How to do-it-yourself instructional on freeing a clogged drain using a plunger and snake with discussion on the use of a liquid drain opener.
Oh man, donít you hate when this happens?
Today on Repairs101 Ė Iíve got a sink that wonít drain and if youíre watching this I imagine youíve got one, too. So Iíll take you through your options and show you what you can do about it.
Iím allowing the washing machine to vent into the sink which allows for a build-up of what is otherwise just ďdryer-lintĒ that never made it to the dryer. Iíll get you a shot of some of that stuff. Yeah itís pretty horrible.
OK as always the first line of defence is going to be a plunger. Iím just going to get in there and see if we canít get a real good seal on it. I say the plunger is the first line of defence because itís the most ďeco-friendlyĒ choice you have: that is just to use hydraulic pressure to drive through the blockage. You know this is the second time Iím trying this and itís really not working out for me so Iím going to have to move on to something stronger.
 
             
 
Alright, so this is my snake. Thereís all kinds of different snakes, actually. This is just an inexpensive manual snake that youíll find at virtually any good hardware store. This oneís probably fifteen feet long Ė Iím not really certain Ė Iíve had it for many, many years. And, the reason Iím wearing gloves, of course, it to keep me from coming into contact with the horrible places that this little fellow has been. So Iím just going to unwind it and drop it on the floor and show you that thatís what weíre looking at. Itís nothing but a spring thatís been unwound a bit at the end.
So Iím just going to let it seep. I know itís probably going to be clear in a few hours. Clear enough that I donít have to bucket it all outside or pitch it out the window. So Iím just going to wait it out. Thatís often the best thing you can do, especially with home plumbing like a toilet. Sometimes, if you can, apply the twenty-four hour rule which is just come back twenty-four hours later because very often organic matter will break down in the water in that period of time and clear itself. This isnít going to but it will seep fast enough through the material.
You can see, thatís just a rag I was using yesterday. Iíve got a lid from one of these Rubbermaid storage bins and Iím going to use that to catch the water. Look at that. Very often you can just undo these by hand. You donít even need a pipe wrench.
 
              
 
OK now there are a lot of options available to you, as far as what you can use to open up that elbow joint. This pair of Channellocks here might be kind of overkill, theyíre quite something. Just an ordinary pair that you might find in virtually anybodyís kitchen drawer on the other hand is really all you need.
You can use a pipe wrench but pipe wrenches are heavy and cumbersome and might be inclined to damage the plastic pipes. There is a new style of pipe wrench available. That would certainly be very effective and very useful but thatís kind of an expensive wrench for the average person. So I might still recommend you go with the medium sized Channellocks here.
If all youíve got is say a chain wrench or a locking chain wrench, you know this kind of stuff will obviously do the job but youíre going to have to be very careful, as with the pipe wrench. You know, youíre going to have to be very, very careful Ė youíre dealing with plastic fittings and they donít take a lot.
Now, a specialty wrench here: the manufacturer was kind enough to let us know what it is. Itís called a ďSlip and Lock Nut WrenchĒ and Iíve had a lot of use for this in the boat building industry. I use it on plastic ďthrough-hullĒ fittings. Itís just a wide jawed adjustable wrench and youíre just going to slip it like that. Now this is a very, very light duty little tool. But if youíre collecting unusual toolsÖ and because theyíre nice and light youíre not as likely to slip and say damage a new fibreglass boat when youíre putting in thru-hull fittings.
OK so this time Iím going to be wearing my respirator with the organic cartridges on it. Although this isnít a toilet outlet it is connected to all the other toilet outlets in the neighbourhood and the smell coming out of it is just ferocious. Youíre going to want to ventilate the room well and Ė like Iím doing Ė wear a respirator.
 
              
 
Iíve already loosened off the top nut with these Channellocks here. Iíve got my catch basin underneath, Iím just undoing it and out it comes. Iíll just pour the water into this catch basin here and Ė to my surprise Ė the elbow is completely clear. The problem is further downstream. Lucky for me Iíve got a snake. Before you do anything else you need to shove a rag or something to plug that hole because you get the sewage gas smell coming up because now thereís no water trap to stop it. So youíve got to get something in there fast. Ughhh! The smell is just horrific.
Alright Iíve got my mask on, Iíve got my gloves on and Iím ready to tackle this thing. The first thing Iím going to do is just back off that nut. OK itís loose. Iíve got my catch basin here.
OK Iím going in with the snake. OK Iím going to use the crank. Itís a very crude little crank but it works nonetheless: it allows you to spin. You just tighten that thumbscrew right there and the S-turn in the metal allows you to crank a little bit then you back it off and feed some more in. There you go. Itís going a lot further now. And, good. Check it out, that is the absolute end of my snake. It is all the way in, all but this one foot that you see in my hand. So Iím going to put my catch-basin right here again and slowly pull it out and clean it off as itís coming out. This Rubbermaid lid Ė storage bin lid I was telling you about earlier. Very handy.

Selection of plumbing tools

OK Iíve got my mask back on, my gloves back on. Iíve got a couple of wet rags and my plastic bag ready to receive the snake. Weíll expect the worst and hope for the best. Pull the plug. Iíll start pulling this thing out and feeding it into the bag, cleaning it off as necessary. OK you can see this black organic matter coming up already. Thatís what Iím going to try to avoid coming into contact with and Iíll try and catch it all with the rag. Iím already seeing some schmere inside the plastic bag so Iím glad Iím using a plastic bag because clearly the rag isnít getting it all. OK thatís pretty horrible. Iíll put it with the rag and everything in the bag, get this plug back in for the moment and get myself organized to put that water trap back in. OK, here we go. There we go Ė you want a nice seat on this seal there. Then let this thing pull it down into it. Now hopefully thatís going to hold water. Hand tight is generally tight enough and hand tight on top as well. This is the critical area here thatís going to leak if we have a leak. Iíll leave my catch-basin underneath and get some water in it.
[Water running]
OK well I donít know that itís running properly but I do know at least that the trap is full of water and so the smell canít come up from the sewer and I can take this damn thing off. And here Iíve gone and knocked my glasses off. How you doing?
Itís not over yet though, I havenít even tested it, but Iíll tell you this straight-up: if it doesnít work Iím going to pour some Drano down there. And, you know thatís my last line of defense. You might want to go and try a product like this Drano Max Gel. Iíve had a lot of success with this in other areas of the house. So it says on the back it contains Sodium Hydrochloride and, you know, itís a great product I just wanted to suggest that when youíre trying to decide whether or not to use a product like that: consider the fact that the water youíre pouring it into is indirectly the same water youíre drinking.
OK it sounds like itís going to require some more plunging. Yeah. Itís not free running yet.

View down the drain

[Water running]
Eventually I did break down and clean the sink. Kind of.



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