Plumber’s Tip: 8 Steps to Unclog a Drain

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If the water is draining unusually slowly from a sink, shower or tub in your home, don’t ignore it.  Addressing the issue right away can prevent bigger plumbing problems – and avoid the nasty mess of a completely clogged drain and potential water damage.

First, determine if the problem is isolated to one drain or is more widespread.  If other sinks or tubs are draining slowly as well, there may be a problem with your main sewer drainage line and you should call a plumber right away.  If the problem is only in one location, it is likely just buildup in that specific pipe and you can often remedy the situation with a few simple steps.

  1. Remove the drain stopper to see if you can determine what is blocking the drain.
  2. If the clog is visible, use your hand, pliers, or a wire coat hanger to remove the blockage.
  3. If you cannot reach the clog, run hot water down the drain for a few minutes.  This can dissolve the debris that is blocking the pipe.  If hot water does not do the trick, try pouring boiling water down the sink – but only if you are certain that your pipes are metal and not plastic PVC which can be damaged by boiling water.
  4. If the sink or tub is still not draining well, you will need to use a plunger to clear the clog.  A standard cup style plunger are dark red in color and have a flat, somewhat wide rim and come in various sizes.  These small ones are best for sinks and the large plungers work best in showers and bath tubs. Ball and flange plungers are specifically for use in toilets and will not be as effective in a sink, shower or tub.
  5. Seal the overflow outlet by covering it with a washcloth or piece of waterproof tape.
  6. Fill the tub or sink with water – just enough to cover the top of the plunger.
  7. Center the plunger over the drain and pump it several times to create a vacuum.  The suction will often loosen the clog and allow it to flow freely down the drain.  Some clogs, especially hair, will be sucked out of the drain.
  8. If a plunger does not clear the clog, try using a plumbers snake (available at most hardware stores) to work through the clog and either dislodge it or pull it out.

Still no luck?  Call a professional to take care of the problem for you.  In addition to fixing the clogged drain, they can determine if anything more serious is going on that will give you bigger problems later.


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