Blog by Beebe Cline

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The Easiest, Cheapest, Nontoxic Way to Unclog a Drain

Forget everything you know about clearing clogged sink and tub drains. Throw away your snakes, plungers and drain cleaners. (OK, maybe not your plunger.) There are only two methods you need to know to clear clogs, and neither one of them costs more than a few gallons of tap water. First, it’s a good idea to be proactive. If you notice that the water is draining more slowly, partially fill the offending vessel with cold water. Then open the drain. Usually, the weight of all that water is enough to clear a minor clog.
If water weight is not enough, fill the sink or tub halfway again and make a stopper for the overflow hole. I did it with a wine bottle cork wrapped to the right diameter with electrical tape (shown here). You can also use a wet rag.

Next, open the drain and use the cupped palm of your hand like a plunger to add a bit of pressure. This will clear most minor clogs.
No luck? Time to bring out the heavy artillery. Connect your garden hose to an outdoor spigot and drag it to your sink or tub, even if it's located on the second floor.

Undo the plastic nut in the drain under the sink and withdraw the lever that moves the stopper.
Remove the stopper and replace the nut before proceeding, or water will leak from this spot when you turn on the hose.
Poke the hose in the drain and plug up the overflow hole.
Stuff a dampened towel around the hose good and tight. Have a helper turn on the outdoor spigot. After a few seconds, you should hear the sweet swishing sound of freely draining water.

A few additional tips:
  • With bathroom sinks, sometimes it's easier to remove the trap and insert the hose directly into the drainpipe where it enters the wall. That way you avoid the hassle of removing the stopper. Just be sure to hold a damp towel around the junction to prevent water backflow from ending up on the floor.
  • Maintain good communication with your partner at the outdoor spigot. In rare cases, you may need to have him or her turn off the water quickly to prevent a spillage.
  • It helps to dampen the towel you are holding around the hose. Doing so will maximize pressure in the drain, because less air can escape.
  • Use hair catchers in your shower drain. New designs do a great job and greatly reduce the chance of clogs.
  • Sometimes clogs are due to fine roots finding their way into the main drain that runs from your house to the street. In such cases you’ll often find water backing up into sinks, washing machines and toilets. If this happens to you, call in a service that specializes in clearing roots from drains with rotary blades and other treatments.