How can I Fix a Clogged Drain?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
A lye-based drain cleaner.
A lye-based drain cleaner.

One of the most annoying things ever is dealing with a clogged drain. You want the water to go down quickly, but it just won't. Before you start to envision those huge professional plumber bills, realize there are steps you can take to fix a clogged drain yourself. Save calling a plumber as your last resort.

Your first step should be clearing the drain of debris. If your drain has a strainer, you'll want to remove it. With some sinks, you can simply reach down and pull or twist the strainer out. In other sinks, you'll need to squat down and find the pivot rod that connects to the strainer; remove this rod and lift the strainer out. Clear the strainer of any debris, and see whether that's taken care of the problem.

Lactic acid, which can help get rid of soap scum in a drain.
Lactic acid, which can help get rid of soap scum in a drain.

If your clogged drain is in your kitchen sink, your clog is likely to consist of food particles. If it's your bathroom sink, you're probably dealing with hair mixed with healthy portions of soap scum. You'll have to get this out of the way if cleaning the strainer didn't work. Try a drain auger, which is also called a snake.

To fix a clogged drain with an auger, make sure the strainer or stopper is removed, and then put the auger wire into the opening. Crank the handle of the auger as you push the wire further into the pipe. If the auger wire finds debris, move the wire back and forth while you turn the handle. Finally, pull the wire back out of the drain slowly, continuing to turn the handle at the same time.

Baking soda can be used with vinegar to clear a drain.
Baking soda can be used with vinegar to clear a drain.

Some people recommend using the often harsh chemical drain cleaners you find in supermarkets and home-improvement stores. It's worth noting, however, that they tend to be very harsh and can damage your pipes as well as harm the environment once they go down your drain. Likewise, they can damage your skin and eyes if you happen to get them splashed on you. Instead, it may be better to try a natural drain cleaner and use chemical cleaners as a last effort before you call in professional help to clear your drain.

Adding vinegar to a drain that has been treated with baking soda can help clear a tough clog.
Adding vinegar to a drain that has been treated with baking soda can help clear a tough clog.

Make your own drain cleaner by pouring a small amount of baking soda down your drain and then following up with an equal amount of vinegar. There will be foaming and fumes, which are not toxic. If they bother you, put the drain cover over the drain loosely or leave the room while it works. You should let this sit for about 3 hours; repeat this step if it fails to clear your clogged drain. Some people also recommend flushing a clogged drain with boiling water a couple of times.

Chemical drain cleaners should only be used as a last resort.
Chemical drain cleaners should only be used as a last resort.

Don't forget to try good, old-fashioned plunging. There must be some water in the drain, so add enough water to cover the plunger head if necessary, but don't fill the whole sink. Place the plunger head over the drain, so that it covers the whole opening. If your sink has an overflow drain, use a towel to cover it to prevent the water from coming out that way. Push the plunger down and pull it up, using quick motions to unclog the drain.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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    • A lye-based drain cleaner.
      A lye-based drain cleaner.
    • Lactic acid, which can help get rid of soap scum in a drain.
      Lactic acid, which can help get rid of soap scum in a drain.
    • Baking soda can be used with vinegar to clear a drain.
      Baking soda can be used with vinegar to clear a drain.
    • Adding vinegar to a drain that has been treated with baking soda can help clear a tough clog.
      Adding vinegar to a drain that has been treated with baking soda can help clear a tough clog.
    • Chemical drain cleaners should only be used as a last resort.
      Chemical drain cleaners should only be used as a last resort.