For those of you who missed the fun on Twitter yesterday, my bathroom sink was majorly clogged. As in, I couldn’t even brush my teeth without it overflowing. And since we all know I’m not a fan of paying for services unless I have to, I decided to fix it myself.
Minor plumbing issues like clogs actually aren’t very difficult to deal with on your own, but for some reason, women in particular tend to freak out. It seems easier to just wait for a man to come along and fix it. And while that’s not a bad thing, some of us don’t have a man to come along and fix it. So unless you want to pay a plumber $200+ to pull a hairball from your drain, here are a few things you should know about clogs.
- Products like Drano and Liquid Plumr aren’t always the best solution. Though they’re generally safe for kitchen and bathroom sinks, you could cause serious damage depending on what your sink, drain, and/or pipes are made from.
- For a simple clog, sometimes pouring a pot of boiling water down the drain will get rid of it.
- If you can see hair around the drain (this happens in my shower drain a lot), pull it out. Yes, it’s gross. No, it won’t kill you.
- You can use a plunger on a clogged sink. Just make sure to hold a rag over the overflow holes – otherwise the water will squirt right back out.
- Once you’ve gotten rid of a clog, give yourself a high five! Then run some hot water for a minute or two to push out any remaining sludge.
Unfortunately, there was no hair around my bathroom sink drain, and boiling water did nothing but fill up the sink even more. The water was draining, but really slowly, so I had to wait about an hour after that to try anything else.
Your Friend the P-Trap
When none of the above methods work on a clog, the culprit is usually the p-trap. If you look at the pipes under your sink, you’ll notice a U-shaped pipe that connects the pipe under the sink to the pipe inside the wall. It looks like this:
There are two rings around the p-trap that can usually be loosened by hand (unless the last person to touch them got carried away). Before you loosen those rings, get something to catch the water that’s about to spill out. And hold your breath because it is DISGUSTINGLY stinky in there.
When you loosen the rings enough to remove the p-trap, try not to tilt it because there is some nasty stuff in it. It stays full of water to keep sewer gas from coming up through your drains (which is even nastier). DO NOT dump the contents of the p-trap back into the sink, because it’s just going to come back out and splash grossness on you. (I speak from experience.) Dump it in the toilet or in a bucket instead.
Take the p-trap outside and spray out the inside with a hose. You don’t want to do this inside because the sludge will just settle into the p-trap of whatever sink you use to rinse it, causing another clog in the future.
Reattach the p-trap and let the water run for a minute. If your sink drains and continues draining, high five! You fixed it. If not, curse profusely because the clog is in the wall and you’re going to need a pipe snake.
Using a Pipe Snake
Yesterday I called my dad when I realized I needed a pipe snake. Because let’s face it, that isn’t something most women keep handy.
A pipe snake is just a long flexible rod that you can use to push out clogs you can’t see. No, a broom handle, curtain rod, or closet hanger will NOT achieve the same effect. Pipe snakes only cost a few dollars, so if you don’t know anyone who has one, pick one up at a hardware store.
Remove your p-trap again (be ready to catch the water) and slide the snake into the wall pipe under your sink. Wiggle it around to see if you can feel anything obstructing the pipe. You don’t have to jab or stab – this isn’t American Gladiators – just feel around and gently push against anything in the way.
You won’t always be able to feel a clog in the wall, so after a few minutes, remove the pipe snake, replace the p-trap, and run more water. If the sink still won’t drain, try the plunger again. Sometimes it can knock a clog loose after you’ve snaked the pipe.
At this point, if you stil can’t get your sink to drain, it might be time to call in reinforcements. You don’t want to poke a hole in the pipe (which could be old and rusty if your house is like mine), and anything else you do is likely to hurt more than help. Even if your efforts aren’t successful, you get to sound really knowledgeable when you call a plumber and say, “I removed and cleaned the p-trap, then snaked the wall pipe, and the clog still won’t budge.”
I Can Brush My Teeth Again!
Snaking the pipes and plunging the sink afterward finally got rid of whatever was clogging my bathroom sink. I can’t even tell you how excited I was to see the water drain out of it. As an added bonus, I got to clean the area under the bathroom sink, which was pretty gross and dusty. I also found some makeup that had fallen out of my makeup bag. Everyone wins!
While I’m no plumbing master, I enjoy being able to deal with minor catastrophes like this one on my own. Especially since the money I didn’t pay to a plumber can go into savings instead of into some guy’s pocket.
Do you DIY when it comes to things like clogged drains? Any other sink-declogging or other household tips you can share?