A drain that runs sluggishly or is completely stopped up is usually clogged with grease, soap, hair, or a solid object. The pipes themselves are usually all right, but how you clear the pipes depends on location and what type of drain you're working with. We have the solutions to many common drain problems, plus tips to prevent clogs in the first place.
How to Prevent Pipe Problems
To keep your pipes in working order, follow these expert tips:
- Always use the toilet, not a sink, to dispose of semisolid waste. However, know that even a toilet cannot handle large objects.
- Equip sinks and tubs with strainers and regularly clear out hair and fibers.
- Food that has been ground in a garbage disposer can form a thick paste, especially if grease is part of the mix. Keep grease out of the sink whenever possible.
- Use cold water when running the disposer, then run hot water for a few seconds to clear the trap.
Diagnosing the Problem
If only one fixture is sluggish or stopped up, the clog is probably in the fixture's trap or the branch drain line. If more than one fixture is affected, the problem is farther down the line—most likely in a drainpipe or even the stack.
This section describes basic unclogging methods, beginning with the simplest. Start by plunging. If that doesn't work move on to dismantling a trap and possibly replacing the trap. If the problem is farther down the line, use an auger.
Editor's Tip: Chances are you will get splashed while unclogging a drain. If drain cleaner has been poured down the drain, unclogging it can be dangerous. When working with drain cleaner, wear plastic gloves, long sleeves, and safety goggles. Cover the work area with an old rug or a drop cloth before starting work.
How to Clear Aerators and Showerheads
An aerator is the tiny part of a faucet that mixes air into the water stream to create a smoother flow. Though this part is handy, tiny particles can get caught in the aerator and reduce water flow. This how-to will show you how to clean out your aerators, as well as showerheads.
How to Unclog Pipes by Plunging
Nearly every home has a plunger, but do you actually know how to use it? We'll walk you through the basics of using a plunger to unclog a sink or toilet. Though plunging is usually effective, it can also be messy. Be prepared to wipe up water.
How to Dismantle a Trap
A sink's trap seals out gases and prevents clogs from traveling too far—so it's no surprise that most clogs are found within the trap. Our tutorial shows you how to dismantle a trap, clean it out, and replace parts as needed. Expect to spend roughly an hour dismantling and reinstalling the trap.
Understanding a Bathroom Sink Drain
When you need to access a clog, it's helpful to understand your sink's anatomy. This how-to walks you through all of the different parts of a bathroom sink. Plus, we'll show you how to replace and adjust parts.
How to Unclog a Sink with a Disposer
Garbage disposers are magical tools—when they're working properly. If a sink with a disposer ends up clogged, you'll need to take extra care to fix the problem. Our tutorial shows you how to plug the sink, remove the P-trap, and solve the problem.
How to Use Augers
When plunging doesn't work, more extreme methods need to be used to remove a clog. These pieces show how to use a hand crank or power auger to remedy the blockage in drains, sinks, tubs, or toilets. If you don't own a power auger, rent one at a home improvement store.