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Home Maintenance

Common Reasons for Clogged Drains and How to Fix Them

Common Reasons for Clogged Drains and How to Fix Them

Oh no, the drain is clogged! That tell-tale sink full of slowly swirling water is your first clue, but it actually takes months for the clog to start forming. It can happen in any drain in your house, from your kitchen sink to your bathtub, toilet and even your basement or garage floor drain.

The key to avoiding the expense of hiring a plumber to unclog your drains is to clean your drains regularly. If you want free-flowing drains, Knowles Building Centre has some easy DIY solutions and clog-prevention tips to help you.

What Causes Clogged Drains?

The usual suspects of a clogged drain in the bathroom are hair and soap scum. In the kitchen, it’s most often bits of food and grease. Other causes of clogged drains are dirt, oil, fat, diapers and cotton swabs. Wipes, too much toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, kitty litter and items accidentally dropped in the toilet are common causes of clogged and overflowing toilets. Tree leaves and roots, plants, mineral buildups and offset pipes can also lead to clogged drains.

How to Prevent Clogs From Starting

Tip #1 - Use a straining basket

Put it in your sinks to catch food and hair before it goes down the drain.

Tip #2 - Avoid pouring grease

Never pour grease down your drain as it solidifies and results in clogged pipes and sewer lines.

Tip #3 - Brush before having a shower

If you have long hair, brush it before showering to reduce the amount of hair that can end up in your drain.

Tip #4 - Pay attention to what’s on the floor

Keep basement, garage and laundry room floors clean to prevent lint and other debris from getting into the drain.

Tip #5 - Maintain a monthly routine

It’s best not to use corrosive drain cleaner on your clogged drains as it can damage porcelain finishes, corrode pipes, harm aquatic life and release harmful toxins into the water supply.

Instead, use this eco-friendly recipe as part of your regular clog-prevention routine:

  1. Remove hair and other material from the drain.
  2. Sprinkle a half-cup of baking soda down the drain.
  3. Pour 1 cup of vinegar down the drain and let it bubble for about 10 minutes.
  4. Pour 4 cups of boiling water down the drain. However, if your pipes are PVC, use hot water, not boiling water, to prevent damaging the pipes.


How to Unclog Sinks and Drains

Start with a plunger

  1. Plungers are a lifesaver, so keep one in your bathroom and one in your kitchen, ready for emergencies.
  2. Remove the drain plug and put a rag into the overflow hole found at the top front of your sink.
  3. If your sink is full of water, empty out most of the water with a container, leaving one inch of water.
  4. Push the plunger onto the surface around the drain to force the water down the pipe.
  5. The suction effect will also force anything in the drain up into the sink.

Proceed with plumber’s snake

If, after plunging, the water in your sink is still taking too long to go down, you can use a plumber’s snake. It’s a long, flexible wire with bristles on the end. Push the plumber’s snake down into the drain, twisting gently to remove the clog. Then gently pull it out and remove any debris caught on the bristles. Rinse with water to clear the drain.

If this does not work, there may be something stuck in the P-trap, which is the u-shaped bend in the pipe under the sink.

  1. Remove the P-trap with a wrench or screwdriver to access the bend in the pipe.
  2. Place a small bowl underneath the P-trap to catch leaks.
  3. Check the opening of the P-trap for debris. If it is clear, insert the plumbing snake into the opening and further down the pipe until you reach the clog.
  4. Fasten the P-trap back in position, and rinse the drain with water.

Consider a drum auger

When you aren’t able to resolve your clogged drains with a plunger or plumber’s snake, and the obstruction is too far down the pipe, you may need a drum auger.

You can use a manual model or attach a drill to this 25-foot-long steel cable to break up clogs. It’s recommended to work slowly to let the water gradually leak out and bring the debris with it.

Drum augers are not recommended for unclogging toilets as they may scratch the porcelain.

Things to Remember When Unclogging

Double sinks

If you have double sinks in your kitchen or bathroom, check that the snake can go downward and not simply across to the other sink’s drain. This can happen if your sinks have a T fitting rather than a Y fitting. If the clog persists, you may need to replace the T fitting with a Y fitting for better access.

Bathtub drain

To get maximum results from using a plunger for a clogged bathtub drain, follow the same procedure as for a sink. Remove the cover for the overflow hole, and cover it with a rag for maximum pressure. You can use the plumber’s snake – if plunging is not successful – by inserting the snake into the overflow hole straight down the drain pipe.

Shower drain

Do you have standing water in your shower? The most likely reason is the usual mix of hair and soap scum, which you can easily pull off the drain cover. Flush the drain with cold water and if it is still sluggish, the blockage could be further down the pipe.

If the drain pipe is metal, you can pour boiling water down the drain. Use a plumber’s snake to pull out anything else clogging the drain. Remove the debris and flush the drain with cold water.

Clogged toilet

If you’ve ever had that helpless feeling when your toilet suddenly overflows, you’ll appreciate the value of keeping a plunger beside your toilet.

  1. Place the plunger into the bowl, completely covering the hole to create suction.
  2. Push the plunger down firmly then pull it back to draw the clog upwards to dislodge the blockage.
  3. At this point, the water in the bowl should start to recede.

Another useful tool for a clogged toilet is a closet auger, a rust-resistant spring wire tool. Insert the closet auger deeply into the toilet channel. It should be able to reach the source of the clog and pull it out or break it up.

Large drain pipe

If after all your best efforts, your drain is still clogged, there may be a blockage further down the line. All pipes have a clean-out fitting where there is a change of direction. You can easily remove the cap with pliers to inspect and remove the blockage.

Floor drains

Floor drains in the laundry room, basement and garage can also become blocked from a buildup of soap scum, hair and lint from waste water from your appliances such as water heater, washing machine and central air conditioner.

Use a plumber’s snake or drum auger to reach the obstruction.

We hope these tips help your drains be forever clog-free, but if you need any further advice on choosing the right tools and products to clean your drains and pipes, our team at Knowles Building Centre will be happy to help.

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