Drain Pipes Are Clogged

Problem: Drain pipes are clogged or drain slowly and clog appears to be beyond fixture.

Background: Blockages further along fixture waste pipes are less common, and require the use of tools, such as a cable auger (sometimes called a plumber’s snake), a hydraulic opener, or a flat steel sewer tape. The blockage may be in the waste pipe running from a single fixture, in a branch drain fed by more than one fixture, or in the main house drain. Unless you have the equipment and time, consider calling a professional to unclog these blockages.

What to do: Flexible cable plumber’s snakes can be fed into the waste pipe leading from a fixture, through a vent stack or clean-out plug. Flat sewer snakes are useful when the blockage is too solid to be dislodged by a plumber’s snake. Feed a garden hose into the pipe and packing rags in the area where it feeds into a drain, can sometimes work. Using hydraulic drain openers (sometimes called expansion nozzles or blast bags) is another way to clear such drain lines for kitchen sinks, bath tubs, showers, washing machines, and main drains. They connect to a garden hose and expand inside the drain to form a seal, then pulsate water under pressure to loosen and clear blockages. These units are not intended for toilets, or to be used where chemical drain cleaners are present.

Special advice: Hydraulic openers are sold in various sizes for different pipe sizes. To use in a bathtub, re move the overflow plate and insert at least 10 inches into the overflow pipe. For showers, remove the drain plate and insert the device at least 8 inches into the drain. For kitchen sinks, you must remove the trap from under the sink and insert the opener at least 24 inches into the drain. For washing machine waste lines, the device must be inserted a minimum of 18 inches into the drain. To clean out main drains, insert the unit at least 4 feet into the drain, or further if inserted into the clean-out or roof vent closest to the clogged area. To deflate the unit (so it can be removed from the pipe), turn off the water to the garden hose and loosen the hose coupling at the faucet.
If you have large trees in your yard, the blockage may be caused by tree roots in the sewer line. Root- killing solutions containing copper sulfate can be poured into the drain system, through the main clean-out plug, to remedy the problem. How ever, the most prudent option may be to hire a professional who uses a root-cutting tool to clear the block age. Unfortunately, there is no way to be sure that tree roots are blocking sewer lines before choosing to do either one of these expensive procedures.

Helpful hint: Blockages commonly occur in waste lines from clothes washers because discharged lint causes build-ups. To prevent inevitable problems, always use a lint trap (either a commercially made device or an old nylon stocking) on the washer discharge pipe.