Plumbing - Unclogging a Sink Drain
The most cocommon sink clogs occur in
bathrooms. Kitchen sinks and utility sinks generally do not clog because of the hot water
that surges through them from the dishwasher and washing machine. On the other hand, bathroom
sinks are exposed to an abundance of hair, soap and other greasy products that can slow down
or stop a drain.
The best way to unclog a drain is mechanically versus chemically. Most chemical treatments
can handle minor clogs in the trap area, but are not very effective in the horizontal line
just beyond the trap. The more caustic chemicals are hazardous to use and can even damage
your pipes. Whenever possible, try to employ mechanical measures.
Unclogging a sink takes a few basic tools and can save you the expense of calling in a
plumber. However, know when to say when. If you are too aggressive in your efforts to clear
the clog, you may end up damaging the pipes and creating an even bigger problem. Try the
steps below in order. They are organized from simple to complex. If you are unsuccessful, then
you can call a plumber.
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thing you should try is a little preventive maintenance. Unlike the kitchen or utility sink
which both get purged clean by hot water, your bathroom sink needs a good flushing now and
then. Once a month, boil a few gallons of water and carefully pour it down the sink. Boiled
water is significantly hotter than tap water and it will help dissolve soapy, greasy materials
that are coating the walls of your pipes. (Figure 1)
||Once a clog
has formed, preventive measures will not work. It is time to get out the plunger. Partially
fill the sink with water to cover the plunger head. If you have a double sink or an overflow
opening, stuff a wet rag into the second drain or opening. This will focus the plunging
pressure on the clog. (Figure 2)
and down vigorously, keeping the plunger sealed against the bottom of the sink. If you do not
feel the water swishing back and forth or enough resistance, then air may be escaping through
the second drain or overflow opening. Have a helper hold the wet rag firmly in place.
have broken the clog loose, run hot water through the drain to flush out the debris.
||If the clog
is too stubborn for the plunger, it is time to try the drain auger. Generally you have 2
choices when using the auger. You can go in through the drain or you can remove the trap and
go into the horizontal drain line. Use your judgment based on where you think the clog is
remove the trap using large channel locks or a pipe wrench. Wrap a rag around the area you
are clamping onto. This will prevent the teeth of the tool from marring the pipe surface.
Remove the two nuts that hold the trap. You need direct access into the horizontal stretch of
pipe. Be sure to put a bucket under the trap to catch the water contained in the trap.
suitable auger is a coiled cable that wraps inside a housing. The housing should have a handle
and a crank on it for spinning the cable inside the drain.
sensitive touch, feed the cable into the drain or horizontal pipe. When you feel some
resistance, you are probably up against your clog. Pull an extra 18 inches of cable out of
the housing. Tighten the setscrew securing the cable. Turn the crank on the auger, applying
moderate force, pushing the cable into the drain or pipe. When the free cable has worked its
way into the pipe, loosen the setscrew and pull out another 18 inches. Continue this procedure
until the cable has reached the larger vertical pipe. Pull the cable back out, cleaning it
and feeding it back into the housing as you go. (Figure 4)
removed the trap, replace it now. The nuts holding the drain in place should be put on hand
tight and then turned about a quarter turn with the wrench or channel locks. Do not over
trap is replaced, run hot water through the drain to flush it out. If water backs up, there
may still be some loose debris in the line left behind by the auger. Try plunging to get rid
of this debris. Again, flush the drain with hot water.
everything is free and clear in your drains, make sure you follow our suggested preventive
measures to avoid another drain clogging episode.
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