What is the Best Way to Clear a Clogged Drain?

This is a very common question, and there is no easy, one size fits all answer. There are many different types of clogs and a number of ways to remove them. Choosing the right method and tool for the particular clog takes knowledge and experience. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to hire a local certified plumber to remove a persistent clog that’s hard to remove or that continues to return in the same drain. Let’s take a closer look at some of the best ways to clear a clogged drain in your home.

Is This a Job for a Professional Plumber?

As we mentioned in the introduction, some drain blockages need to be removed by a  professional plumber. That being said, a minor drain clog can be removed by anyone if they have a little knowledge and they are not afraid to try. The first thing to mention is that a professional plumber will always carry out a manual clog removal in a drain. They will never use chemical cleaners to deal with a clog and neither should you. Many commercial chemical drain cleaning products contain caustic chemicals that can harm you if they land on your skin and they can damage your plumbing pipes. A manual clog removal followed by flushing the drain with hot water is the best way to unblock any drain in your home.

A Basic Clog Clearance

If you can see the clog in your drain, behind the sink mesh, you may have a good chance of removing it with your fingers or a pair of tweezers. You can attempt this through the gaps by gently gripping any stray material and pulling it through. This may have to be repeated a few times to clear every piece of debris. If you need better access, you can unscrew the sink drain and use your finger or a longer pair of tweezers or a bent piece of thin wire to gently remove the material or break up the clog. Once the material is removed, screw the drain back on and run some hot water into the drain for a couple of minutes to flush any remaining parts of the clog away.

Using a Household Plunger

If the clog is a little more persistent and you cannot reach it easily, it may be time to try the household plunger. There may already be some dirty water in the sink, but this will not affect how the plunger works. Place the plunger over the sink hole and move it up and down to create suction in the drain pipe to dislodge the clog. Don’t be too vigorous because you could force the clog further down into the drain where it will be harder to manually remove. Take your time and stop periodically to see if the dirty water is draining or if the water drains easily when you run the tap. This method will work well in many cases, but it does take a little time and effort to be effective.

Using a Plumbing Snake

A plumbing snake is also known as an augur in the plumbing industry, and they are widely available in hardware stores. The basic models are inexpensive, and they make an excellent addition to a household toolkit. The more elaborate professional models can cost a lot of money, and they are not a good investment if you only use them on very rare occasions. An augur is a flexible length of metal or plastic with a drill bit on one end and a crank or handle mounted on the side. Gently feed the augur into the drain until you feel that it’s bumped up against the clog. Then apply a little force and turn the crank to drill the bit into the clog. Take your time and go slowly to avoid causing damage to your plumbing pipes. Eventually, the clog should break apart as the drill bit breaks through it and it can then be flushed away with hot water.

In some cases, the clog may become twisted around the augur, and then you can remove it by pulling it out as you withdraw the snake. A professional grade augur may have a deeper reach, and it may be motorized like a low power drill. This type of equipment is effective, but it’s difficult to use without experience and using one increases the risks of damaging your plumbing pipes considerably.

Using a Hydro Jet

This is a very sophisticated professional plumbing tool that’s used for clearing very persistent drain clogs. It’s a high pressure hose that can be fitted with a variety of nozzles to use on different types of clogs. The hose is connected to the water supply via a pressurization machine that will increase the level of force delivered by the water. The hydro jet works by forcing the clog apart and then flushing it away into the drain. Any material in the drain, such as hair, debris, food, grease, fat and even tree roots under the yard, can be broken apart and forced out of the drain. The plumber will check the affected pipe first to ensure that there is not existing damage that could be exacerbated by the hydro jet. Because this is a very forceful way to remove a clog, it is often used as a final resort after other methods have been attempted. Even if the pipe isn’t compromised, it can be damaged by a hydro jet on rare occasions, and it should never be used by an amateur.

If you have a drain clog, there is no harm in attempting to remove it yourself first before you call a local professional certified plumber. If you’re not confident in attempting this leave it to a professional and if you want to try stick to using your fingers, tweezers, a plunger or a basic augur. Professional grade plumbing equipment is expensive to purchase, and it’s hard to use without formal training and experience. For these reasons, it’s a great idea to avoid the more elaborate augurs and hydro jet machines.

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.