Toilets and drains are often blocked by hair, scraps of food (sometimes even bonded with soap), and, well, other things. Yes, it’s not appealing, but you can unclog them very easily and effortlessly.
Here are the five best, and simplest ways. You may not even need to get your hands dirty. But probably.
Sink Traps and Siphons
When it comes to most sinks, the first solution to try (even before the plunger) is to simply remove the trap/siphon located under the sink. That’s the bend that prevents sewer gases from entering the building, and blocks overflow. You’ll be able to remove any remnants of food/soap.
Before proceeding, make sure to have a basin under it, that way you can catch whatever falls.
Nothing beats the plunger (at first). Using a plunger will allow the water to move back and forth under pressure, and release whatever is blocking the drain.
If your installation has multiple openings (e.g. an overflow drain), it is important to temporarily block them all, except the main one to create vacuum. The suction will focus on the main drain.
In case you don’t know how to use a plunger, there’s nothing simpler:
- Position it over the drain; cover the opening completely.
- Hold it upright, and work the plunger vigorously up and down, at least 6 times.
If you do not have a plunger for your toilet or sink, you can create a makeshift one with a plastic bottle:
- Cut out the top of the bottle with the cap still on.
- Insert it in the toilet, then, like a plunger, move back and forth.
The second basic method, but not necessarily the most efficient, is to pour some boiling water in the sink or bath. The hot water will dilute any leftover soap or grease. To be effective, the boiling water needs to be in direct contact with what is blocking the drain. In other words, you will need to remove whatever tepid water is covering it.
A snake is a long flexible rod/auger with pointed tips to remove blockage. You push it down the drain until what is blocking gets dislodged. To move the snake down the drain, all you need to do is rotate it. Snakes usually have a crank at the end to ease rotation.
Be careful however, as snakes often damage the enamel in the bottom of toilet bowls.
If you do not have a snake, you can also make your own, this time with a wire hanger (unbend it) or rigid plastic tube.
Sodium (and other mixtures)
Never mix a basic solution with an acidic one. The mixture produces a chemical reaction and generates a strong heat. It’s rarely a good idea to mix multiple chemicals together. You should also try to protect yourself with dishwashing gloves.
Chemical drain cleaners are dangerous and often toxic. They are usually formulated with sodium hydroxide or sulfuric acid. More importantly, they are unnecessary in a toilet bowl as the trap/siphon blocks whatever is lodged, meaning that the toxic product won’t even reach the blockage.
Sodium is the most common solution and can be obtained in many forms. Sodium carbonate is present as crystals which are added to cold water. Sodium hydroxide solution is a solution prepared before (30-40% of water + sodium hydroxide).
Here are two traditional recipes to create your own “house blend” of uncloggers. Note that the mix of baking soda with vinegar will create foam.
- 1/3 cup of vinegar
- 1/3 cup of baking soda
- 1/3 of salt
- Pour it down the drain and leave it there for at least 30 minutes (if not an hour or two).
- Rinse out with boiling water.
Another home solution is to use a mixture composed of:
- 1/4 cup of baking soda
- 1/2 cup of distilled vinegar (also known as white vinegar)
- Pour the result and wait 30 minutes.
- Rinse it out with boiling water.
If none of these methods work, it’s probably time to call a plumber.
Tips to prevent clogging
- A small strainer or filter placed on the sink hole will retain any debris likely to clog.
- Completely empty plates in the trash or compost container before washing them in the sink.
- After combing, trash out the hair or compost them instead of throwing them into drains.
- A handful of coffee grounds once in a while will carry out residues in your pipes and remove odors.
What are your own methods to deal with clogged drains and toilets?