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Unclogging a Drain

Our own Ken Turner is now an Expert Contributor for Longview Neighbors Magazine. You’ll find his first article about unclogging a drain in the March Issue! Scroll down to read it here.

“Do you ever have standing water in your sink or shower?  Does the drain line for the washing machine sometimes backup and overflow?  If so, this is often the sign of a partially clogged drain line.  What can a homeowner do?  Turns out there are several options available to you before one calls in the experts.

zip it toolOne of my favorite options for bathroom or showers that drain slowly is a product called a Zip It.  It is a two foot piece of plastic with barbs on the side.  You simply push the flexible two foot plastic line down the sink or shower drain and pull it back out.  If there is hair clogging the drain, often it will come up hooked on one of the barbs.  Do that several times and many time you can unclog a drain line that has hair near the top.  WARNING…..if you are queasy, you may want to ask someone else to do this for you because often, the stuff you pull up will be gross.  The best part about this tool?  It can be used over and over again.  We keep them under all of our bathroom sinks.

If the drain is more stubborn and the Zip It doesn’t help, then a homeowner does have other options.  Among the other options are two of my favorites, sulphuric acid or Thrift.  The acid product comes under a number of names such as Hot Power or Liquid Fire or Blow Out.  Basically it just pours down the drain and eats a hole through the stoppage.  Be warned on this product…..it often does carry a strong odor and is extremely caustic to skin.

Thrift comes under a variety of names but is basically sodium hydroxide in a crystalized form.  It is activated by hot water before and after it is poured down a drain.  It the drain is very slow, I often tell people to heat water in the microwave or on a stove to avoid having standing water.
This product is not harmful to pipes or to septic systems.  Please note that hot water makes the crystals extremely hot, so do not touch any crystals that may still be in the sink.  Use a spoon or other utensil to push the crystal down the drain.

If you do have standing water in a sink, neither the acid or the Thrift are good options.  Generally we recommend using a gel product to cut through the standing water.  The other option would be to drain the sink underneath by using a pan and undoing the p trap.

Final word of caution…..do not mix any of the chemicals noted above with each other.  In this case, generally speaking, more is not better.  For instance the acid and the Thrift can sometimes  cause a minor explosion back up the drain line.  That could cause an ever bigger problem or hurt the homeowner in the process.

And if none of the above work and you feel the need to call in a plumber?  Be sure and tell the plumber what chemicals you have used so that he is aware of what may be lurking in the line.”