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How to Unclog a Drain

How to Unclog a Drain

Kitchen and bathroom drains do a great deal of work around your home, so if they’re clogged, you’ll notice right away. These clogs typically happen as a result of built-up debris in your pipes — everything from crumbs or hair to dirt or grease. We all know the warning signs. The sink takes a little longer to drain. You begin to notice water pooling around your feet in the shower. The strange, unpleasant odors. They’re all signs that you may soon be facing a clogged drain. If water drains slowly, you can try a chemical drain opener. However, if water does not drain at all, before you call the plumber you can try to dislodge the clog yourself.

It’s important to cover the overflow with a wet cloth before plunging. On bathroom sinks it’s the little hole at the back of the bowl. For kitchen sinks with dual basins, cover the second drain. Bathtubs also have the overflow hole – showers seldom do. Fill the basin with enough water to cover the head of the plunger. Put a thin layer of petroleum jelly on the edge of the plunger to give it a better seal. Plunge about 10 times and lift the plunger quickly releasing the seal. If the water in the sink does not drain smoothly, repeat.

If plunging did not free the clog, you’ll need to purchase a drain-and-tap auger from a home improvement or hardware store. To use it, remove the stopper or strainer from the drain and insert into the drain opening. As you feed the wire in, crank the handle to catch the clog. If you run into a blockage, move it back and forth turning the handle and slowly pull it out.

If the auger does not find the clog, place a bucket under the curved pipe under the sink and remove the clean-out plug (the square-tipped knob in the plumbing) with a wrench, catching the water from the trap (the U-shaped section of pipe) in the bucket. Use the auger or a wire coat hanger with a small hook at one end and feed toward the basin and through the pipe section in the wall to remove the clog. If you cannot remove the clean-out plug, you will need to remove the trap with a wrench, cleaning it with a stiff brush and hot soapy water. Once the trap is clear you can replace it.

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