Mr. Rooter's Daily Tips: Expert plumbing advice on unclogging household drains.
Youngstown, Ohio : A drain blockage may be in the trap under the fixture, in a branch line carrying waste from several fixtures to the main drain, or in the main house drain or its connection to the sewer. According to Bob Beall, Pittsburgh’s most referred plumber, “if only one fixture is blocked or sluggish, start by cleaning its trap.” The president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing Pittsburgh offers free daily plumbing tips at the new Mr. Rooter Media Center. Beall hosts a LIVE chat for residential or commercial consumers wishing to get answers to common plumbing problems.
“Clogged drains are one of the most common questions posed by homeowners,” says Mr. Rooter. “A common force-cup plunger and a drain-and-trap auger are not only the easiest unclogging tools to use, but also the most effective and the safest,” according to Beall. Beall adds, that devices that use compressed air often impact the blockage and may loosen or blow apart fragile pipes such as lavatory traps.
“It is not advisable to use a chemical drain cleaner in a fixture that is completely blocked. The most powerful cleaners contain lye, a caustic compound that is dangerous and can harm fixtures if left too long in them,” according to Mr. Rooter. If the chemical cleaner does not clear the drain, you will be exposed to the caustic when you open a clean-out plug or remove a trap.
According to the expert plumber who serves; Beaver, Cranberry, Pittsburgh, Sharon, Washington and Westmoreland Pennsylvania, and Youngstown Ohio, “after a drain has been cleaned, chemical cleaners do serve a useful purpose.” When used regularly—every two weeks or so—they prevent build-up of debris that could lead to a future blockage, according to Mr. Rooter.
Mr. Rooter’s Tip Of The Day
Lavatories and Sinks
Tip # 1 Using a plunger: Begin by removing the sink strainer or pop-up drain plug. If there is an overflow opening—most kitchen sinks have none—plug it with wet rags. Any air gap provided for a dishwasher also must be plugged. Be sure there is enough water in the basin to cover the plunger cup completely. Coat the rim of the cup evenly with petroleum jelly and center the cup over the drain hole. Without breaking the seal between the drain and the cup, pump down and up with short, rapid stroke 10 times, then jerk the plunger up from the drain quickly. Repeat the procedure several more times if necessary. If the drain still remains clogged, try Tip # 2.
Tip #2 Using an auger: With the strainer or pop-up stopper removed, feed a drain-and-tap auger into the drain by cranking the handle clockwise. As you push the auger wire farther into the drain, alternately loosen and tighten the thumbscrew on the auger handle. When you hook something move the auger backward and forward slowly while cranking, then withdraw the auger wire slowly while continuing to crank in the same direction. Pour hot water and detergent through the trap to clear away residual grease or oils. If the auger doesn’t not clear the trap, try Tip # 3.
Tip #3 Working through the clean-out plug: If the trap under the clogged fixture has a clean-out plug, place a bucket under the trap and remove the plug. After water has emptied from the trap, straighten a wire coat hanger, form a small hook in one end, and probe through the trap. If the obstruction is near the opening, you should be able to dislodge it or hook it and draw it out. If not, feed a drain-and-trap auger first up to the sink opening, then through the back half of the trap. If these three tips do not resolve your issue, the blockage may be in the vertical pipe behind the fixture or in a horizontal pipe—a branch drain—that runs through the wall or floor to connect to the main drain-vent stack serving the entire house.
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