If you’ve ever had a clogged drain in your home, you know they can be inconvenient, expensive, time-consuming—and sometimes smelly. Clogs are common plumbing problems, especially in the warm summer months when many of us tend to take more showers. Although hair going down the drain is a common culprit, clogs can be caused several different things. Fortunately, by understanding what causes clogged drains and learning some simple steps to fix them, you can easily avoid the headache and keep your plumbing system in excellent shape.
Limit What You Put Down the Drain
One of the easiest ways to keep your drains clear is to limit what you put down them. Leftover food and coffee grounds should be composted or thrown in the trash, not the garbage disposal. Liquid grease, like bacon fat, should never go down the drain. Instead, pour used grease into a sealable container and take it to a recycling center, or throw it away.
As mentioned above, hair is a common clog culprit, especially for bathroom drains. Brushing your hair before showering or bathing will help remove any loose hair that could cause a clog. For even better clog protection, use mesh screens to cover bath or shower drains or a perforated shower drain hair catcher. Likewise, you could replace your shower or tub stopper with one that comes with a built-in screen. If you need to bathe your dog in the bathtub, place a washcloth over the drain, even if you have a shower drain hair catcher.
When it comes to toilets, there are only three things you should flush: solid waste, liquid waste, and toilet paper. Things like dental floss, cotton swabs, feminine hygiene products, or even so-called “flushable” wipes should always go into the trash.
7 Ways to Handle Clogs
Even by following these tips, you may still end up with a clog. Here are a few steps you can try before you make a service call:
- Check the drain stopper. If you see hair, a buildup of soap scum, or other types of debris, remove the stopper. Give it good cleaning and then reassemble it.
- Use a plunger. Make sure the drain is completely covered by the plunger bell, so it creates a seal. Push in, then pull out; this will help force the water up and down in the pipes. If you’re dealing with a sink clog, run at least 2 inches of water down the drain before trying the plunger.
- Use a plumbing snake. If your drain is still clogged, the next step is to try a plumbing snake (also known as an auger); these have a corkscrew-like tip that allows you to pull blockages out. Push the snake down the drain, and twist as you feel it move around the corners.
- Use a wire coat hanger. If you have a shower clog, a wire coat hanger can help you remove the blockage. Bend the tip of the coat hanger to create a hook, then use a plunger to bring the clog closer to the surface so you can pull it out. If plunging doesn’t help, try the snake.
- Use baking soda and vinegar. Pour one cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by one cup of vinegar. Let the solution sit for a few minutes (it should start bubbling) and then pour a kettle of hot (not boiling) water down the drain. Let the mixture sit for a couple of 0hours; if the clog hasn’t cleared, repeat the process.
- Remove the P-trap. The P-trap is the U-shaped drain pipe under your kitchen and bathroom sinks; it’s not easily accessible, so this step should be done as a last resort. Place a bucket under the trap to collect the water, then unfasten the P-trap with a wrench or pair of pliers. Once the P-trap is off, use a straightened wire clothes hanger or a bottle brush to clear out all the debris inside.
- Remove the overflow plate and stopper. For bathtub clogs, remove the overflow plate and stopper from the tub drain. Cover the overflow plate with a damp sponge and plastic to seal it, then plunge the drain. If this doesn’t work, insert the snake through the overflow plate and work it down past the P-trap.
If you’ve tried the above measures and still have a clog, it’s time to call in the pros!
How to Keep Your Drains Clean and Well-Maintained
A lot of things go down your drains daily, including grease and food particles from washing dishes, hair, soap, and waste. If you don’t clean your drains regularly, the buildup from these things can wreak havoc on your home’s plumbing system! Regular cleaning can increase the lifespan of your drains, improve drainage, reduce clogs and service calls, and even help get rid of unpleasant odors. Here are a few tips for keeping your drains clean and preventing troublesome clogs:
- Clean sink drains. Pull out all drain stoppers and remove any debris you see; if you have stubborn debris, use a bent wire to remove it. Rinse the stoppers before reinserting them.
- Flush your bathroom drains. Fill your bathtub with hot water, and then let it drain. If you have a shower stall, run some hot water down the drain at the end of each shower.
- Deep clean the tub. Remove the overflow plate and raise the pop-up assembly to access the spring or rocker arm. Remove any hair or debris, then rinse the pop-up assembly and replace it.
- Use a bacterial drain cleaner. Bacterial or enzyme drain cleaners contain biodegradable and non-corrosive ingredients, so you won’t need to worry about damaging your plumbing. They use bacteria and enzymes to break down complex organic molecules into smaller molecules that can be eaten by the bacteria, so they can help break down any debris that was overlooked or hard to remove.
Still Have Plumbing Issues? Contact Your Home Service Heroes at PECO!
Plumbing is arguably one of the most important systems in your home; when it’s not working, it can be a real hassle! However, by being mindful of what you put down the drain and keeping up with some basic maintenance, it’s easy to prevent common issues. If you have a plumbing issue that can’t be resolved with these DIY tips, PECO is always here to help. With an experienced team of plumbing experts and a 24/7 answering service, we’re ready to assist you whenever plumbing issues strike. From maintenance and repairs to installations, you can rely on the home service heroes at PECO. Call us today at (864) 639-2424 or schedule an appointment online.