You’ve had a long, stressful day. All you could think about for the past few hours is slipping into your bathtub to let all that tension flow away.
That’s your only thought as you come in the door. You’re barely paying attention as you turn on the hot water, grab a towel and step into the bath. That’s when you realize you have a problem.
There are three inches of freezing cold water in the bath. What happened?
The faucet water is steaming hot, so that must mean there is an issue with the drain.
You’d thought it was draining more slowly lately, but you never imagined it would completely stop. Well, you’re not about to sit in day-old dirty water, so your bath is going to have to wait.
Hopefully, unclogging the drain wouldn’t take too long, you think to yourself.
Whether it belongs to a sink, shower, tub or toilet, clogged drains are among the most common—and annoying—problems for Austin homeowners.
Although clogged drains might begin as minor annoyances, these plumbing hiccups can rapidly turn into major complications. A clogged drain can lead to flooding, corrosion and sewage backup. Fixing a clogged drain as soon as possible can help prevent the need for expensive repairs down the road.
Luckily, your average drain can be unclogged with a bit of resourcefulness and the right tools. Learn how to clear up a clogged sink, tub or toilet with the help of this guide from the Austin plumbing experts at ABC Home & Commercial Services.
What Causes Clogged Drains?
As with any household maintenance issue, the best way to combat clogged drains is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Common culprits behind clogged drains may vary from drain type to drain type, but most fall into the following categories:
Particularly with sinks, tubs and showers, hair tends to build up and prevent water flow in drains. You can help prevent hair clogs by installing hair guards or catchers above your bathroom drains.
Grease and fats that are washed down kitchen sinks tend to collect in drains, sticking to the inside of pipes. Enough grease stuck to the pipes will obstruct the flow of water. You can avoid these types of clogs by disposing of cooking grease and fats in a separate container, then tossing them in the trash once these substances harden.
Even with a garbage disposal, certain types of food waste can accumulate in the drain of your kitchen sink. For example, coffee grounds and tea leaves are very difficult to break down and can cause your garbage disposal to malfunction. To avoid food remnant clogs, take care to scrape food waste off your plates into the trash before washing them in the sink.
Over time, dirt and debris can build up in your drains and cause a blockage. Prevent dirt clogs by rinsing off any mud that is caked to your clothes or body outside whenever possible.
Soap And Bath Products
Certain types of bath products, including grease- or fat-based soaps, as well as some bath salts, may not completely dissolve in water. Soap scum and non-water-soluble products can also build up in your drains and clog up your sink, bath and shower drains. To avoid this problem, double-check product labels to make sure the soaps and hygiene items you use are water soluble.
Clogs can be caused when “hard water,” or water with a high mineral content (like much of the water here in Austin), carries dissolved minerals that accumulate into large masses of sediment in your pipes. You can help prevent mineral clogs by installing a water softener. This type of clog can be especially tricky, and may require the help of a professional plumber to fix.
Paper products, including toilet paper and paper towels, can clog drains and keep toilets from flushing properly. Paper clogs that cannot be removed with the use of a plunger may need to be handled by a professional plumber.
As every parent knows, all kinds of strange objects, such as toys and trash, can make their way down a drain. When foreign matter finds its way into your plumbing system, you may need to hire a professional plumber to remove it safely.
How To Unclog a Sink, Shower Or Tub Drain
So, what can you do to unclog a sink, shower, or tub drain on your own?
With a few exceptions, many unclogging strategies can be applied to all three of these types of drains. When your sink, shower or tub drain is clogged, try to take care of the problem by following these steps:
Dump Boiling Water Down The Drain
For minor clogs, boiling water may be enough to remove grease, food and hair buildup. Try carefully pouring a gallon of boiling water down your drain to break down whatever substances have accumulated there.
Add Baking Soda And Vinegar
In addition to boiling water, you can pour baking soda and vinegar in your sink, toilet or tub to help unclog a drain. Start by pouring a gallon of boiling water down your drain, then dumping in a half cup of baking soda. Wait a few moments, then pour in a mix of one cup hot water and one cup vinegar. Seal your drain with a plug and let it sit for around seven minutes. Finish by pouring another gallon of boiling water down the drain. The baking soda and vinegar will loosen up the sediment in your drain, and then the boiling water will rinse it all away.
Try A Drain Cleaning Tool
For sinks that are clogged with hair, try using a handy tool such as the Zip-It. The Zip-It is a long plastic tool with small jagged edges that goes down your drain and catches the hair as you pull it back up.
Break Out The Sink Plunger
You can use a plunger to unclog your sink. Begin by removing the drain stopper, then placing a wet rag over the overflow hole to block off the air flow and allow better suction. Fill the sink with enough water to cover at least half of the plunger’s rubber cup. Push the plunger up and down several times with force, but not so much that you break the suction. After repeating the motion a few times, pull up to release the suction. If this is successful, the water will drain. Otherwise, repeat the plunging and release steps until you get some movement.
Check The Drain Trap
For sink clogs, you may also want remove, check and clean the drain trap. The drain trap is the J-shaped piece of pipe beneath your sink. To disassemble this component, start by placing a bucket underneath your sink to catch any water that might escape. Then, unscrew the slip joint nuts on both sides of the trap. After removing the trap, you can use a bottle brush or other cleaning tool to clear out any gunk stuck in the tap. Before reassembling the trap, give it a rinse in another sink to eliminate any lingering scum. Put the sink back together following the same steps you used to disassemble it, but in reverse.
Use An Auger
You can remove tough clogs from sinks, bathtubs and shower drains with the use of a tool called an auger or “plumber’s snake.” This device is a long, thin metal cable wound around a spool with a hand crank. To use an auger, stick the tool down the drain until you hit the obstruction. Then, turn the hand crank to break up the debris. Remove the auger occasionally to remove any sediment that gets stuck to the head.
No luck? If you’ve tried all of these methods and your drain is still clogged, it’s time to call in a professional plumber. An experienced plumber will have the tools and expertise to quickly unclog your drain without causing any damage to your plumbing system that could result in costly long-term repairs.
How To Unclog A Toilet
The process of unclogging a toilet can be a little different than unclogging other types of drains, though many of the same principles apply. Here are the steps you can take to remove these obstructions:
Use A Plunger
The most common method of unplugging a toilet is to use a plunger. To plunge properly, warm up your plunger by running it under hot water to soften the rubber. Then, place the plunger over the toilet hole to make a seal, then push the handle down and then up again several times forcefully (but not too vigorously) before breaking the suction. You’ll know you’ve unclogged the toilet when the water clears from the bowl.
Add Hot Water And Detergent
For more stubborn clogs, try adding some hot water and dishwasher detergent into the toilet before plunging. Doing so can help break up the blockage, allowing you to plunge more easily.
Use An Auger
When a plunger won’t do the job, an auger might be your best bet for unclogging your toilet. Feed the snake tool into the toilet hole until it hits the clog. Crank the handle in order to loosen the clog up before removing. The auger may also hook onto the clog, in which case you’ll need to pull it out and discard the waste. Finish by plunging the toilet a few more times and flush to clear any leftover residue.
If you’ve tried these methods without success, it’s time to call in a licensed plumber. In addition, you should always call a professional immediately if you notice that water in your sinks or showers are backing up when you flush your toilet, as this can indicate a bigger problem.
Remember, while they may seem like a straightforward problem, clogged drains can rapidly turn into a nightmare. Although you may be able to fix minor clogs on your own, you can easily cause irreversible damage when you mishandle more severe clogs.
ABC Is The Answer To Austin Plumbing Problems
Not sure whether your situation demands a professional? When it comes to matters as important as your home’s plumbing system, it’s better to play it safe than sorry if you have any doubts about the severity of your concern. For prompt, professional assistance unclogging drains or with any other plumbing issues, contact ABC Home & Commercial to schedule a service. Our licensed plumbers have the knowledge, resources and years of experience to resolve these issues and unclog your drains safely, whether you have a severe blockage or need a more simple routine drain cleaning.