Clogs happen. Kids pour things down the drain they shouldn’t. Sludge
builds up and slows the water. Your toothbrush slips down the drain.
Hair, grease and random objects can turn your free-flowing drains into
closed doors that don’t let anything through. If it happens to you,
knowing the right way to clean your blocked drain can save you a call to the plumber. Here’s how to clear any drain in the house in a few
The Tools You Need
You don’t need to spend a fortune on tools to unclog your drains.
They’ll cost less than $20 apiece at any household or hardware store.
Here’s the Official Drain-Cleaning Toolbox List:
- A plunger, also known as the plumbers’ friend. It will cost you $5
to $10. It’s your first line of attack against nasty clogs.
- A plumbers’ snake or cable auger is a flexible steel cable that you
can use to dislodge clogs that are down lower in the drain.
- For tougher clogs, or toilet clogs, a closet auger is the tool that
you want. It’s specially designed to get around the bend in the bottom
of your toilet bowl.
- A drain cleaner for maintenance.
- A bucket.
How to Use a Plunger
Okay. Most people have the wrong idea about what a plunger is supposed
to do. It’s not meant to shove the clog further down the drain.
It’s meant to PULL it out, or at the very least dislodge it so that it can
go down the drain the right way. Here’s the right way to use a
1. Stuff any holes. If it’s a toilet clog, you can skip this step. In
a bathroom sink, cover the drainage holes in the bowl of the sink. In a
double kitchen sink, stuff a rag into the unclogged drain. If it’s a
modern tub, the drainage holes may be along the bottom edge of the
drain lever. If you don’t block the holes, you won’t be able to get any
2. Place the cup of the plunger over the drain completely.
3. Here’s the part where most people get the wrong motion going.
You’re not trying to shove something down the drain. What you want to do
is create suction that will dislodge the clog. Push down firmly on the
plunger until the cup is pressed against the drain. Now, BOUNCE the
plunger vigorously without pulling it off the drain. You’ll hear water
sloshing as the suction tugs on it. Bounce for several seconds –
you’ll feel the suction ‘grabbing’ at the plunger.
4. Now – yank the plunger straight up hard and fast. Nine times out
of ten, you’ll hear the beautiful slosh and gurgle of water rushing
down the drain.
5. If you don’t, start over with Step 1.
Two or three times should do it. If it doesn’t, proceed to…
Cleaning out the Drain
The idea behind using an auger is to ‘hook’ the clog and pull it
out. To do that, follow these steps.
1. In a sink, you’ll need to get UNDER it. Place the bucket under
the elbow pipe and use a wrench to unscrew it and pull it off. This will
let the water in the trap drain out.
2. Feed cable from the auger into the pipe until you feel resistance.
3. Pull out about 18 inches of cable, and crank the handle while
pushing forward to feed more into the drain.
4. If you hit resistance, turn the handle counter-clockwise to pull
the clog back out of the drain.
5. Alternate feeding the cable in and out until the cable moves
6. Pull the cable out, replace the trap and the pipe and run hot water
through the drain.
7. You may need to plunge the drain once or twice to clear debris from
the busted up clog.
Preventing Clogs from Happening
A little maintenance each week will save you all the hassle of having
to unclog your drains. As you use your sink and tub and washer and
toilet, debris and soap scum and other less savory things cling to the sides
of the pipes and form a buildup. The buildup narrows your drains,
making them drain more slowly, and making it more likely that clogs will
happen. To prevent clogs:
1. Use a screen or guard over your drains to prevent things from
dropping into them.
2. Use a drain cleaner on a regular basis. The best drain cleaner to
use is one that is kind to both the environment and your pipes. Whether
you buy a drain cleaning product or make your own drain cleaner
recipe, you should use it at least once a month to keep the sludge from
building up around the inside of your pipes and blocking the drains.
Those two steps will save you from nearly all clogs. And if they do
happen – well, now you know what to do!
If the clog persists after several attempts, you may want to call a professional plumber.
Author Vincent Platania represents the Fuller Brush Company.
Fuller Brush has been in business since 1906, and offers safe,
environmentally friendly products for keeping your home and your body clean.