Excellent video on how to unclog a bathroom sink


#1

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#2

You can install the stopper without locking it in/on the rod. It’s much easier to keep your drain clean when it’s much easier to remove that stopper.

One tip: when you’re washing the dishes, run some of the hot water into the drain first before stopping the sink. Wash the dishes, then pull the stopper out. That first hot water will have softened some of the crud in the pipes first and the weight of the water in the now-draining sink will have an easier time pushing that crud through. Do this regularly and you’ll hardly ever have to ‘snake’ your kitchen drains.

I HATE slow-draining sinks.


#3

I tried one of those things that you poke into the drain; it just got stuck. Then I realized that the trap has those two thumb-tightened nuts holding it to the rest of the pipes, and a-ha! I removed the entire trap and cleaned it out. Way easier than working from the sink drain.

My bathtub is too old for that (it has a buried cast iron trap), so I have to remove the overflow pipe and put the bladder-type pressure unclogger in there and run the hose.


#4

As previously mentioned, I use a technique that I cannot recommend.


#5

I take it you’re referring to Roto-Rooter*. I’ll just say the few times I had to call them they weren’t worth the price. Or any price, especially after one of their employees voided their guarantee with one weird trick of putting a piece of metal between the receipt I signed and the carbon copy below.

*Yes, I know what you’re really referring to, so my takeaway is those are two techniques I’ll never use.


#6

I do not think that weird trick would fool the dimmest judge in the land.


#7

In my old house the sewer lines between the street and the foundation would get infiltrated by the roots of the neighbor’s maple tree and have to be bored out with a cable-driven steel cutter every year or two.

My experiences with Roto-Rooter were nothing noteworthy; but at some point I discovered these two guys who were just awesome - Marty’s Drain Cleaning, the most positive, good-humored, upstanding people covered in human feces I’ve ever met. Just fantastic people, doing a hard, filthy job with compassion, skill, and a great attitude.

Unfortunately, I can no longer recommend them to people in the area, as they seem to have gone out of business. I like to think that somebody realized what an asset to any workplace those two guys are and hired them for higher-paying, less stinky jobs, and they are still out there somewhere having a great time.


#8

I treat my bathroom sinks and shower drain with baking soda/vinegar every month or so to keep them moving. Better and cheaper than harsh, corrosive, expensive, bottled chemical treatments.

*edit: yes, I’m aware that these are still chemicals. Thanks everyone! :kissing_heart:


#9

There are traps which have a plug at the bottom to make them easy to clean. Unfortunately, they seem to have gone out of style.


#10

Yes, there used to be. But they needed a wrench, and had a small opening, and were not actually easy to clean.

The modern plastic traps have nuts that may be removed and reinstalled with no tools, come off in a heartbeat, and can be thoroughly cleaned in seconds. A much better design!


#11

Well, technically, that IS a chemical treatment, no? ;-> (A chemical treatment that produces a mechanical effect.)

I can’t remember the last time I used a chemical drain unclogger. Generally, they’re sodium hydroxide NaOH, which will take apart most organic substances, and unclog the drain. But then again, no one in my house has long, drain-clogging hair.

If you use NaOH (or your basic drain cleaner) in powder/crystal form, it’ll heat up - a lot - when it’s mixed with water - which can help unclog the drain. It can also help damage your pipes (from the heat) if they’re in not so good shape.


#12

After a while the clog will be farther down the line than your traps, or anywhere Drano can get to effectively. Then you’ve got to rent a snake, find the clean-out, and proceed to have the grossest day of your life. I’ve hovered over overused portapotties with shit mountains protruding above seat level and it wasn’t as bad as clearing a sewage pipe clean-out.

Plumbing is totally gross and when it fails it fails as catastrophically as it possibly can. Pay Stinky Stu his $150/hr and rejoice in the bargain. Tip well.


#13

What a great thread to complain about my pet peeve regarding drains:

In the last couple of places I’ve lived, the normal drain grate for a stand-alone shower (not part of a tub) is square, with itty-bitty holes (too small for any device ever recommended on BB, for example), and not just screwed but also GROUTED into the floor, so it cannot be removed. This means that no hair screen fits properly, and there’s no way other than caustic chemicals to clean out the drain once it inevitably gets clogged with hair and soap products. And these grates always seem to be installed with PVC piping, making the chemical option not a good choice.

And why hasn’t anyone come up with a square hair screen to fit at this point?

So, if anyone can explain why this is, what can be done about it, and/or where one might be able to purchase a square screen for the drain, please say so in this thread…thank you!

(Average length of my daughters’ hair: 15". Yeah, it’s bad!)


#14

I’ve found a technique for clearing clogs further down the pipe but I’m not sure if it’s something a plumber would recommend. I remove the U-joint so I can access the drain right at the wall, then place the hose from my Shop Vac over the end. I run the vac a few seconds and it sucks the sludge right out.

A few things to note. The clog I’m addressing is between the sink and the vent pipe, which allows the backpressure that sucks out the clog. I’d guess there might be a risk of sucking material out of the septic tank or sewer gas, but I’d think the presence of the vent pipe would eliminate that problem (I also shut off the vac as soon as I can feel the clog has passed through the hose, which is quite apparent). My house is also an older one, and has a sharp bend in the drain pipe with a coupling that makes it impossible to get a sewer snake past it, which is why I’ve tried this option.

I’ve also tried using one of those rubber bladders with a small hole in the end that you attach a garden hose to, insert in your drain and use water pressure to clear the clog, but the flow seems too little to do an effective job.

Any plumbers out there who can comment on this method?


#15

They have a removable top-plate, usually. If there aren’t any visible screws, there’s a special tool for pulling it but you can just make a couple of hooks out of coat-hangers and pull it straight up to get under it. Once you’re under the top grating, there’s often a ledge that will retain a circular hair trap (the kind shaped like a little upside-down top hat). There are little “ears” that hold the ones without screws into the PVC housing, it’s just a tension fit.

I’ve seen large circular rubber hair traps that fit over a 4" square shower drain, but not any square ones.

I’m not a real plumber, but I see no problem with your technique. You could certainly suck up some sewer gas, but if there was a problem with that I think you’d have discovered it already :wink: .

Sewer pipes are supposed to always slope downhill and always get bigger, never smaller, but in real life sometimes they don’t follow those rules. Sometimes you have to pull stuff out the way it went in!


#16

Thanks, but…the grate is both screwed and grouted into place. There’s nothing to pull up, and even unscrewing the two screws won’t help.


#17

Wait, those aren’t chemicals doing chemistry?


#18

When we first moved in the house had been somewhat empty for a year or so, 1923, so it’s older stuff in the first place. But I got a Kleer Drain device that uses CO2 to clear clogs, a small-scale version of Medievalist’s, and it’s been the go-to when really needed. It’s also fun as hell.

But, I generally pay attention when it starts to slow and then put a few inches of water in the sink and use a sink plunger. Works great and at about two bucks it’s easily paid for itself ten times over.


#19

The housing that the grate is set into is always grouted into place, that is required by law (and by physics). Shower grout is not actually waterproof, though, even when sealed, so the drain is typically engineered to accept water from both above and below the floor surface, which is something amateur plumbers frequently screw up, causing the floor to disintegrate after a few years of use. In many jurisdictions the grate is required to be removable and I have never seen one that was not designed to be removable (but read on!).

In 90%+ of all shower installations with a 4" square drain, the grate just pulls straight up, sometimes requiring that screws be taken out first. It’s normal to have to pull quite hard, using a tool, jig , or couple of hooks, and the grate may bend (a cast grate can actually break) if you don’t place your hooks just right or if it’s been an exceptionally long time since it’s been removed.

In a fixture like an Oatey that has no grate screws, sometimes an installer will be unhappy with the tension fit and use a little silicone which makes removal even harder. But that’s incredibly unlikely when you’ve got obvious screws - there’s no reason for the trouble or expense, and three or four months of mineral scale accretion will stick a grate down ferociously, just as though it had been purposely cemented.

Anyway, I could be wrong, because it’s true there are some unusual types - for example, there’s one where you unscrew a couple of hard-to-see screws, then you push down hard and the whole thing pops up about a half inch, allowing you to unscrew the square fitting from the round pipe. But these are very expensive and generally not found in anything but super high-end “show off” bathrooms, recently built.

If you can show me a picture and tell me the brand name, I can probably give you more useful information, but this is all I can do sight unseen. :shower:


#20

I will only pass on the fervent advice my plumber uncle has given me many times: never, ever use lye to unclog drains. “If you’ve got older pipes, it’ll eat through them. If you’ve got PVC pipes, and you use too much lye… it’ll eat through them. And if you put lye down there and it doesn’t work, and you have to call a plumber, there’s a really good chance they’re going to get lye spraying in their face, and nobody wants that.”