When many homeowners think about the drains in their home, they may be surprised to learn that there are far more than they imagined. If you take a moment to think about what would happen if one or more of those drains became clogged or blocked entirely, it’s a potential nightmare scenario. We rely on our drains to remove the dirty used water and certain associated materials from our homes. When the drain system fails, the results can be dirty and unsanitary and difficult to clean away. In this article, we will take an in-depth look at four common drain problems and how you can avoid them.
- The Kitchen Drains
The drains located in your kitchens are arguably the hardest working in your home. After all, we use our sinks to clean, rinse, and prepare food, and this can lead to food debris getting into the drain. Some people even use their kitchen sinks as a type of garbage disposal unit, and they pour oil, fat, or grease into their drains. Any type of debris can result in a clog that can get gradually worse over time as more material is added and the clog becomes larger and harder to remove. Suffice to say it’s a great idea to keep food related debris out of your kitchen drain as much as possible. Prevention is better than the cure, and installing some drain traps to your sink will prevent debris from getting into your kitchen drains. Any kitchen debris should go straight into the trash, but what can you do if your kitchen sink becomes blocked?
Unblocking your kitchen sink may take a little time and although it’s tempting to use an off the shelf chemical cleaning product they should be avoided. Many of these chemical cleaning products are toxic, and if you get them on your skin, they can cause chemical burns. The caustic nature of these chemicals can also cause damage to your plumbing pipes and reduce their useful lifespan. It’s a better idea to avoid using them altogether and choose a kinder option to clear and clean your kitchen drains.
The kitchen drain can be cleared by pouring a cup of baking soda and then a cup of white vinegar into the drain and leaving it for a short while. Then simply boil two quarts of water and pour that into the drain to flush away the obstruction. For smaller obstructions, this may work immediately, but for more persistent clogs, you may need to repeat this process a few times.
- The Bathroom Sink
The bathroom sink gets a great deal of use every day as people wash their hands, brush their hair in the mirror, and brush their teeth. For these reasons, many materials, such as soap, toothpaste, floss, skin, and hair, can enter the drain and contribute to drain clogs. The users of the bathroom sink may notice at first that the water doesn’t drain away as quickly as it used to and eventually, the water will not drain away at all. This can lead to a backup of dirty water and nasty material that makes the sink impossible to use.
Manually removing a bathroom sink clog is often effective, and this is where a plunger comes in handy. Place the plunger over the drain and gently move it up and down to create air pressure to force the clog loose and remove it. Don’t be too vigorous, let the plunger do the work and you may need to pump the plunger up and down for a while before the clog is removed. Periodically check the sink drain by running the water and if the clog is cleared clean the entire sink with a good quality bleach cleaning products to kill any germs. If the clog is persistent, you can try the baking soda, vinegar, and hot water method detailed above.
- Showers and Tubs
The drains in your shower stalls and bathtubs are subject to the same sorts of problems as your bathroom sink. But, there is a key difference, we tend to use more soap, shampoo, and shower gel in our showers and tubs, and these can create other issues. Whenever soap is used in hard water, it can create soap scum, this a gray or white filmy residue that can be flushed into the drain. Soap scum can create clogs, but it’s particularly good as a medium that other debris can stick too. Soap scum clogs will accumulate other clog forming materials such as skin and hair to grow the clog further. Eventually, the drain clog will impede the drain; the water will drain away slowly, and then it will not drain at all.
These types of clogs can be persistent and hard to remove without professional assistance. Using the plunger should be your first port of call and if this doesn’t move the blockage, try the baking soda, vinegar and hot water method shown above. If these methods are unsuccessful, you may need to call a local certified plumber for expert help. They have the knowledge, experience, and specialised tools to manually remove the clog safely without damaging your plumbing system.
- The Toilet
Any cleaning or drainage tasks related to the toilet can be a disgusting experience, but it’s extremely important to keep your toilet drain clean and clear. If the toilet becomes blocked, it can quickly lead to the dirty water and waste coming back into your home. Needless to say, this is very unhygienic, and it’s essential to keep your children and pets away from this type of mess until it’s cleaned up. The toilet is often blocked by inappropriate materials being flushed away into the drain. Some common example of materials that should never be flushed includes: “flushable cleaning wipes, thick kitchen paper, cardboard toilet paper rolls, and dead goldfish.
The only materials that should be flushed into your toilet drain are toilet paper and human waste. Any other material that is flushed can cause a blockage that needs to be cleared quickly. The toilet plunger should be used first, but despite its name, this method doesn’t work very well. In most cases, you will need to contact a local certified plumber to remove the blockage and get your toilet running again.
By Giovanni Longo President Flood Brothers Plumbing
Giovanni Longo is a 3rd generation master plumber who has been practicing his craft and trade in the greater Los Angeles area for well over a decade and a half. A plumbing and hydraulics-engineering innovator, Giovanni’s particular world-class expertise focuses on dealing with challenging sewer system designs as well as resolving complex commercial and residential draining issues. As a certified Flood Mitigation expert, he is also well versed in a wide variety of water damage and remediation solution.