One of the most common – and aggravating – plumbing problems we see in homes is a slow drain. In the majority of cases, this is caused by a blocked up pipe directly under the drain. Anything and everything from hair to soap scum to small personal items can collect and result in a clog. The good news is that you can often resolve this issue yourself before calling a professional plumber. Here are four approaches to try.
- Baking soda and vinegar – It may sound like a high school science experiment but the combination of baking soda and vinegar can be an effective homemade drain cleaner. First, pour ½ cup of baking soda down the drain. Then add ½ cup of white vinegar. Cover the drain for about 5 minutes to let the mixture fizz, then flush the drain with a gallon of boiling water.
- Plunger – Most commonly used for toilets, a plunger can help work out a clog in your sink or tub drain, too. Make sure you plug the overflow with a rag and duct tape to create a tight seal so the air pressure is directed down the drain. Then use the plunger over the clogged drain. Hopefully, this will dislodge any hair or debris caught in the pipe.
- Zip-it hair-removing tool – The Zip-it is a simple, inexpensive tool that you should be able to find at any plumbing supply or home improvement store. You insert the Zip-it down the drain, then when you pull it back out, small teeth on the tool grab hair (and other gunk) in the pipe.
- Clean overflow opening – In some cases, the obstruction that’s causing your slow drain isn’t in the pipe itself but in the overflow. While the main purpose of this hole is to prevent water from overflowing in the sink or tub, it also allows air into the drain. If the overflow is clogged, then the water is going to naturally drain slower. Use a small pipe cleaner and the baking soda/vinegar method to make sure the overflow is clear.
What not to use
While it may be tempting, we recommend not using common drain cleaners you’d find in many stores. These products use harsh chemicals that could damage your pipes and created a bigger plumbing issue in the future.
When to call a professional
If you try these four methods and your drain is still emptying at a snail’s pace, don’t get too frustrated. Clogs can be very tricky, and sometimes it takes an experienced plumber with professional-grade tools to reach the source of the problem. In some cases, what initially appears to be a simple clogged drain can actually be a bigger issue like a backed up sewer line.