Homeowner’s Guide: How to Unclog a Drain as Quickly as Possible

Homeowner’s Guide: How to Unclog a Drain as Quickly as Possible

If you need to unclog your drain, think twice before grabbing a generic drain cleaner off the shelf. Did you know that most of the drain cleaners sold in stores are made with some pretty nasty chemicals? In fact, the most effective drain cleaners are made with sulphuric acid, which can literally eat your skin. On top of that, it can corrode your pipes!

That’s not exactly ideal, right? Don’t worry. You have other options.

There are a few safe and effective ways to unclog a drain. The best way to unclog a drain, of course, is to bring in the professionals. But there are a few things you can try yourself before you make that call.

Read on to find out how to unclog a drain. You may just find that you’re a better handyman than you thought!

How to Unclog a Drain: Smaller Clogs

If you’re pretty sure that the clog is somewhere near the surface, try some of these methods to see if you can break up the gunk. If you find that your sink still isn’t draining, you may have to go a little deeper.

The Wire Hanger Trick

Got any old wire hangers lying around? Get one out and unravel it, making it as straight as possible. Now, turn the end of it into a small hook and go fishing!

If you can unscrew the drain cover, that will give you some extra wiggle room. If not, do your best to slip the wire past the cover at an angle. It should be pliable enough that it will bend with the drain even if you can’t push it straight down.

Try to go for a scooping motion. You don’t want to push all that gunk further into the drain, as this will make it harder to get at. Hopefully, when you pull the wire out of the drain, it will bring whatever culprit that’s clogging your drain with it.

Boiling Water

This method works well when paired with the wire hanger trick. You’ve dealt with the furry beast, and now you just want to wash away the residual goo.

Boil some water on the stove and (carefully) pour it down the drain in two or three stages. You can always try running hot water straight from the tap, but it won’t get as hot, and in the time it takes to heat up, the drain may be backed up with cold water!

Break Out the Plunger

Who knew that plungers worked on more than just toilets? (We did.)

The only difference between plunging a toilet and plunging a sink is that sinks have extra air holes that need to be plugged up for the plunger to do its job. If you’re looking at a clogged bathroom sink, you’ll need to cover the small overflow hole with your hand. If you’re unclogging a kitchen sink with two basins, place a wet dish towel over the drain that you aren’t plunging.

To plunge a clogged sink, you’ll also need to fill the drainpipe with water. Run the tap until the water level reaches or sits slightly above the drain, then seal the plunger cup tightly over it. (You’re in the splash zone, so you may want goggles.)

Pump the handle a few times without breaking the seal between the cup and the basin of the sink. You may have to do this a few times, refilling the drainpipe with water each time, until the clog breaks up.

How to Unclog a Drain: Monster Clogs

If these last few methods didn’t do the trick, you might need to go into the depths of the drain. In this next section, we’ll talk about how to unclog a drainpipe.

Clean Out the Trap

All you’ll need for this step is a bucket, some paper towels, and, most likely, a wrench. Everything else you need is already tucked away in the cabinet beneath the sink.

Clear out the cabinet so there’s plenty of space around your sink’s drain pipe. Go ahead and slap those paper towels and bucket down beneath the U- or P-shaped pipe and get to work!

The P-shaped pipe, known as a P-trap, needs to be disconnected, and this is where the wrench may come in handy. Sometimes the connectors are only hand-tight, but most of the time, you’re going to need more than elbow grease to get them loose. Use your wrench as needed.

Some drain systems only have one connector, but chances are you have one on either side of the P-trap. Remember, lefty loosey!

Be wary that when you first remove the P-trap from the vertical pipe leading from the sink, there may be a bit of backsplash (hence the bowl and paper towels). It might be a good idea to wear some gloves!

With the P-trap removed, you can get directly into it to pull out all the gunk you couldn’t reach from the surface. Your wire hanger might come in handy here! Try to clear out the entire P-trap, even the hard-to-reach bend.

Once it’s cleaned up, go ahead and re-attach it to the drain system. Make sure it’s fully secured before running the sink’s water again.

Snake It Out

If you’re thinking about buying or renting a plumber’s snake, also known as a hand auger, you may want to pick up the phone and call a real plumber. Not only does it sound like you have a pretty serious clog, but plumber’s snakes can do a bit of damage when misused.

If you’re still curious, we’ll tell you how it’s done. First, pull a few feet of the snake’s cable out of the drum. Then, remove the P-trap again and feed a foot of the snake’s cable into the drainpipe attached to the wall.

Next, you’ll need to tighten the retaining thumbscrew to lock the cable into place. Once that’s done, turn the crank so that more of the cable is fed slowly into the drainpipe. Keep feeding until you feel resistance.

That resistance is the clog. Turn the crank more and more until the resistance dissipates, indicating that you’ve broken through the clog. Reel the cable back out of the pipe, clean it off, and replace the P-trap.

Keep in mind, if you go this route, that the average cost to replace or repair a drain line is over $600. Hiring a plumber to unclog your sink won’t cost nearly as much!

So What’ll It Be?

Think you know how to unclog a drain yourself? Great! Let the fishing and plunging begin!

Not so sure you’re the best person for the job? That’s okay too! If you need a plumber in the metro-Atlanta, Georgia area, contact us today! We’re happy to take care of that nasty clog for you!

Comments (10)

  1. Niall Jenkins
    Dec 03, 2019 at 10:15 am

    I found it helpful that you reassured the reader that if they believed that they are unfit for the job, then it is okay to contact a professional plumber. My spouse and I find ourselves interested in getting some of our drains unclogged. We’ll be certain to get into contact with a reliable professional service provider to aid us.

    • admin
      Jan 07, 2020 at 7:58 am

      Thank you for your comment, Niall! We hope you were able to find a good plumber in your area.

  2. Lyla Peterson
    Jan 08, 2020 at 2:06 pm

    It’s good to know that you need to cover any exposed air holes while plunging a drain. My master bathroom sink has been draining very slowly for the past week. I will try plunging it and reach out to a professional if the issue persists.

    • admin
      Jan 14, 2020 at 3:42 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Lyla! We’re glad this article was helpful.

  3. Penelope Smith
    Jan 16, 2020 at 12:28 am

    This is some really good information about drain cleaning. My guest bathroom drains have been moving very slowly. It does seem like a good thing to try using a hanger to remove a clog.

    • admin
      Feb 07, 2020 at 1:37 pm

      We’re glad you found the article helpful! Thanks for your comment, Penelope.

  4. Taylor Wright
    Feb 19, 2020 at 3:54 pm

    It’s interesting that boiling water could unclog a drain. My kitchen sink’s drain seems to be clogged since it takes a while to drain. I’ll have to call a professional to unclog it since I’m getting sick and tired of it.

    • admin
      Mar 23, 2020 at 1:24 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Taylor! Yes, definitely call a pro if none of these tips help unclog your drain. Good luck!

  5. Jay J
    Feb 23, 2020 at 5:54 am

    Great overall article on unclogging at home. We are a new plumbing company and came across this article and it’s the first time I’ve seen mention of the hot water trick! My family would use this trick to unclog drains growing up as it worked most of the time. And then it was time to graduate to the snake auger. Good home education is very important. Keep up the good work!

    • admin
      Mar 23, 2020 at 1:26 pm

      Thank you, Jay! We are glad you enjoyed the article. We wish you success with your new plumbing company!

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