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Unclogging Your Drains: Can You Avoid Calling a Plumber?

Reviewed By:
R. Dodge Woodson

Everybody deals with it at some point…a backed up drain. Whether it’s your kitchen sink, bathroom sink, toilet or tub, there are steps you can take prior to calling a plumber. It’s not uncommon to unclog your drain, but it’s wise to know what you’re doing before you start.

Long before you grab a chemical, there are steps that you can take to unclog the drain without using caustic chemicals.

1. Check out the drain visually and make sure that the blockage isn’t easily removed.

2. If you can’t visually spot the clog, try using a plumber’s helper or plunger. Run just enough water in the tub or sink to cover the head of the plunger. If there is an overflow outlet, be sure to block it with a towel or rag. Use the plunger over the drain with six or seven swift plunges. You should try this several times before deciding that it’s not going to do the job.

3. If the plunger wasn’t successful, the next step would be to use a snake, which is basically a flexible steel cable that has a handle. Snakes can be purchased at most hardware stores. Inserting the snake and turning it as you push it down into the drain could either push the clog on through the plumbing or hook onto the clog allowing you to pull it out.

4. Chemicals are the only other option if your previous attempts did not work and you still don’t want to call a plumber. The chemicals required to do the job are often very caustic and harmful to the environment. Many plumbers will not use chemicals except as a last resort. There is a healthier chemical concoction that may work on your drain. Simply pour equal parts, typically a cup, of baking soda and white vinegar down the drain and block the opening. Wait several minutes and run hot water into the drain. You may need to repeat the process a few times before the clog is clear.

If you have multiple clogged drains, the problem may be deeper in and more complicated. You can still attempt to work through the clog with a plunger but it will be more challenging. Another challenge to unclogging drains can be intruding roots into the line. One sign that this might be the issue is if lower plumbing, such as toilets and tubs, back up before the higher plumbing, such as kitchen and bathroom sinks. There are two options for getting rid of intruding roots: cupric sulfate crystals which will kill the roots or hiring someone to cut back the roots.

If you have exhausted all of the above possibilities without positive results, then it’s time to call a plumber. For future reference, using an enzyme cleaner, available at hardware and grocery stores, regularly can help you avoid future clogs. Pouring boiling water down drains about once a month, excluding toilets because of possible porcelain damage, can also move oils and grease along that would normally build up and clog.

R. Dodge Woodson is a master plumber of over 30 years. He has written over 90 books dealing with many subjects, including plumbing.