Fixture Drain Is Clogged

Problem: Water drains slowly or not at all through plumbing fixture drains.

Background: Assuming that the plumbing for the fixture was correctly installed, most blockages occur close to the fixture’s trap—especially if the clog develops quickly and no other fixtures in the house are affected. If a volume of water can be run into the fixture before it backs up, or if other fixtures are affected, the blockage may be further along in the drain system. If the blockage is in the main house drain, it may first show up at bottom-level floor drains. For toilet blockages.

What to do: Drains can be un clogged using several methods, including using a force cup with handle (often called the plumber’s friend), by removing the trap to clean it, by using a flexible coil spring auger, or by using chemical drain cleaners. (Note: If the trap below the fixture is accessible, one option is to put a bucket under it, remove the clean-out plug and rid it of debris with a bent coat hanger. If the trap doesn’t have a clean-out plug, you’ll need to remove the en tire trap. Be cautious about collecting waste water, especially if any chemicals have been used.)
If you use a plunger, partly fill the sink or bowl with water and plug the overflow drain. On tubs you will need to remove the pop up, or trip-lever, drain-stopper mechanism to be able to plug the overflow opening. On double sinks you need to plug the second drain. Don’t use a plunger if chemicals have been used. Coat the lip of the plunger cup with petroleum jelly and forcibly work it up and down several times. After the pipe is cleared, pour boiling water through the drain to clear the waste line.
If plunging doesn’t work, try using an inexpensive drain-clearing tool available at most hardware stores and home centers. The tool consists of a coil spring cable with a corkscrew-type auger on the working end. An offset, tube like handle with a thumb setscrew slips over the cable. The cable’s auger end is pushed into the drain until the clogged area is reached, then the handle is slid toward the drain, the thumb screw is tightened, and the offset handle is cranked. As progress is made, the screw is loosened and more cable is fed into the drain. (Note: A special version of this drain-clearing tool is sold especially for toilets and is often called a closet auger.)

Special advice: The drain-clearing tool’s spiraled auger can be threaded through drains with cross bars. For pop-up drains, you can try to remove the drain plug by turning and lifting. If that doesn’t work, loosen the screw and nut on the lift rod under the sink and withdraw the lift rod. If the tool can’t be worked through the drain opening, it can be fed through the trap’s clean-out plug (if it has one).

Helpful hint: A plunger and a small cable auger should be sufficient for most home uses so if these don’t work, consider calling a professional. Try to avoid using liquid drain cleaners when possible be cause they can damage pipes and drain traps. For blocckages beyond the fixture.

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.