Facing a clogged drain or backed-up sewer line is a major inconvenience, not to mention a potential health hazard and costly emergency. However, with a few precautionary measures and proactive maintenance, you can avoid most drain cleaning emergencies.
Prevent Clogs Before They Start
Prevention is the first step in safeguarding your plumbing system. Implement these tips to reduce the chances of a clog:
- Never pour grease down the drain: While it may seem harmless, pouring used cooking grease down the drain is a common mistake that leads to serious clogs. Grease solidifies at room temperature, causing a gelatinous goop that readily sticks to pipe walls and restricts water flow. To avoid this scenario, let the grease cool and dispose of it in your regular trash or a designated container.
- Don’t use your toilet as a garbage can: The sewer system is only designed to handle human waste and toilet paper, which dissolves in water. Flushing items that don’t break down when wet—such as baby wipes, facial tissues, feminine hygiene products, or cotton balls—can create blockages, leading to a plumbing emergency.
- Install drain guards: Drain guards, from steel mesh screens to flexible rubber covers, trap hair, food particles, and other debris before they flow down the drain and create obstructions. Drain guards are especially well-suited for kitchen sinks and showers where foreign materials pose the biggest threats.
- Pour hot water down the drain: Once a week after doing dishes, heat a kettle of water to near-boiling and pour it down the sink to dissolve grease, soap scum, and other buildup. Repeat this step in your bathroom sinks and showers to help maintain a clear pathway for your wastewater.
- Use enzyme cleaners: Regular use of all-natural enzyme drain cleaners is another effective measure. Using EPA-approved BIO-CLEAN once a month keeps your drains clear. Unlike chemical cleaners, enzymes are safe for your pipes and the environment.
- Be kind to your garbage disposal: Although garbage disposals are a convenient kitchen fixture, overuse can contribute to clogs. Stick to grinding up small food scraps, not entire plates of leftovers, and be careful about how much food you grind up at once. Pushing too much solid material into your drain is a recipe for blockages.
Address Small Clogs Before They Escalate
Even if you follow the preventative measures outlined above, small clogs are still liable to form. Attending to minor issues promptly prevents them from escalating into major problems. Here are some DIY methods to help you tackle small blockages:
- Try baking soda and vinegar: This natural, eco-friendly combination is an effective tool against minor clogs. Start by pouring one-half cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by one-half cup of vinegar. Wait for 15 to 20 minutes for the fizzing action to break down the clog, and then flush it away with hot water.
- Clean the sink trap: The U-shaped pipe under the sink holds water to prevent sewer gases from entering your home. Unfortunately, this bend in the pipe can collect debris and form a clog. If the sink starts draining slowly, removing and cleaning the trap is often all you need to get things flowing again.
- Plunge the drain: A good old-fashioned plunger is an effective tool for dislodging blockages. Be sure to use a flange plunger for toilet clogs and reserve the classic cup plunger for sinks and bathtub drains.
- Use a hand auger: Also called a plumbing snake, this tool features a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end that breaks up stubborn blockages when fed into the drain.
- Skip the chemicals: Chemical drain cleaners might seem like a quick, easy fix, but the best they can offer is temporary relief from minor clogs. Meanwhile, overuse can damage your pipes, leading to more serious trouble down the line.
Watch for Signs of Bigger Plumbing Problems
Most homeowners can tackle minor plumbing woes without issue. But sometimes, serious problems lurk just beneath the surface. Here’s how to tell you should call a professional plumber to take a look:
- Multiple clogs: If several fixtures in your home start draining slowly all at once, the problem is probably located deep in your sewer line. A professional plumber’s tools and expertise may be required to tackle this.
- Standing water: Ignoring slow drains can lead to a more severe clog. Water pooling in the sink or tub calls for immediate attention, as the fixture is unusable until you clear the blockage.
- Foul odors: A bad smell emanating from your drain could indicate waste in the pipe or escaping sewer gases. Both are serious issues that require prompt attention.
- Frequent toilet clogs: If the same toilet keeps clogging, even with less toilet paper, it could signal a major clog forming deep down the line.
- Gurgling noises: Hearing unusual sounds from your sink or toilet when another fixture is draining could indicate the need for sewer line cleaning.
- Water backups: Water rising from a sink or shower drain, whether dirty or clear, is never a good sign. Neglecting this symptom could lead to property damage and unsanitary conditions.
- Failed attempts to clear the clog: If your DIY drain cleaning efforts prove unsuccessful, it may be time to call a professional.
A Clog-Free Plumbing System is Within Reach
Avoiding a drain cleaning emergency doesn’t have to be complicated. You can ensure a healthy plumbing system by embracing preventative measures, addressing minor clogs early, and watching out for signs of larger problems.
If you’re in the Seattle area and need professional drain and sewer line cleaning, turn to Puget Sound Plumbing and Heating. We have over 20 years of experience and employ a team of skilled, fully licensed plumbers ready to meet your needs. As a family-owned business, we prioritize your comfort by making ourselves available 24/7 for emergency drain cleaning. Every job begins with a video camera inspection to pinpoint the location and nature of the clog, allowing us to remedy it quickly and thoroughly. To speak with a knowledgeable local plumber about your drain and sewer woes, please call us at (206) 938-3219 today.