How to clear clogged pipes is a question we all want to avoid. Snaking drains ranks as one of the grossest home maintenance tasks and even appears in horror movies.
But inevitably, pipes and drains will become clogged in residential homes. Leaving clogs within these structures will cause problems worse than accumulated hair. In fact, homeowners lose billions of dollars due to clogged pipe bursts each year.
But the good news is that 93% of water damage, including the damage done by clogged pipe bursts, is preventable. Keeping your pipes and drains clean lowers overall maintenance costs and prevents more significant mishaps.
So, now that we know why we should clear clogged pipes, it is time to ask, “how to clear clogged pipes?”
Begin by Identifying the Clog
The first step in clearing a clogged pipe is knowing what pipe you have. Depending on the pipe location and use, cleaning strategies and tools differ.
Commonly clogged pipes include:
- Bath or shower drains
- Sink drains
- Dryer pipes
- Toilet pipes
- Garbage disposal pipes
Some pipe uses are easier to identify than others. Bathrooms will typically have toilet lines with sewage or water pipes. Unless near a toilet, the pipe is most likely a water pipe.
The kitchen space, however, requires more inspection. Under the kitchen sink, be sure to determine if clogs are occurring in pipes leading to the dishwasher, sink accessories, or garbage disposal. The best means of identification is isolating functionality location by location.
Once you identify the pipe use, also determine how the pipe is situated. If the clogged pipe has a simple use but includes a turn, you may need a different tool like a metal drain auger. At a 90 degree, elbow pipes will require precise tools, whereas shallow pipes can be simple to unclog.
Another step in properly cleaning clogged pipes is identifying the stuck material.
The most common pipe and drain snags come from:
- Tree roots
- “Flushable wipes” and Feminine hygiene products
- Fat, oil, or grease
Some of these materials can be removed by cleaning solutions, while others require manual unclogging. Look at the next section to determine how to clear clogged pipes by material.
How to Clear Clogged Pipes by Material
Tree roots continuously impede residential homes. Besides growing under sidewalks and foundations, tree roots also grow into and around pipes. Typically, tree roots reach pipes in the ground. These pipes tend to be main water lines or sewage lines.
If a tree root clogs your home’s pipes, consider bringing in a professional. Other solutions require heavy tools or pipe cleaning chemicals.
Common chemicals to remove tree roots include copper sulfate. Over time, copper sulfate strips away pipelining. Additionally, copper sulfate will kill all plant life if leaks occur. A better chemical option for tree roots is foaming root cleaner.
Beyond chemicals, reaching a main line requires excavation and physical removal of roots. Or, if possible, you can rent a sewer auger with spinning blades. This type of auger can reach distant pipes and may be able to cut through roots.
“Flushable wipes” and Feminine hygiene products
We constantly see public restroom signs about only flushing toilet paper down the loo. Those signs also apply to homes as toilet design only works for decomposable materials. Most feminine hygiene products and “flushable wipes” do not break down fast enough for residential toilets.
If “flushable wipes,” feminine hygiene products, or anything else clogs your toilet pipes, first use a toilet plunger. Beyond that, you have to use a toilet auger. Toilet augers are engineered to snake around the U design of bathroom pipes. With a handle crank and hollow rubber tube, toilet augers reach deep down into toilet pipes to break apart the worst clogs.
Use a toilet auger by inserting the rubber tube into the bottom of the toilet bowl. One hand should steady the wooden auger shaft, and the other spins the crank. Slowly hand crank the auger to begin snaking the toilet. Occasionally reversing may be needed to continue snaking downwards. Once the auger is fully distended, begin re-cranking the auger. To test if the clog is gone, flush the toilet.
Toilet augers often reach the main soil stack but not the main sewer lines. If using a toilet auger does not clear the clogged pipe, consider professional plumbing help. Metal augers will also work for unclogging toilets. However, they may scratch porcelain toilet bowls.
Fat, oil, or grease
Fat, oil, and grease often build up in garbage disposals and sink pipes. You can, however, clean both locations with an overnight solution. Combine a cup of salt with a cup of baking soda. Pour this mixture into the clogged drain and then add ample boiling hot water. Allow the mixture to sit overnight for up to 10 hours.
After a minimum of 8 hours, run more water and let the mixture run through the garbage disposal, pipes, or drain. If the clog continues, begin to isolate which section of pipe has built-up fat, oil, or grease. For large build-ups, scrubbing the inside of pipes may be necessary. Luckily, immediate kitchen pipes tend to be smaller and detachable, making this process easy.
Everyone hates built-up hair in the shower drain. Some hate it so much that they push the hair down the drain. Eventually, hair will make water puddle in showers, baths, or sinks. So, use these tips for the hairy situation of how to clear clogged pipes:
- First, remove and clean drain covers of hair
- Next, use a plastic auger on the clogged drain by fishing the plastic teeth down the pipe and pulling hair up
- Once the surface of a pipe is snaked, consider using chemical cleaners to dissolve hair further down the pipes
- Replace all drain pieces and run water through the pipes
If clogs continue, use a longer metal auger and apply more chemical dissolvent.
Call a Professional for Unmanageable Clogs
Some situations surpass the limits of tutorials on how to clear clogged pipes. When the pipes in your home are beyond D.I.Y. help, call Goodbee Plumbing.
Goodbee Plumbing is a family-owned and locally-operated plumbing company in Covington, Louisiana. Throughout Southeast Louisiana, Goodbee Plumbing Inc. provides fast and reliable service. Our local plumbers have years of experience with clogged drains in addition to gas, and video inspections, as well as routine cleanings.
To fix that big clog or to begin preventative maintenance to avoid it, contact Goodbee Plumbing today.