How to Clean a Clogged Drain

A clogged drain is one of the more frustrating plumbing problems, and it’s also one of the most common. Whether it’s a clog in your sink, your shower or elsewhere, a this can quickly become a serious nuisance. And if left untreated, it can pose a serious threat to your home.

Thankfully, learning how to clean a drain that is clogged is fairly simple. In most cases, clogs can be cleared without professional help, and the tools needed to do so are affordable and widely available.

With the information in this article, you should be clearing clogs like a pro in no time! We’ll explain the steps to each method, how long the method takes and what you’ll need in the following sections:

How to Prevent Drain Clogs

Ideally, you won’t ever have to deal with a clogged drain. While that’s unlikely, there are plenty of ways that you can reduce the chance of a one ever forming. Here are a few methods that reliably prevent or slow the formation of drain clogs:

  • Flush your drains: Some drains, particularly those in your shower or bathtub, don’t have a high flow of water going down them very often. For drains like these, we recommend partially filling the receptacle the drain is attached to with hot water. Then, open the drain and allow a large amount of water to move down the drain at once. This can help dislodge debris and clear out the drain. Do this every so often in order to slow or prevent the formation of clogs.
  • Use hair catchers in your shower: Shower clogs are one of the most common plumbing issues in homes, and the main culprit of them is hair. A hair catcher is a mesh sieve that catches hair before it has a chance to go down the drain. This is especially helpful for people with long hair, as long hair has a higher chance of getting stuck in the drain. After each shower, empty the hair catcher into the bathroom trash and place it back over the drain opening in order to keep your shower clean.
  • Use food catchers in your kitchen sink: Similar to hair catchers, food catchers sit in your kitchen sink drain opening and catch food before it goes into the drainage pipe. While kitchen sinks do have garbage disposals, all they do is grind up food to a size that can be flushed down the drain. Even after going through the disposal, that food can create a clog. By keeping the food out of the drain altogether, you drastically reduce the chances of a clogged kitchen sink.

A number of items you already have in your kitchen can also help prevent problems with your drains. These DIY remedies give you some handy weapons for clogged drain cleaning and prevention.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Time required: About 10–15 minutes

Materials needed: Measuring cup, boiling water, baking soda, vinegar, disposable gloves/dish gloves

As you’ve likely seen in movies or during a science project at school, mixing baking soda and vinegar creates a foaming reaction. What you may not have known is that this reaction can help you clear drain clogs. Here’s how:

  1. Boil water.
  2. Pour 1 cup of baking soda down the drain.
  3. Pour a mixture of 1 cup vinegar and 1 cup boiling water down the drain and close it.
  4. Wait 10 minutes with the drain covered.
  5. Uncover the drain and run your faucet or bath tap. If the clog persists, repeat the steps or try another method.

One thing to keep in mind is that this method will not work if the clog has left standing water above the drain. So if you have standing water outside of the drain, try another method.

Boiled Water

Time required: About 10-20 minutes

Materials needed: Cup, boiling water, funnel (optional), dishwashing gloves

There’s a reason you’re supposed to wash your hands and wash the dishes with hot water — it pulls dirt and other stuck-on messes off of surfaces more effectively. This property also makes it a useful clog clearing tool.

  1. Boil water.
  2. Pour boiling water down the drain. You may wish to use a funnel in order to avoid damage to the shell of your tub or sink. (If doing so, make sure to wear gloves to avoid burns.)
  3. Cover the drain and wait for 10 minutes.
  4. Uncover the drain and run the faucet or bath tap. If the pipe is cleared, the water should flow down the drain at the normal pace.

Drain Snaking

Time required: About 10 minutes

Materials needed: Drain snake, disposable gloves/dish gloves

Drain snaking is more hands-on than other methods, but when the other methods won’t work, a drain snake is often your best bet.

  1. Put on gloves.
  2. Insert drain snake into the drain.
  3. Push the snake into the drain until it reaches an obstruction (i.e., you can feel resistance).
  4. Push into the clog and twist the snake, allowing its end to burrow into the clog. Depending on your model of drain snake, you may need to manually secure the snake using the bolt provided in the packaging. Consult your packaging or user manual for specific instructions.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you reach the end of the snake or no longer encounter obstructions.
  6. Pull the snake from the drain. If the clog does not come out, or does not come out fully, you may need to repeat steps 2–5.
  7. Run the tap and see if the water flows normally.

Drain Cleaner

Time required: About 15–20 minutes

Materials needed: Drain cleaner, disposable gloves/dish gloves

Drain cleaners are solutions of harsh chemicals that dissolve clogs and other materials. Because they’re specially designed to clear drains, they’re one of the best tools to use if you want to avoid drain snaking, especially if the other methods mentioned above haven’t worked.

Before you use drain cleaner, remember that gloves are a must. Physical contact with drain cleaner can burn your skin.

  1. Pour the manufacturer’s recommended amount of drain cleaner down the drain. The amount required should be specified on the bottle.
  2. Wait 10–15 minutes.
  3. Run hot water down the drain. To ensure it is hot from the start, you may need to use a bucket to pour hot water into the drain.
  4. Wait to see if the water from the tap or bucket flows down the drain normally. If the clog is not clear, try using a drain snake as the clog may now be loosened or softened.

When to Call a Professional

Normally, clearing a drain clog is a fairly simple job. However, there are times when it’s better to leave it to the pros. If you’ve tried every method in the book and have come up empty handed, then the clog may require professional intervention. Additionally, if there’s a clogged drain that emits a foul odor, or causes the drain to back up dirty water, you should call a professional immediately.

The only time when a foul-smelling drain may not be an issue is if it is in your kitchen sink. Sometimes, food gets stuck in the teeth of the garbage disposal and rots, which can lead to a foul smell.

To determine if the odor is coming from the disposal or the drain itself, fill the disposal with ice and dish soap, then run it until the ice is fully melted. After that, fill the sink partially with water and flush it down the sink. If the foul odor persists, or the water does not flow down the drain properly, it is likely a clog that requires calling a professional.

Call Mr. Rooter Plumbing to Fix Your Clogged Drain

No matter how persistent your drain clog is, it’s no match for the pros at Mr. Rooter Plumbing. Our expert plumbers have the experience needed to tackle any job, big or small. And our satisfaction guarantee means that we’ll always get the job done, no matter how tough.

Need to fix a clogged drain ASAP? Click the button below to locate your local Mr. Rooter.

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