Home Survival Handbook - DIY energy projects, generator safety

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Unclogging a Drain

A clogged drain is one of the more common - and easiest fixed - plumbing problems. However, before attempting repair, it helps to first determine where the clog might be located. The four (4) most common drain clogs can be found in the following places:

  1. In the trap under the sink or fixture
  2. In a branch line taking waste from several lines to the main line
  3. In the main house line
  4. In the main connection to the sewer

Before making any attempts to unclog a drain - particularly those that are branch or main lines - you should turn off the house water at the main shutoff valve to avoid the chance of flooding.

The most effective and common tools to use are the plunger and a drain trap auger. When using pressure in an attempt to dislodge a clog, you can use either a plunger or one of the canned, pressurized drain cleaners available on the market. In each case, caution should be used. While these methods can dislodge the clog, they can also cause damage to old or fragile pipes.

It is not recommended that a chemical cleaner be used in a drain that is completely blocked. Should this be done, if the clog does not become dislodged, the extended exposure of the pipes to the caustic in these products may cause damage to not only the pipes but also to yourself. And, in the event you find you must open the pipe or trap, you'll be exposing yourself to the contaminated caustic water.

How to clean a drain using:


  • Remove sink strainer or pop-up plug
  • If the sink has an overflow opening, i.e.., under the sink, plug it
  • Have enough water in the sink to cover the plunger completely
  • Put petroleum jelly on the rim of the plunger cup
  • Center the cup over the drain and without lifting, push down and up with short, quick strokes about ten times and then lift the plunger quickly from the drain
  • Repeat process if clog remains or try using an auger

Drain Auger:

  • Remove sink strainer or pop-up plug
  • Once removed, feed drain-and-trap auger into the drain by cranking per manufacturer's directions
  • As the auger continues to go farther into the drain, alternately loosen and tighten the handle.
  • When something is 'hooked', move the auger back and forth while cranking, slowly withdrawing the auger as you continue to crank
  • Once the clog is removed, pour hot water and a good detergent (Pine Sol) into the drain to clean any remaining oil or grease.

Trap Removal:

  • Shut off the water under the sink or drain
  • Place a bucket or old towels under the trap area to catch any excess water or debris that may fall
  • Using a wrench, unscrew the nuts at either end of the trap. (Note: if your pipes are metal, wrap the jaws of the wrench with tape to keep from damaging the pipes)
  • Remove the trap and clean it with a good grease-cutting detergent and a bottle brush.
  • Replace the trap, tighten the nuts and slowly turn on the water

If you are still experiencing a clog, unless you are quite handy around the house, you may want to call a professional plumber.

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