No More Pain in the Drain



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We’ve all been there, first thing in the morning trying to shave or brush our teeth, only to hear that annoying sound coming at us from the bathroom sink drain: glug, glug, glug.  You know what I’m talking about, the precursor to a drain clog that I refer to as “pain in the drain.”  

You may have some more colorful ways of coining the phrase, but like it or not, drain clogs come in all shapes and sizes.  Sometimes all it takes is a plunger and a little elbow grease to sort it out and get the drain to flow full force.  Other times it causes you to reach for a bottle of drain cleaner, I mean.   Or, as with more stubborn clogs, to call a plumber.  If that’s what’s bothering you, fear not, because I’m going to show you how to keep pain in the drain from ruining your morning and perhaps the rest of your day.

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To begin with, the worst time to take on a drain clog is to wait until it stops cold.  For the most part, pipes and drains will give you subtle hints that a stoppage is near by either slowing the flow of water to a crawl or by making those strange, animalistic sounds much like the ones your stomach makes after eating too many jalapeno peppers.  When this happens, don’t make the mistake of reflexively reaching for the bottle of drain cleaner.  While caustic solutions can sometimes clear a clog, they can also slowly eat away at the pipes themselves.  This can result in a much larger plumbing bill somewhere in the not- too-distant future when the pipe ruptures.

There’s also the very real possibility that you could accidentally splash drain cleaner on your skin or in your eyes, either of which could necessitate a trip to the ER.  If you absolutely want to try using a chemical solution to loosen up a clog, try the following recipe that’s guaranteed not to burn either you or your pipes:

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Pipe-Friendly Clog Buster

  • Mix ½ cup of baking soda with ½ cup of salt
  • Pour the mixture into the drain
  • Pour ½ cup vinegar down the drain
  • Let the mixture get absorbed by the pipe for 30-minutes
  • Run hot water for one minute followed by cold water for one minute
While this mixture wasn’t invented to break up a solid stoppage, it has been known to alleviate slow drainage.  (It’s also great for preventative maintenance.) Best of all, if you splash any of it on yourself, you won’t wind up doing the Texas Two Step all the way to the hospital.

Snakes in the Drain


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If you’ve ignored the subtle warning signs of an imminent clog and now your drain has stopped cold, you need to take remediation to the next level.  This means snaking the drain.  If you’re unfamiliar with these sinuous devices, you should know there are two types of snakes, both of which can be found at any hardware store: Manual and Power. 

Manual snakes are threaded by hand down the drain.  Most have a T-shaped handle at the end which allows you to turn the snake.  Power models can be hooked up to a drill.  Either way, these devices are used to latch onto and pull out the clog.  They’re not designed to push the clog down the drain.  If you do this, all you will accomplish is stopping the drain even further.  You’ll also put a smile on the plumber’s face when he comes to your home only to discover a deep-seated clog that will take all his skill and professional gear to remove. (Also beware of powered snakes, since these can also cause injury.)

Snakes commonly come in 10-foot lengths for a reason.  If the clog is located close to the drain, these devices are just what the drain doc ordered.  These can remove hairballs, grease wads and other nasty stuff stuck in the first few feet of pipe.  (Sometimes simply removing the P-trap and snaking this out is all it takes to unstop the drain.)  However, if the clog is deeper-seated, take my word for it: it’s time to call a plumber.

An Ounce of Prevention


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If you want to be proactive, there are some preventative measures you can use on a monthly basis to help keep your drains clear.  One such remedy involves filling the sink to the top with hot water, adding a couple drops of dish detergent, then pulling the plug to let the water run out.  You’ll know the process is working if the water starts to swirl down the drain while making a slurping noise as it races through the pipes. 

Slow drains can also be helped along by the enthusiastic application of a plunger and a little elbow grease.  (This is especially useful after the application of the homemade drain cleaner detailed in the recipe above.) Bear in mind that if you are forced to reach for the plumber’s helper, then your drain is rapidly approaching the point of no return.  Better to use a little preventive maintenance to try to keep your drains happy.  Because if it comes to a choice between keeping your drain or your local plumber happy, I’m sure that you will make the right choice. 

In this article, I shared information about effective, preventive and safe steps one can take to prevent clogs and plugs of sink drains.

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Alan Knight is the owner of Tub King, Inc., and SeniorBathtub.com  in Jacksonville, Florida. He has many years of experience in the antique and senior bathtub industries. HIs companies not only provide superior products, they are also award winners, receiving the “Best of Jacksonville Chamber Award” four years running. If you’d like to contact them, call (800) 409-3375 or (800) 843-4231; or send an email to alan@tubking.com.

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