. Mesh tub drain covers also effective for catching globs of hair before circling.

Last Words

Armed with the right techniques and tools – the valiant plunger, corrosive chemical cleaners, the mechanical snake hero, maybe some boiling water or baking soda vinegar bombs – even the most sludgy, nasty drain clogs meet their match.

Knowing how to attack clogged drains using staged home remedies means no more standing in dirty water or putting up with the stench of slow sewage, ensuring you can swiftly unclog the drain and reclaim your fixtures, sending wastewater on its way where it belongs.

Next time that drain goes sluggish, you’ve got serious skills to unclog like a champ. Though even experts get bested now and then by a true monster clog. When the grimy blockage refuses to surrender, professionals remain just a call away.

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