Tub, shower and sink drains are all connected to the waste lines by a curved length of pipe called a P-trap. It holds a small pool of water inside its inverted "P," sealing sewer gases inside the pipes and preventing vermin from crawling through the drain pipes into the house. Its main disadvantage is that grease, hair and sediment can collect inside it and block the drain. Plumbers use a plumbing auger to clear a clogged P-trap, but if you don't have one, a length of electrical cable can be a good substitute.
Things You'll Need
- 4-foot length of electrical cable
- Utility knife
- Boiling water
- Baking soda
- White vinegar
Remove the strainer from the drain, if there is one, by unscrewing it with a screwdriver. If there is a pop-up stopper, remove it. The procedure is slightly different between sink and tub drains.
Pull a pop-up stopper from a sink drain by crawling under the sink and disconnecting the stopper lever from the lift rod with a screwdriver. Unscrew the lever from the drain extension, or tailpiece, and pull it out, then lift the stopper out from the top of the sink. Replace the lever after you remove the stopper so you can pour water down the sink without having it spill out of the hole.
Remove the pop-up stopper from a tub drain by rotating or unscrewing the stopper and lifting it off. If this doesn't work, it may be attached with a screw. To remove both the screw and the stopper, lift the stopper as far as it will go and look for the screw just underneath it. Unscrew the screw with a screwdriver. In some cases, you may be able to simply pull the stopper out of a tub drain without unscrewing anything. In others, you may have to remove the stopper linkage by unscrewing the stopper handle from the side of the tub and pulling the linkage out before you can pull the stopper out.
Strip about 3 inches of plastic coating from of a 6-foot length of 12- or 14-gauge electrical cable with a utility knife.
Twist the ends of the wires together with pliers to form a pointed end.
Insert the wire into the drain opening and push it in as far as it will go. When you encounter resistance, either push and pull on the wire or twist it to work it through the obstruction.
Pour boiling water down the drain while you are working on the clog. As the wire opens a hole, the water will flow through and flush out the sediment.
Pour 1 cup baking soda down the drain, then immediately follow with 1 cup white vinegar if you have trouble clearing the clog. Give the vinegar and baking soda an hour or so to work, then try clearing the drain again with the wire and boiling water.
Tips & Warnings
- Keep your drains clear by periodically flushing them with baking soda and vinegar or by using an enzyme-based drain cleaner, which slowly eats organic matter that collects on the pipes.
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
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