There’s nothing more frustrating than a drain that is slow to clear. While you may not think much of it, a slow drain can be bothersome, time-consuming, and plain annoying!
Luckily, there are simple solutions that anyone can do to clear a slow drain on their own. But, of course, if these solutions don’t work, or you are worried about adverse side effects, then it’s always best to contact a professional plumber.
Here’s our brief guide on how to clear a slow drain:
Reasons Your Water Drains Slowly
Our homes rely on our plumbing system to clear water and other liquids away from our house. But if a drain is clearly slow, this can cause issues.
There are many different reasons why your sinks may drain slowly. These include:
- Excess debris or sludge clogging up the plumbing
- Your drains have not been properly cleaned or maintained in quite some time
- The plumbing setup is not accurate (i.e., your P-trap is upside down, for example)
- There is a backup in other parts of your plumbing system (like the main drain lines)
If your sink drain is clogged for reasons other than a build-up of debris and other everyday materials, you may need to call a professional or call the city if connected to a city line. A major plumbing issue could impact your home’s integrity in the case of a backup, and you may need to contact your homeowner’s insurance.
Best Ways to Clear a Clogged Drain
Whether you’re experiencing a clog in your kitchen sink, bathroom sink, in your shower drain, or tub drain, you can use any of these methods to unclog your drain:
1. Boiled Water, Baking Soda, and Vinegar
Boiling water and adding baking soda and vinegar into your drain trap is touted as one of the best ways to clear a clogged drain. Here’s what you do:
- Bring water to a boil and then pour it down the slow clearing drain (recommended to use a whole kettle)
- Put half a cup of baking soda into that drain and let it sit for a few minutes
- Add 1 cup of vinegar for every 1 cup of hot water you pour down the drain
- Cover the drain with a plug and let it sit for 10 minutes
- Boil another kettle and pour it down the drain
And that’s it! The chemical combination of hot water, baking soda, and vinegar should do the trick on basic clogs. If it doesn’t work the first time, repeat these steps or try another method.
2. Hot Water and Dish Soap
Dish detergent can help to degrease your drain:
- Pour or squeeze ½ cup of Dawn® dish detergent (or any detergent you have around the house) down the drain.
- Let the detergent work its way down the drain for 30 minutes.
- Bring a kettle of water to a boil.
- Once boiled, pour the entire kettle down the clogged drain.
- Run hot water to flush the drain.
If the water is draining properly, you’re done. It’s still slow, repeat steps 1 through 5.
Both methods using hot water help to melt the organic material and grease that builds up in the pipes.
3. Clean Your Drain
Clogged drains usually happen from a build-up of everyday materials. These clogs can be right at the stopper, or further down the pipe.
Start by cleaning your sink stopper—this is the portion of your sink that protects excess debris from going down into the drain pipe. The stopper usually tends to catch soap, hair, and other debris.
You can usually remove the stopper by unscrewing it. If not, look underneath the sink where the basin connects to the pipe. It may be attached by a nut at that junction.
If you see the stopper covered in slime, then use a paper towel or rag to clean it.
We also recommend fishing out any debris that is caught in the drain. Use a drain cleaning tool or thin pointed object to fish debris like hair out to clear the drain.
4. Use a Sink Plunger
Sink plungers use pressure to move debris around in your drain and create a passage through standing water. Use a sink plunger in a tough drain or slow draining sink, or if the clog is too far down the drain.
5. Use a Drain Snake
Snakes or drain augers are great for aggressively removing difficult drain blockages. You can pick one up at any home goods store, and they come in a range of sizes for longer pipes.
Before you snake, remove the stopper at the drain opening. Then, feed the snake in and periodically retract the snake to clean away accumulated grunge. If you can pull out debris, do so and put it in a nearby trash can. See this post for tips on how to use a drain snake.
6. Check the P-trap
The P-trap is the U-shaped bend in the pipe below your sink, and it’s specifically designed for maintaining a small pool of water to prevent sewer gas from backing up into your home. Of course, this is a prime spot for things to get stuck.
You can remove the P-trap yourself. Shut off your water supply to the sink and clear out the space below the sink. We recommend leaving a bucket below the P-trade to catch dirty water.
You can usually remove the P-trap by unscrewing slip nuts at each edge of the curved pipe. Twist the slip nuts counterclockwise with a wrench or your fingers. Once loosened, you should be able to lift away the P-trap.
Use your fingers to clear out any debris that has accumulated.
7. Chemical Drain Cleaner
Chemical products were designed for drain cleaning. While we don’t necessarily recommend chemical drain cleaners as some are unsafe for pvc pipes, they will often work. They may just be harder on your plumbing system. Visit your local home goods store and pick up a drain cleaner.
What is Safe to Put Down My Kitchen or Bathroom Sink?
When it comes to drain cleaning, you want to know what’s safe to use and what’s not. Here’s a quick section on what items are safe to put down your sinks?
What can I pour down a drain to unclog it?
There is a range of substances that you can pour down your clogged drain. However, you want to be careful when putting too many harsh chemicals into the sewage system or your septic system. Hot water, baking soda, vinegar, dish soap, table salt, and lemon are all safe for a drain clog.
How do you unclog a slow drain naturally?
Many conscientious homeowners look to natural ways for clearing a clogged bathroom sink. We highly recommend the boiled water, baking soda, and vinegar method mentioned above to unclog your slow drain naturally.
What is the best homemade drain cleaner?
Whether you are DIY inclined or are in a pinch, you can make a homemade or natural drain cleaner with items that you have around your house.
Trusted home improvement expert Bob Vila recommends combining 1/8th a cup of cream of tartar with two cups of baking soda and half a cup of salt. Mix this solution in a jar by shaking it. Then pour two cups of hot, boiling water down your drain followed by your homemade drain cleaner. Let it sit for an hour or overnight before checking to see if the magic worked.
Bonus Tip! What to Do If My Drain Cleaning Method Doesn’t Work?
If you’ve tried all of these methods for clearing your drain, know that you can always call a local, reputable, and licensed plumber. They will be able to come out and assess your drain and advise you on the next steps to clear the drain.
If you are experiencing a slow drain due to a main line blockage or tree root intrusion, they will have special equipment to resolve this. One of these popular methods is called hot jetting. This is usually the best route to go as they can assess your system and prevent further plumbing damage.
Keeping Your Sink Clear All-Year Round
Slow drains can be troublesome, but some DIY cleaning and preventative maintenance can keep your sink drains clear all year round.
Try to stay on top of your sink clearing to prevent drain clogs. You can consider adding a wire mesh hair catcher, especially if you have kids or long hair. Avoid washing debris and hair down the drain, and instead, wipe it up with a towel and throw it away.
Cleaning your drain stopper should become part of your regular bathroom cleaning. And you can also consider washing hot water down your drain to regularly melt soap and scum.
No matter what happens, know that you can always reach out to the professionals at All Masters Plumbing of Arlington, Texas. If you’ve got a tough, drain, we’ve got your back.