Fixing Your Plumbing To Fix Your Life

4 Mistakes to Avoid When Unclogging a Drain

If you have a clogged drain pipe, or things seem to be moving slower than usual, there's a right way and a wrong way to tackle the situation. Here are some mistakes to avoid when cleaning or unclogging a drain, and what you should do instead to save your pipes from damage and your wallet from being drained for repairs.

1. Chemicals

Chemicals are great for getting things clean, but put them down your drain and you're taking a chance. Although there are a number of products on the market that are touted to be safe for your pipes, this isn't a guarantee. Generally speaking, those chemicals are better left in the bottles, and there are a couple reasons why.

Caustic chemicals can eat away at things that commonly clog drains, like clumps of hair and gummy soap. But they can also eat away at your pipes if they're made of plastic. Metal pipes will also succumb to damage if these products are used too often.

Additionally, if you pour chemical drain cleaners into your toilet and let them sit, they can heat up and crack the porcelain, leading to major problems beyond just a clogged pipe.

Lastly, chemical drain cleaners can cause severe burns if they come in contact with skin.

2. Garden Hose

You may think that your garden hose has enough pressure to dislodge the culprit, but rarely does this work. More than likely, you'll only succeed at making a mess, spilling water everywhere, and facing possible water damage.

3. Coat Hangers

Metal coat hangers are another popular item to use when drains get clogged. Unfortunately, this rarely works, and it could lead to further problems.

First of all, whatever is blocking the drain may need to be removed. By using a coat hanger, you may effectively push the clog down further where it's likely to get lodged and become even harder to remove.

Secondly, you might end up damaging your pipes, particularly if the end of the coat hanger is sharp. Leave the coat hangers in the closet where they belong.

4. Drain Augers

Also known as a "pipe snake," a drain auger can be highly effective, but only when in the hands of an experienced user.

There are several kinds of augers: some are made for toilets and others for sinks. Some are manual while others are motorized. If you have an older home with galvanized pipes, they're especially susceptible to damage, particularly when you apply too much force. The pipes can get scratched, dented, or even cracked.

Also, if you use a metal auger in a porcelain toilet, you could scratch the surface, leading to unsightly marks that are impossible to get rid of.

Whether you're using a manual or motorized auger, you always run the risk of having the spring recoil back towards you, causing injury. You're just better off leaving the auger to the professionals.

Safe Alternatives

The safest way to clean your drains is with the use of a plunger or natural cleaning products. If you go with a plunger, make sure you get the right kind as the two are shaped a little differently. Toilet plungers have a bell at the bottom whereas sink plungers are flat in order to get a proper seal.

If you decide to go with a natural cleaner, you can probably find the ingredients in your kitchen cabinets. All you need is ½ cup baking soda, 1 cup vinegar, and about a gallon of boiling water.

Start by scooping out any standing water in your sink, then pour the baking soda down the drain. Follow up with the vinegar, apply the drain stop to allow the fizz to work in a downward motion, then let the solution sit for about fifteen minutes. Remove the drain stop and flush with boiling water slowly, making sure the clog clears away.

If necessary, you can repeat this several times, but if all else fails, it's time to call in a professional plumber for more information or assistance.