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  • Writer's pictureHandsome Hank

How to Clear a Drain at Home

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One of the most common plumbing problems, and certainly the most annoying, costly and disgusting is a blocked drain. Clogged drains and sewers can cost home owners thousands of dollars. Not to mention the potential property damage they can cause and lost time on other endeavors. A lot of people don't realize how dangerous water from backed up drains can be. There can be bacteria and fecal matter throughout sewage and it posses a great health hazard so do not ignore it or treat it lightly. Even a tiny splash into the eyes could result in pinkeye or other infections if it gets into cuts, hangnails, etc. Hepatitis and other nasty bacteria can thrive in sewage and wastewater so be very careful. If accidentally ingested, it can make the entire household very ill, including pets. Remember the Walkerton Water Crisis and the E.coli outbreak? People were really really sick. That is the result of ingesting bacteria.

Everyone should always use PPE's including masks, gloves, safety glasses and coveralls when in contact with sewage or backed up waste water.

The most common causes of blockages are:

Let talk about how to address each of these issues. Based on where the drain is located, you probably can guess which one is the culprit. For example, kitchen is most likely food and grease, and bathrooms might be hair or a foreign object. Basement could be hair or roots depending on the age of your house.

Food and grease.

Food and grease are most common in your kitchen sink and is a result of people not scraping dishes into the green bin or garbage before rinsing or washing plates. Bacon grease, oil, and fats should always be separated and disposed of in your green bin or garbage. Having a tin or old plastic container for fats or grease to be poured into and stored in the freezer until garbage day is always a good idea. Plates or pots and pans that have been wiped with paper towels can go straight into the green bin paper and all. Grease and fats that make it into the drain will congeal and stick to the inside of your drain pipes

which can be described as a smelly, soft buttery or pudding like substance. Other foods such as eggshells and rice that make it passed the strainer basket get lodged in this 'smelly pudding' and crate a blockage which will make the strongest of characters squeamish. If only had a buck for every time a homeowner told me they do not flush food or grease down a drain. The proof is in the smelly drain pudding.

So how do I fix it you're asking? Well there a couple options depending on how bad the blockage is.

Drain snakes often will cut through the blockage and offer a short term solution assuming the user knows how to correctly use a drain snake. Often drain snakes will poke a hole through the blockage. Sticking with the soft butter analogy, if you poke a knife through it, it will make a hole but it will close back up again. A short lived success. So people then try 'Plan B'. Chemicals and acids like Draino that open house drains. Don't do it! I cannot stress enough how horrible and dangerous this option is. In fact, it is so horrible I will write a separate blog about how terrible this stuff is. Not only does it pollute our drinking water, but it hurts the environment in many other ways. You can suffer terrible burns and sight loss if you get it into your eyes on on your skin. Not to mention it's damaging to your pipes and plumbing which can cause more problems in the future.

Bio-Enzymes are also an effective and safe way to clear drains. They are safe for humans, safe for your pipes and safe for the environment. Effectively anaerobic bacteria applied to your plumbing system will grow and eat all of the detritus material that is clogging your drains. We use BioAttack Odour & Grease Digester.

First cleaning your drains with a drain snake and following up with regular enzyme treatments to clean and prevent future clogs are a good maintenance practice for all of your drains.

This one is pretty self explanatory. If you have a septic and it is full and dirty, your drains will cease to work. Call your local tank pumper company to solve this one. If you are on a septic and drains suddenly stop draining, your first step should be to lift the lid and look. If it is a common re occurrence, you can install an alarm that will notify you when the tank is almost full and you can make arrangements before it is backing up.


Often hair gets caught on traps and pop up drains and mixes with soap and shampoo residue and can cause clogs. This is most common in showers, tubs, and bathroom sinks. Drain snakes are very effective at grabbing and removing hair. Removing and cleaning P-traps (under sinks) and pop ups (the plug clicker in the top of the drain) will also solve the problem a lot of the time. Follow it up with some enzymes and you're practically a plumber!

Foreign Objects.

This is a tricky one. Often children will flush things down the toilet or things can be dropped without noticing and the toilet is flushed before you're able to fish it out.

Retrieving them can be very difficult. Since there can be so many variables, in this case it is best to contact a reputable plumber. (See our blog on how to find a reputable plumber near you). Sometimes the toilet can be removed and flipped over to find whatever little treasure your child has dropped in there and sometimes a camera needs to be put down there if the object has passed the toilet and is in the pipes. The object will hopefully be able to be pushed out into the sewer. This unfortunately is expensive.


If you live in a house and you have a tree on your front lawn, chances are that tree is trying to 'get into' your sewer pipe. Trees are thirsty plants and they are always seeking a source of

water and nutrients. They are relentless once it finds one and when it gets in there is no stopping it from growing and absorbing nutrients in your water and sewer. The roots will grow into a net that stops up drains. The roots will slow down liquid or catch solids before they get to the city sewer causing clogs. Effluent (a fancy word for liquid waste or sewage) will back up into floor drains and could cost a lot of damage to finished basements and flooring. If your house was built in the 50's or earlier, you probably have clay sewer pipes. Clay pipes are usually 3' sections and are connected by rubber clamps. The roots are able to squeeze through the clamps and start growing inside your sewer. Unfortunately there isn't a quick fix for this at home either. You'll have one of three options, 1. Replace the Sewer, 2. Line the Sewer, or 3. Regular sewer cleaning with a drain auger or they are sometimes called a drain snake. See our blog on tree roots and how to deal with them

Full Septic Tank.

This one is pretty self explanatory. If you have a septic and it is full and dirty, your drains will cease to work. Call your local tank pumper company to solve this one. If you are on a septic and drains suddenly stop draining, your first step should be to lift the lid and look. If it is a common reoccurrence, you can install an alarm that will notify you when the tank is almost full and you can make arrangements before it is backing up.

Broken Pipes.

As houses settle and grounds shift, stressors are placed on both interior and exterior plumbing. Fittings can shift, spilt, or even sever. If it is inside your house, the result is usually a leak. If it is on the outside or underground you will not see the leak but your drains will backup when solids catch on the broken pipes or fittings. It will be a reoccurring problem unless you fix it. The best fix is to locate any issues with a camera and replace at least the broken section- or better yet- replace all of the underground piping to ensure continuity and improving property value and prevents any future headaches.


Clogs happen to everyone time to time and hopefully some of these tips will help you determine if you can fix a clog yourself or if you'll need to call in a trusted and reputable plumber in your area. See our blog on How to find a trustworthy and reputable plumber near you.

“A plumber is an adventurer who traces leaky pipes to their source.” – Arthur Baer

Through consistent improvement and upright intentions, we strive to forge lifelong relationships which benefit our community.

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