“Your home has many places where water is used – from showers to toilets, to sinks, to dishwashers, clothes washers, and more. Everywhere that water arrives requires a way to allow it to leave. The reality of human existence is that between arriving and leaving, water is joined by food, waste, and many more items which eventually block the flow and create an unpleasant experience for the homeowner. Keeping your drains free and removing clogs when they happen can often be carried out by the homeowner with the right tools and resources.
The Ounce of Prevention
The best drain cleaning system is prevention – an ounce of which is worth more than a pound of cure. A few simple home rules can significantly reduce the frequency of clogged drains and keep your system flowing uninterrupted.
- Hair is the most frequent cause of clogs. Put a screen over shower drains and clean away hair before it enters your wastewater system – especially when bathing family pets
- Clean shower and tub drain areas frequently to reduce the presence of soap scum
- Put coffee grounds and grease in containers with the trash – never in a sink drain
- Scrape dishes carefully after meals to reduce food entering the drains
- Dispose of non-flushable items in the trash – never the toilet
- Be aware of the potential catastrophe of items that can fall into a toilet
- Teach children that toilets are never a good place to test their pool toys
- Be aware of trees and root systems that can threaten your sewage lines
The Pound of Cure
Bad things happen to good people, and despite your best efforts at prevention clogs may still occur. As with all tasks having the right tools is the key to problem-solving. A good plunger is the homeowner’s first resort for a clogged drain. All plungers are not made equal, and every home should have the best of this first line of defense.
If the plunger doesn’t resolve the problem, it’s time to move on to chemical intervention. The approach to a clog depends on what is the most likely cause. Each type of clog has a different best approach.
- Hair clogs – Unfortunately, humans (and pets) lose hair and the shower (or sink for shaving) carries it away where it coagulates and eventually blocks the drain. There is an array of available drain cleaners specifically formulated for dissolving hair clogs.
- Grease clogs – Kitchen sinks are subject to this kind of clog and it too is met with a selection of products that break up the clog.
- Toys or other items – do not attempt to clear this with chemicals
Drain Snakes are the homeowner’s best preparation for a clogged drain. When compared to the cost of an emergency plumber visit, or the damage caused by a clogged drain, the purchase of a plumber’s snake is a great insurance policy. Drain snakes are cables of various lengths which are spooled into drains and manually break up clogs. They are flexible to pass through traps and around bends to reach a clog and break it up.
These items are very affordable starting at about $30 for one that attaches to a home drill and rotates to dislodge a clog. Even the deluxe rechargeable battery-operated power snake with bells and whistles comes in at under $100. The most basic difference among these is in the length of the cable, which runs in some models for four feet and up to fifty feet in others. Avoiding one emergency plumber visit over a lifetime can make having one of these in your home a great investment. Power-driven systems with longer cables and more powerful rotation and cutting heads can add up the cost to several hundred dollars or more.
For removing clogs from tree roots which may be several hundred feet from the access, the equipment of a professional plumber is required for the length and cutting capability required to cut up tree roots.
Worthy of specific mention is the Ridgid K 30 Auto Clean Drain Machine which combines ease of use with power along with a 50’ cable. It runs just under $200. Its features include auto-feed control, which powers the cable down the drain and through blockages using aluminum paddles and a powerful motor. Note the range of reviews with most giving it high marks while a significant minority were unsatisfied.
Water Jets and Air Pressure equipment are very effective at removing clogs, while the cost of the equipment and considerations of procedure and safety make these the province of the professionals.
Clogged drains are a major inconvenience in modern life. With prevention, a good selection of home chemicals, tools, equipment, and the right plumber on hand, they can be managed and resolved with a minimum of effort and cost.