Clogged drains are a normal part of life that we all have to deal with occasionally. Using sink strainers and otherwise trying to prevent solids, fats, oil, and grease from going down the drain will help to prevent clogs, but even this isn’t always enough.
If you’re like most people, you may automatically reach for a chemical drain cleaner whenever your sink or any other drain is clogged. However, this is generally always a bad idea for reasons that we’ll look at in a second. The good news is that there are other options for clearing a clogged drain safely and without risking damage to your plumbing.
Why You Should Avoid Using Harsh Drain Cleaners
While chemical drain cleaning products are fairly effective at eliminating some minor clogs, they are also incredibly harsh and can easily damage your plumbing. Most professional plumbers you ask will always tell you not to use drain cleaner; otherwise, you could face a steep repair bill.
Drain cleaners work by using strong chemicals that will dissolve organic material like food particles, hair, etc. This is great for clearing a clogged drain or pipe. However, the issue is that the chemicals are harsh enough that they can also start to weaken or eat through your pipes.
Some of these products, like crystal drain openers, are even worse as they work by producing a strong chemical reaction that releases a tremendous amount of heat. This makes them more effective at clearing some clogs since the heat will help to melt fat and grease. The problem is that these products produce more heat than your pipes are designed to handle. This is especially the case for homes with modern PVC plumbing, as crystal drain openers can easily cause your pipes to warp, bulge, or crack. That being said, even metal pipes can also suffer the same issues due to excess heat.
An even more serious problem can occur if you use this type of product in an older plumbing system that has aluminum pipes. In this situation, the drain cleaner can react with the metal and release a cloud of toxic lye gas that can significantly damage your health.
How to Clear a Clogged Sink With Standing Water
If your drain is completely clogged, the water will have nowhere to go and thus start backing up as soon as you use your sink. When this happens, you really only have two options for clearing the clog. The first option is to use a sink plunger to see if you can force the clog out of the pipe. A normal toilet plunger typically won’t work as it will be too large for the diameter of the drain, so you won’t get the proper suction you need. You also obviously don’t want to use a toilet plunger in your kitchen or bathroom sink for hygiene reasons.
The other option is to remove the P-trap underneath the sink to clear it out. The P-trap should be attached with a fitting on each end that you can unscrew by hand. While this is fairly easy to do, we would still recommend hiring a plumber, as you could easily damage your drain system and cause it to leak. If you decide to try on your own, you will need to put a bucket underneath the trap, as all the water will come rushing out as soon as you start to loosen the trap. The water and debris inside a P-trap are usually quite nasty, which is another reason you may not want to do this on your own.
Most of the time that a kitchen sink is clogged, it is because food particles, fat, and grease have collected inside the bend at the bottom of the P-trap. This is a good thing as this bend is designed to catch any solids that go down the drain to prevent them from clogging somewhere further down the pipe or in your main sewer line. If the clog is further down in one of the drain lines or your main sewer line, you will definitely need to have a plumber clear the pipe for you.
How to Clear a Partially Clogged Drain
In most cases, you will notice fairly obvious signs that your drain is starting to clog before it becomes completely blocked. If one of your drains is suddenly much slower or makes a gurgling sound as it drains, you will want to immediately take steps to ensure that the drain doesn’t become fully clogged.
One of the most effective options for clearing a partially clogged sink or shower drain is to use vinegar and baking soda. You will want to pour around a cup or two of each down the drain and then let it sit for 20 to 30 minutes. Once the mixture has set, you should flush the drain with hot water for a minute or so to help flush any solids down the pipe.
The chemical reaction when you mix vinegar and baking soda is much less harsh than when using drain cleaner. However, it is still quite effective at breaking up and dissolving grease, food, hair, and other solids. This same method can also be used as preventative maintenance to help prevent clogs from occurring in the first place. As long as you do this every few weeks, the vinegar and baking soda should help remove any solids from the drain to reduce the risk of clogging.
How to Know When You Need to Call a Plumber
If you can’t clear your clogged drain with a plunger or other more basic options, your best option is to hire a plumber. In most cases, the plumber will use a pipe snake that can extend down the length of the pipe to break up and remove the clog. While pipe snakes are readily available at any hardware store, we would never recommend using one on your own. This is because the force created when extending the auger down the pipe can easily crack or break the pipe if you’re not extremely careful. Should this happen, you will likely need to deal with major water damage and potentially extensive construction to locate and repair the pipe.
If all of the drains in your home are slower than usual or make gurgling noises, you can be fairly certain that you have a partial clog in your main sewer line. This is a much more serious issue and something you will want to have looked at immediately. If the pipe becomes completely clogged, it could soon lead to sewage backing up in your drains. A major clog also has the potential to cause your sewer line to rupture and flood your yard with sewage. This will be even more costly and time-consuming to repair.
If you’re dealing with a stubborn clog that you can’t overcome on your own, you can count on the team at Bardi Heating, Cooling & Plumbing for help. We specialize in drain cleaning as well as offer a full range of other plumbing services. We can also take care of your heating and cooling needs. Give us a call today to schedule a drain cleaning service or any other plumbing or HVAC service in Norcross or the Atlanta, GA area.