How to unclog a sink or bathtub drain
Hair build up, face cloths, paper, toys, and other unmentionables are just some of the items I’ve taken out of drains in the past. Generally I’ve learned that hair stuck in the p-trap is the most likely culprit for a slow flowing bath-tub or sink. Popular commercials suggest that the best way to tackle these clogs is by simply pouring some new fangled chemical concoction down the drain, and waiting for the acidity to eat away at the debris. This process does work in some cases, but all too well. You see, the chemicals used not only eat away at the hair and built up gook. It also eats away at the lining of some pipes at the same time, deteriorating them from the inside and leading to additional problems in the future.
First start by filling the sink with water and plunging. Sometimes the debris doesn’t have a solid grip and slight air pressure can remove the obstacle. If a more invasive operation is necessary, then the best bet is to remove the trap. In the vanity cabinet under the sink there is an 1-1/4″ or 1-1/2″ pipe coming straight down from the bowl. It does a U-turn and goes upward for a few inches, only to flatten out and head into the wall. This is called a P-Trap (It sort of looks like a capital P on its side).
The P-trap is designed to hold a few oz. of water at all times in the hook, so that the gases and odors from the sewer system don’t come up and into the room. These gases can be noxious and dangerous if inhaled. When there is a slow flowing drain the hook in the p-trap is usually trapping more than just water. The good thing is that this trap is designed to be easily serviced.
1) Medium sized adjustable wrench
2) Rubber gloves
The process of removing the p-trap isn’t glamorous but its industrious and gratifying. If you’re willing to get caught off guard by a few bad odors, or see something you know you’ve seen before but just cant quite place, then you too can enter the wonderful world of plumbing.
1) Safety always comes first, prep the work area and clear it of all debris and dangerous ordnances.
2) Place a towel and bucket of some type under the p-trap, in order to catch the dripping water.
3) Remove the two nuts attached to the hook of the p-trap, using the correct sized adjustable wrench, or your hand if its a PVC finger tight assembly (lefty loosy righty tighty).
4) The hook of the p-trap should then slide off of its connections with little resistance (be aware that water will be inside the trap).
5) Dump the water from the trap portion of the p-trap into the bucket and look. There is often times a build up of hair, soap scum, or other stuff trapped right there.
6) While wearing protective gloves use a small wire hanger or other disposable implement to force the obstruction out of the pipe. Don’t try to blow it out or use your mouth! (Its happened)
7) After clearing the pipe, rinse the remaining filth out of the trap and reattach (making sure all washers remained).
Finally you want to dispose of the buckets contents and clean the area making sure any splashes of the soiled water gets the full treatment of disinfectant. Great job! At this point you’re well on your way to washing hair & dropping pennies and clogging it up all over again. At lest you’re ready and able to fix it with no problems. Good luck & Have Fun!
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