Every home needs the attention of a professional plumber from time to time, because there are some jobs that are just too big, complex and potentially dangerous for amateurs to attempt. But one of the most common problems, a clogged or slow drain, can also be one of the easiest for the average homeowner to fix.
The next time you have a drain problem, give these tried-and-true solutions a shot:
The Science Fair Project
Did you ever make a model volcano when you were a child? If so, you know what kind of reaction you get when vinegar and baking soda mix. One safe way to break up a drain clog is to dump about a cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by a half-cup of white vinegar. Cover the drain with a stopper -- you can improvise with a heavy soup can in a pinch -- and wait for at least a half hour while the foaming volcano rages in the pipe. Afterward, rinse with hot water to see if things are flowing better.
For stubborn clogs like hairballs and grease, you might be tempted to reach for a harsh liquid drain cleaner -- but some of these can damage your household plumbing. A high-quality liquid dish soap is a much gentler alternative. Squirt a generous amount into the clogged drain, followed a couple minutes later by a large pot of boiling water. The soap, hot water and gravity can work together to cut through the grease and lubricate obstructions so they finally wash away.
You can let your muscles do the work of clearing the clog if you have a plumber’s helper -- a plunger, that is. While flange-style plungers are specially designed for toilets, plungers with a standard cup can be used on most drains, and hardware stores sell tiny plungers for sink drains. Just be sure you use proper technique -- make sure you have a good seal and just enough standing water to cover the plunger cup. Plugging up nearby drains will help put more pressure on the clog.
Send in the Snake
If homemade solutions or your trusty plunger can’t get the job done, you might be able to clear the clog with a good plumbing snake. Professional plumbers use a variety of snakes in all lengths and styles, but the kind you’ll find in the hardware store can be effective for clearing many clogs. Some models are designed to attach to your power drill, taking much of the hard work out of the process.
But if you’re not comfortable snaking a drain yourself -- or if you just can’t clear an especially tough clog -- don’t worry. You can always call on your trusted local plumbers for around-the-clock emergency service.