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How to Unclog a Drain

How to Unclog a Drain

Clogged Drain?  Are you asking yourself any of these questions?

  1. How do I unclog a drain?
  2. How do I keep my drain from clogging?
  3. Can I unclog a Bathroom drain myself?
  4. Can I unclog a Kitchen drain myself?
  5. Can I unclog a Floor drain myself?
  6. I have roots in my sewer?
  7. Is there really a magical liquid that I can pour in my clogged drain?
  8. Do I need a professional Drain Cleaner

So you have found yourself stuck with a clogged drain and you have come here to find out how to unclog that drain.  Mainly, I am betting that what you really want to know; can I do it myself?  We will try to help answer that question.  Let’s get started!

How do I unclog a drain?  — BATHROOM DRAIN CLOGS


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Can I unclog this drain myself?

Yes, most likely.


We are starting with what usually can be an easy drain to access and therefore, unclog.  If you have a bathroom sink or tub drain that is clogged or backed up, your solution may be quite simple.


Typically these clogs are a combination of hair and soap that has clung together blocking the flow of water down the drain.  Remove that “Glob” and the drain is unclogged.  If you can pull the hair out, problem solved; drain unclogged.  Sounds nasty I know, but if the clog in your drain is not grease, the solution is easier.


There are two basic products that you can use.


The first one is new and can be found in the “As Seen on TV” section at your local Target, Wal-Mart, Bed Bath & Beyond or almost or a hardware store.  Or online: This little guy really works to grab and clear out hair.  Once you have done that, again you have just unclogged your own drain.

unclog your own drain with this flexi-snake

unclog your own bathroom drain

The downside to this little tool is that it only works for clogs that are within a foot or two.  That is fine for this situation; these types of clogs are usually within a foot in a bathroom drain.



The second tool is a little more aggressive but still very simple and affordable.  This tool is called a snake.  This is a hand held tool that can be purchased at any hardware, Home Depot, Lowes, etc.  Locally here in MN you can pick up the one shown here at Menards for under $20.  This tool has a coiled wire inside it that you insert into the drain.  Then as you slide it in you turn the handle spinning this coil which will grab onto that hair and then you can pull it out.  Clean-up of the tool can bit a bit undesirable but it works really well.


Hand Held Drain Snake to unclog bathroom drain

Hand Held DIY Drain Snake


How do I unclog a drain?  — KITCHEN DRAIN CLOGS


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Can I unclog this drain by myself?



The first thing to worry about here is if you have a Disposal in the sink that is clogged.  If you DO have a Garbage Disposal then make sure you attempt to clear this clog from the other side, NOT the side with the disposal.


Most likely this sink is clogged due to grease.  The grease may have come from washing dishes or been inadvertently poured into the sink.  Either way, it probably cooled and coated the sides of your drain somewhere down the line.  Then it collected small particles over time and grew to the point where it is now, it clogged the drain.


Is there really a magical liquid that I can pour in my clogged drain?

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To unclog this drain there are several different liquid and powder solutions that you can mix together and try.  However, we do NOT recommend any of them.  These concoctions are meant to be simply poured into the drain.  You may have found a recipe in an online search or be considering one of the over the counter products.  Again, our advice, the over the counter liquid or powder products do not work that well.  Worse, they make it appear to be clear, but the drain did not get clean.  We do not recommend pouring any of these into your drain; we consider them “POOR Drain Cleaners”.


Let me explain a bit further.  If your two inch in diameter drain is clogged, you can put chemicals down there and it may appear opened up and fixed.  Drain Unclogged?  Probably not.  You may have just opened it up a little bit, say to a one Inch Diameter.  It appears that the water is draining fine.  In reality, you have just opened it, half-way at the most.  And a big portion of that grease is still stuck there.  This grease will continue attracting and grabbing particles as they go by and more grease.  So in a very short time, this drain will be blocked again.  This second drain blockage may be even a harder and longer blockage, a worse problem then you started with.


The other risk you run with these “POOR Drain Cleaners” is damage to your drains.  We have seen pipes where the concoction that was poured into the drain calcified and could not be cleared.  We also have seen the chemicals eat away at pipes and cause leaks which caused water damage to the property.  In both of these types of situations, the pipes literally needed to be replaced.


Again, our advice, do no not POUR  any of these “POOR Drain Cleaners” into your drains.


OK so back to the question, can you unclog this drain yourself.

And again, the answer, maybe.


To attempt this, the best tool would be the drain snake from up above.  Found for under $20 in any hardware store.  Trying this will most likely not damage your pipes or make the clog worse.


Insert the snake and spin it as you go through the drain.  If the clog is within the first few inches keep spinning it and work it back and forth until you either clear the drain or you simply can’t push it through.  Unfortunately, if you can not push the clog through or pull any of it out; it may be time to call in a professional.


If you have traveled for several feet and still have not found any obstruction, your problem may be bigger than you expected and you may need to call a professional.  These “Do it Yourself Snakes” only are designed to go ten or twenty feet.


Now if you were able to work that snake through and clear the obstruction that is great!  However, you’re not done.  Same as I stated above, you may have just partially opened it.  What you should do now is run cold water, yes cold water down the drain.  Meanwhile send the snake back down and really spin it around in the area where it was clogged.  This should clear the blockage from your pipe.

Why cold water? Using cold water will make that grease break off in solid chunks and flow down the drain and ultimately out of your house.  If you used hot water, the grease would liquefy, that is true.   And this seems like a logical way to get rid of the grease.  However, what happens is that warm liquefied grease will just harden again when it reaches a cool spot within your drain and possibly cause a clog further down the line.  This you do not want.


How do I unclog a drain?  — FLOOR DRAIN CLOGS

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Can I unclog this drain myself?

No, most likely not.


Unfortunately if your floor drain is clogged (in your basement) and you have water backing up from it when you run your washing machine or worse, flush the toilet, call us (651) 436-3370 (or another professional) right away.  DO NOT pour any of the “POOR Drain Cleaners” down your floor drain.  If they calcify or damage your pipes down there, that will mean tearing up your concrete floor to replace them, very expensive!


A floor drain clog is a clog that is best handled by a professional.  You may have several different things going on.  Here are a few of the more common ones:


  • There may be roots in your sewer line, this is very common.  A professional will have the tools and equipment to cut those roots away.  Now, don’t be alarmed if you have roots in your line, again, it is very common.  (See further Root Explanation below)
  • You also may have just a really bad clog that might include some or everything written about above; hair, soap, grease, lint, fibers and other less desirable products.  A good cleaning will remove all of this debris.
  • The worst case scenario would be a broken sewer line.  A video inspection of your line will show for certain if that is the case.  The inspection can also locate the spot of the break so you will know exactly where it is.


How do I unclog a drain?  — ROOTS IN MY SEWER DRAIN


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Can I unclog this drain myself?

No, most likely not.



Roots in your main sewer line do not mean that you need to tear up your yard and replace your main sewer pipes.  That is an option, yes.  But to do this would cost you thousands of dollars.  Simply because you have roots growing in there does not mean there is a broken or even cracked sewer pipe.  Roots can grow through an almost microscopic seam in your sewer pipe or drain line.  Once into the sewer pipe itself, they have the perfect growing scenario, dark, damp lots of fertilizer.  So they will grow like crazy in there.


So, what should you do if you have roots in your drain then?


  1. First of all, don’t guess.  Have us or another professional come out and auger those roots.  We will see them on the teeth of our auger blade and then you will know for sure there where roots.
  2. Once it is determined that you have a root problem, look outside at what plants you have that might be sending roots into the sewer.  If they can be removed, that may help.
  3. However, if the plants can not be removed (or you do not want to remove them), you then will need to be proactive.   Schedule an annual or bi-annual time for a professional to come out and clean that line of roots again.  This will be tedious and cost you a few hundred dollars each time but it may be better than the hassle of tearing up your yard, driveway, and sidewalk etc. plus spending around $10,000 or more for that replacement.
  4. Check with your drain cleaner for further suggestions about your root problems.


How do I keep my drain from clogging or re-clogging?

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A couple of tips to keep your drain open and running smooth.

Never pour grease down your drain.  Collect grease in some type of container and when it solidifies throw it away or recycle it properly.  And if for some odd reason Grease or oil got into your drain by mistake, run hot water for at least 5 minutes to make sure the grease works it’s way completely through the drains within your house.

Now the bathroom drains.  The most common problem that we find in the bathroom is feminine products, don’t flush them!  Throw them in the trash.  Especially if you have had any type of drain blockage.  Also, if you live in an older house, don’t flush them.  They expand, have a string on them to catch on stuff, everyday we unclog a drain because of feminine products in the line.

Hair is the second big problem with the bathroom drains.  The best way is to try and avoid a clog from hair is simply to try and keep the hair out of these drains.  You may need to attach a strainer to your drain or above the drain to catch the hair.  And unfortunately, if there are a few hairs left in the bottom of the tub after a bath or shower, use a tissue or paper towel and wipe them out and dispose of them.  If you simply wash them into the drain, that may be the start of another clog.

Again, we need to reiterate, please do not pour any of the “POOR Drain Cleaners” down your drain.  Those chemicals do more harm then good.

What if I need a professional drain cleaner?

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Call us! We have been doing this for over 20 years and have the best crew, equipment and knowledge to take care of your drain problems quickly and effectively. McDonough’s an Integrity Minded Sewer Cleaning Company.

(651) 436-3370

Unclog your drains with McDonough's

McDonough's, Family owned serving the Twin Cities for over 20 Years!