When faced with a clogged drain, what do you do? Some people plunge right away while others turn to the drain cleaner or a homemade unclogging solution. Most people don't know that there is a proper order in which to try various unclogging solutions. Follow these three steps in this order, and you'll save yourself some work and avoid possible complications.
Step 1: Plunge Away
Plunging will loosen all but the toughest clogs. It's best to start with plunging since if you try a drain cleaner first and it does not work, plunging safely will become impossible. (You'll splash drain cleaner all over.) Begin by choosing the right plunger for the job. For a sink, use a plain, bowl-head plunger; the flange-style plungers with flares at the end are intended for toilets. Make sure there is enough water in the sink, tub or toilet to cover the plunger, and then plunge straight up and down with forceful strokes.
With any luck, the clog will loosen, and the water will begin draining away. If it does not budge after 5-10 minutes of plunging, move on to step 2.
Step 2: Bring Out the Drain Cleaner
If you have old plumbing or a septic tank, you'll want to use baking soda and vinegar instead of chemical drain cleaner for this step in order to prevent damaging your pipes or killing off the bacteria in your septic tank. Pour a couple of cups of baking soda into the sink, tub or toilet. Then, add plenty of white vinegar. Let the mixture foam and sizzle away for an hour or two before running hot water down the drain to see if the clog has loosened.
If you have more modern plumbing and a sewer connection, using drain cleaner should be safe as long as you do not do so too often. Follow the instructions on the bottle; let the drain cleaner sit for as long as is recommended before rinsing it away with hot water. If the clog does not budge, move on to step 3.
Step 3: Call the plumber.
Though some equipment rental companies will lend you an auger so you can try snaking the clogged pipe yourself, this is not recommended as it can be quite dangerous – especially if there is still drain cleaner lingering in your drain. Call a plumber to do this work for you, so you know it will be done correctly and safely. He or she will know exactly how to feed the auger down the drain and twist it to break up the clog without causing damage to the pipes, your home, or people.
You'll find that for the vast majority of clogs, step 1 or 2 will loosen the clog. When drain cleaner and plunging fail, the clog is typically located away from the drain in one of your larger pipes, and you'll need a plumber (such as one from Ken Tyson Plumbing) with the right equipment and technique to solve the problem.