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10 Best Ways to Unclog a Drain Pipe

fixing drain

We all know the feeling: you step in the shower after a long day and delight in the hot water as it relaxes you. Then, a couple of minutes later, you realize you’re standing in a giant puddle and rage replaces your relaxation. You have a clogged drain.

A clogged drain is one of those problems that most of us would rather ignore. The problem is that if you ignore it, you’ll end up taking baths instead of showers and waiting 20 minutes for your sink to empty. The worst case is that your toilet could end up overflowing everywhere. Don’t let this expensive and messy affair happen to you. Be proactive about your clogged drains – it’s easy!

With a little know-how and the right tools, you’ll have your clogged drain up and running again in less than five minutes.

Here, we’ll learn how to unclog a drain pipe 10 different ways!

Baking Soda and Vinegar

For mild blockages, especially those that form from soap scum, built-up food, or hard minerals, baking soda and vinegar will act as an abrasive and acidic agent to clear the way. Best of all, it’s natural and won’t harm your pets or children in the house.

Many plumbers recommend natural methods over harsh chemical drain cleaners to avoid harm to your pipes and health.

To do this, mix equal parts vinegar and baking soda in a container. After it starts to fizz, pour it down the offending drain. This fizzing action will dislodge any substances quickly. Let it sit for several hours, or overnight if possible, before rinsing with hot water.

Baking Soda and Salt

You can mix salt with baking soda instead of vinegar for a drain clog. Baking soda and salt also create a chemical reaction that can loosen clogs.

To use, mix equal parts table salt with baking soda and pour down the blocked drain. Leave it for 10-20 minutes, then pour boiling water down the drain.

Boiling Water

Sometimes, clogged drains only need a little loosening up. This is especially true for bathroom drains that have built-up scum and toothpaste, or kitchen drains that have food particles stuck in the drain.

You should only use this for drains that still drain, as it’s more of a preventative measure. It’s as straightforward as it sounds: boil water on the stove and slowly pour it down the drain in stages (wait a few seconds between each). Then, wait several minutes and rinse well with warm water until the drain is running normally.

Dish Detergent

For clogs that are a little harder to loosen, you can add commercial grease-fighting dish soap to boiling water for extra help.

Because dish soap is designed to break down grease, it is useful for clogs caused by scum or kitchen grease.

Bent Wire Hanger

This method might be the most DIY, i-don’t-have-anything-in-my-pantry approach. A bent wire hanger can work on hair clogs that aren’t too far down the pipe.

Undo a wire hanger so that you have one long wire you can stick down the drain. Twist the wire down until you feel like you have a hold of the clog and pull it up!

Dismantling and Cleaning the Pipe

You might think this is only a job for a plumber (and if you feel uncomfortable doing so then it should be!), but you can also do it at home with the right tools.

This only works for kitchen and bathroom sinks with an accessible drain pipe underneath the cabinet.

Place an empty bucket under the pipe to catch water and use a wrench to loosen the slip nuts at both ends of the pipe. When the drain trap is free, remove it and turn it upside down, emptying the contents into the bucket. You may also need to fish around inside it for debris (an old toothbrush or wire hanger is great for this!).

Rinse the trap with water, put it all back together and voila!

Wet Vacuum

This one’s pretty straightforward. If you have an uncomplicated blockage or something you want to retrieve (like a ring or earrings) use a wet-vac to suck up the blockage.

Create the tightest seal you can with your hands around the drain opening and vacuum the contents up using the highest setting.

Plunger

You might think this tool is only for toilets (and it’s handy for that!), but you can use it on any type of drain.

Plungers work by creating a vacuum inside the drain. With each plunge, blockages get pulled up and down and therefore loosened. The goal is to plunge until the blockage comes out the top of the drain or loosens enough that it flows downward and clears the pipe when rinsed.

Plunge a drain the same way you would a toilet. Make sure you create a tight seal between the drain surface and the bottom edge of the plunger.

Plumbing Snakes

For those stubborn clogs, it’s time to call in the big guns. If your clog won’t budge from the above methods, you need to physically get inside the drain to push or pull out the clog.

Plumbing snakes, or augers, do that! There are many models on the market, but their main function is sending a small, thin metal “snake” into your drain to find the clog. Once detected, the snake grabs onto the clog either with a moveable claw or with hook-like features and pulls it out of the drain.

Plumbing snakes work on any type of drain: sink, shower, or toilet. They’re so easy to use that even a non-professional can do it at home.

Hydro-Jet

A hydro jet is a more sophisticated plumbing tool for clearing drains. Hydro-jets have a high-pressure hose on the drain end that forced the clog through the drain by force. The force of water can even break tree roots and other hard organic compounds into small pieces!

Because of the potential for further damage to your pipes with this method, it is best reserved for professional use. This informational post will help you decide whether snakes or hydro-jets are your best option.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are tons of ways to remove a clog from a drain at home without spending money on professional help. In fact, you can prevent larger clogs that do need professional removal by regularly cleaning and unclogging a problematic drain pipe yourself.

Next time you’re standing in a pool of water, or counting the minutes for your sink to drain, think of these 10 ways you could be making your life a little bit less bothersome. Be sure to check out our blog for other home improvement tips!

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