Drain Cleaning: Do-It-Yourself or Hire a Professional Plumber?
You try to take a shower, and end up ankle-deep in murky water. You brush your teeth, and the sink doesn’t drain. We’ve all been there. There’s nothing pleasant about a clogged drain or blocked pipe. Fortunately, there are a number of drain cleaning solutions that can have things running smoothly again in no time. How do you know whether to tackle the problem yourself or to call your local Florida plumber in? Here are a few tips to help you make the decision.
Taking the DIY Approach
From hair to grease and beyond, many clogs and blockages are easily resolved at home, using a number of DIY techniques. These work particularly well on soft blockages that are located relatively close to the surface of the drain. If you know what is blocking your drain, or you want to try a quick fix before calling a professional, these options may be for you.
Corrosive Drain Cleaners
The first thing that many people do when faced with a clogged drain is reach for the drain cleaner. There are a number of drain cleaners on the market that use corrosive chemicals to power through soft clogs near the surface of the drain. These cleaners typically come in liquid form and contain highly concentrated bleach, lye, or potassium hydroxide. Some drain cleaners contain two components that are mixed when poured into the drain, creating a gas that is trapped inside the plumbing by a thick foam. The foam is designed to coat the insides of the drain pipe, removing the substance causing the clog. Chemical drain cleaners can be very convenient and easy to use. Most of them just require you to pour them into the clogged drain, wait awhile, and then rinse with warm water. The downside to chemical drain cleaners is that they are typically ineffective on more difficult clogs, or on blockages that occur further down the sewer line. The corrosive nature of these products also makes them potentially dangerous if they come into contact with your skin, eyes, or even lungs if you inadvertently breathe in their fumes. If you decide to use a chemical drain cleaner, take care to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and take proper caution to prevent injury.
The Natural Approach
A safer (but equally effective) alternative to chemical drain cleaners comes from combining ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen. Do you remember building volcanoes for the school science fair by combining vinegar with baking soda to make an "eruption?" This technique builds on that same principle. First, pour about 3/4 of a cup of dry baking soda down the drain. Then, pour about 1/2 a cup of vinegar down the drain. White vinegar and apple cider vinegar work great, but any type will do. As soon as you pour the vinegar down the drain, you’ll want to cover the drain opening with a rag or some type of drain plug. The mixture of vinegar and baking soda will cause a chemical reaction, creating a foam that will rise up through the drain (just like the volcano!). Covering the drain will keep as much of the foam inside the pipe as possible, where it can unleash its cleaning power. Let the foam do its thing for about 30 minutes, then flush it thoroughly by pouring hot water down the drain. It may take multiple applications, but this method often leaves your drain clean and flowing smoothly. Using baking soda and vinegar is great when you need a drain cleaning solution on the fly, or if you are looking for a natural alternative to corrosive cleaners.
Clearing the Trap
A third DIY solution requires a little bit more work on your part, but is well-worth it if you are faced with a large hair clog, or some foreign material caught in your sink drain. The first thing you’ll want to do is clear out the area under the sink. Then, place a bucket (you can use a pot in a pinch) under the sink pipes to catch any water or other debris that might fall out of the sink trap. Use pliers to loosen the metal slip nuts, and then finish removing them by hand. If you’ve got a plastic trap, you can usually skip the pliers, and just turn the slip nuts manually. You can use your hands to knock any blockage from inside the "elbow" of the trap into your bucket. If the clog is higher up near the drain (as is often the case with hair clogs in bathroom sinks), you can straighten a wire hanger and use that to pull the clog down through the pipe. Once the blockage is clear, just put the elbow back on and re-tighten the slip nuts. Dispose of the water and debris in your bucket (do NOT pour it back down the drain!), and voila–as good as new!
When to Call in the Pros
There are some times when it is just better to leave the
plumbing repair work to the professionals, like PMI Remodeling & Repair. Examples of professional draining cleaning jobs include when you have:
- Recurring or persistent clogs that don’t respond to DIY treatment
- Thick grease blockages
- Clogged sewer pipes
- Invasive root growth
PMI Remodeling & Repair has access to a number of tools made specifically for handling difficult drain clogs and blockages. Professional drain cleaners, such as those containing sulfuric acid, can be extremely dangerous when used by someone other than a licensed professional. Other professional tools, such as those used for hydrojetting, are far too expensive to be practical for anyone other than a master plumber. With the right tools and their extensive training, your plumber can effectively clear your drains of even the toughest blockages.
If you have tried to attack a difficult clog to no avail, it is possible that the blockage is in a place beyond your reach. With a bathtub drain, you might have to go into the pipes behind a wall. Some clogs can even occur further down the water main, outside the house. A licensed plumber has the knowledge and experience to handle complicated situations, making sure that all of your pipe send up back in the right places, avoiding further issues down the line. A master plumber can clear a drain and conduct additional troubleshooting to detect invasive root growth or other issues that you may have overlooked. If you’ve got a leaking faucet in addition to a blocked drain, you might want to call in a professional who can take care of everything at once.
The pros of calling in the Pros include:
- Expert knowledge and experience
- High-quality tools made to get the job done
- Convenience of having someone else do the work
- Troubleshooting knowledge to prevent other issues
When it comes to simple drain clogs, you can often resolve them on your own. For larger, more difficult jobs, don’t let the cost of hiring a professional deter you. Many plumbing specialists offer reasonable rates for their services, and you can’t put a price on your personal safety and peace of mind. Resolving a problem like a persistent leak can also save you on your water bill–savings that are well worth enlisting the help of a professional.
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