A clogged drain can be an expensive and disruptive problem. The first step to preventing serious issues is to be proactive and prevent drain clogs before they happen. Fortunately, you probably have everything you need to avoid a costly clog — from a bent wire hanger to baking soda and vinegar. Contact Platinum Plumbing for more tips.
Most liquids and soft foods are fine to chuck down your drain, but there are some that aren’t. Flour, cornstarch and oatmeal are examples of foods that turn into gooey, sticky substances when mixed with water, and can catch other food waste to clog your drains and pipes. Vegetables are another example of foods that are good for you, but not your plumbing. Fibrous veggies like celery, carrots and potatoes can wrap around garbage disposal blades, cling to pipes, and cause hard-to-remove blockages.
Even the smallest objects can get caught in a drain’s u-bend, causing a clog. That’s why it’s important to cover sink, tub and shower drains with strainers to keep out hair, small toys and other items that may fall down the drain.
Grease may seem like a safe substance to pour down your drain, but it’s actually one of the most common causes of blocked or clogged drains. Cooking grease solidifies as it cools, forming a plug that can cause a drain to clog. To prevent this, pour cooking grease into a container and save it for trash day or check to see if your area has recycling programs that accept cooking oil.
Coffee grounds are also a problem, because they mix with oils and fats to form a thick texture that coats the inside of pipes. They’re best disposed of in the trash or used for composting instead.
Eggshells are another common drain clogger because they’re sharp and can collect other waste to create a blockage. Seafood shells are a big no-no too, as they can become lodged in your drain and garbage disposal and be difficult to remove.
Paper towels are a bad choice for putting down your drain, as they absorb the liquids in your plumbing system and expand into thick, gooey mass that can clog your pipes. Likewise, if you flush toilet paper, it will contaminate groundwater and kill healthy bacteria in your plumbing system. If you need to wipe, use a cloth or tissue instead, and dispose of them properly. Even so-called “flushable” wipes should be placed in the trash and not the toilet.
Oils and Grease
Fats, oils and grease (FOG) are the biggest villains when it comes to clogged drains. When these greasy substances are poured down drains they quickly solidify, coat the walls of pipes and combine with other debris to form tough clogs. When these clogs occur wastewater cannot flow through your pipe system, causing backups and overflows that are both messy and unsanitary.
Many people make the mistake of pouring leftover cooking grease down the sink or dumping it directly into the garbage disposal. This is a big no-no! FOG can cause serious damage to your pipes, drains and appliances. It is best to collect grease in a jar or can and dispose of it in the trash.
When cooking, frying or baking, it is important to wipe off all utensils and cookware before washing them. This way, any traces of food can be removed, and the grease can be easily rinsed away with water.
It is also a good idea to keep a jar or can on hand for collecting used cooking oil and grease, so you don’t have to pour it down the drain. If you do need to empty your drain of grease, it is best to use a rag to wipe down the inside of the drain and then dump the remaining grease into a metal can that can be disposed of with the trash.
Another great way to help prevent drain clogs from grease is to use a 50/50 mix of hot water and vinegar. This mixture is a non-toxic alternative to chemical drain cleaners and works just as well.
One other thing to remember is that it is best not to flush any kind of wipe down the drain, including baby wipes and cleaning wipes. Even so-called “flushable” wipes can cause a stubborn clog if they are left to build up in the drain pipe. They should be placed in the garbage can or toilet. This is especially true if you have older pipes that may be susceptible to corrosion and other problems.
Hair is one of the most common causes of clogged drains. The average person sheds 50 to 100 hairs a day, and many of those hairs end up in the shower drain where they mix with soap residue, shampoo, grime, and other debris. Over time, this can lead to a buildup that stops water from flowing through the drain, creating murky water and bad odors. Using a drain cover that is designed to trap hair can help prevent this, as can regularly flushing the drain with hot water and/or a mixture of baking soda and vinegar.
One of the most surefire signs that you have a hair mass in your drain is when your bathtub or sink begins to fill with water that takes a long time to drain. In severe cases, the water may not drain at all and could cause water damage to your home.
Another sign is when a foul odor starts wafting up out of your sink or tub. As hair decomposes, it creates a musty odor that can spread throughout your home. If this is happening, it’s important to call a professional for a drain cleaning as soon as possible.
Using a homemade hook made out of a piece of thin wire, such as a coat hanger wire, can be a great way to fish out a hair clog without resorting to chemicals or tools like the drain snake. Simply slide the wire down into the drain where you suspect the blockage is, and try to hook any hair that is caught up in it. A few tries may be necessary before you’re able to pull up the entire hair mass from the drain.
If you’re not comfortable with making your own DIY hook, there are small plastic drain clearing tools that can be purchased at most big box stores. These work similarly to a piece of coat hanger wire, and are easy enough for most homeowners to use. Lastly, there are also a variety of commercial drain cleaners that include a hook-like device for fishing out hair clogs.
If you have young children, you already know that toys can make their way into the toilet or the sink. Even older children sometimes forget that nothing other than toilet paper, human waste and degradable paper towels should be deposited down the drain. Unfortunately, a toy that ends up in the toilet can cause a massive clog and require professional help to resolve.
If your child flushes a toy, try to remove it as quickly as possible. If the toy is visible, put on gloves and reach inside the toilet bowl to grab it. However, don’t use a plunger — plunging pushes the toy further down the pipes and can damage the toilet.
A flexible drain snake, like the Vastar DRAINSAVER, is ideal for getting small objects out of the toilet and other hard-to-reach places. It features a wide head that reaches deep into drain pipes and flexes at the P-trap, where most obstructions occur. The product has positive reviews from customers who say it works well to clear out hair and other debris in a wide range of plumbing fixtures, including bathtubs, showers and kitchen sinks.
For a more permanent solution, consider installing a strainer or stopper that catches unwanted elements before they enter your plumbing. It will also prevent objects from washing down the drain, which can lead to clogs and other problems.
Another great way to keep foreign objects out of your drains is to install a drain guard or screen over your sink opening. These are available in a variety of sizes, shapes and materials to fit your specific sink. Some are designed to catch food particles, hair and other common clog-causing materials, while others are able to handle larger items, such as cigarette butts or rags.
For more serious clogs, a chemical drain cleaner can be helpful. A product such as the XionLab Safer Drain Opener can break up and dissolve grease, hair, food particles, soap scum, paper products and more. It is septic safe, which makes it perfect for toilets and showers. A review of this product found that it worked to remove mild clogs in about two hours, but that tougher ones may take longer or require multiple treatments.