Clearing a clogged drain can be a major hassle and one of the most common plumbing problems homeowners face. If there’s a total blockage of the drain, then the sink, toilet, shower, or tub will be filled with water and the blockage will have to be removed through that. The chances of the homeowner being able to clear it themselves using household remedies diminishes.  Also, the more stubborn the blockage, the more likely that your plumbing expense is going to be bigger. The best bet is to avoid a clogged drain altogether!

Common causes of clogged drains.

The most common reason for clogged drains is neglect.  In the kitchen, drain problems often come from failing to use the drain strainer to prevent food from falling into the pipes, or from grease that accumulates in the drainpipes.  In the bathroom, using excessive toilet paper, flushing inappropriate paper items (like paper towels) or flushing tampons down the toilet, often results in a stoppage. In the bathroom sink and bathtubs, hair, hair gel, toothpaste, dental floss and other items can all cause drain problems.

Prevention is key.

  • First, try not to let hair, dental floss, soap scum, oils, grease, food particles, paper, plastic or any foreign materials to enter your drain.
  • Don’t comb or brush hair in the shower or bath.
  • Avoid styling hair over the sink to prevent hair clogged drains.
  • Do not pour any grease down any drain. Pour leftover grease into cans and throw them into the garbage.
  • When using a garbage disposal, run plenty of cold water to flush food particles that stick to the sides of the pipe.
  • Don’t empty coffee grounds into the sink.
  • Never dump any types of chemicals, such as paint or paint thinner down the drain.
  • Use strainers in all bathroom drains to intercept hair before it enters the drain.
  • Clean sink stoppers regularly.
  • Make it a practice to pour a pot of boiling water down each drain once a month.
  • Periodically empty one half cup of baking soda down each drain, followed by one half cup of white vinegar. Cover the drain and let it stand for a few minutes; then pour a pot of boiling water down the drain. The baking soda and vinegar mixture dissolves fatty acids, which may be starting to collect.
  • By using baking soda and vinegar it will also give your drain a fresh and clean smell.
  • Do NOT put boiling water in your toilet or bidet. This fixture will crack and/or break.
  • Do not flush excessive toilet paper, inappropriate paper items (like paper towels) or tampons down the toilet.
  • Keep sewer pipes free of tree roots. If you have roots in your drain line it is best to hire a professional.

Whatever the cause, once a drain is thoroughly blocked, calling a plumber is the best solution. At this point, the expense of clearing your drain will depend on the cause.  A simple hairball or grease clog can often be cleared by using a local drain snake or rooter as long as the blockage isn’t too far from a drain outlet. On the other hand if the blockage is deep in the main stack, or between the house and the city sewer line, power rooting or other measures may be needed.