Drain Cleaner Tips
Drain Cleaner TIPS for Clogs
- Get a wet-dry vacuum handy
- Stain Solver works and some liquid cleaners
- WATCH drain-design video for reference
- Suck out yucky water from drain before using clog-removal products
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DEAR TIM: My plumbing drains occasionally clog. Do the chemical products really remove clogs from plumbing pipes?
Are there safe products to use for septic systems? Do some types of pipes clog more readily than others? How can I prevent those pesky bathtub clogs? Shirley P., Marshall, MN
DEAR SHIRLEY: Welcome to the club!
Master Plumber Pipes Clog Too
When I built my house years ago, I was sure I would never have a clogged plumbing pipe. After all I installed the plumbing drain pipes and I'm a master plumber.
I used smooth plastic drain lines and sized all pipes according to code. It turns out, this wasn't good enough.
Kids Tub Clogged Solid
Several weeks ago, I took a bath in my kids' bathtub to soak my aching feet. Upon exiting the tub, I operated the drain lever. The water in the tub didn't budge! The drain was completely clogged. Attempts to remove the clog with a plunger and a drain cleaning snake were futile.
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Black Goop = Biofilm
Every time I plunged, black goop came back out through the drain opening. This goop is biofilm.
It can be a combination of bacteria, old food particles, soap film, cosmetic ingredients, toothpaste, shampoos and conditioners, and actual body oils. The film is quite sticky on the surface and hardens as successive layers begin to build on top of one another.
It's not uncommon for biofim to accumulate and choke off a 1.5 inch diameter drain in just 25 to 30 years. The biofilm also emits mold spores when water goes down drains. The gas that ejects the mold spores from the biofilm has an offensive odor.
Hair - especially long hair - is also a major clog source for drains. Strands of hair can attach themselves to the biofilm and any rough surface or object in a drain pipe.
The mechanism within bathroom sinks and bathtubs that operate the stopper are favorite collection points for hair. I believe the clog in my bathtub drain was a combination of biofilm and my teenage daughter's long hair.
Grease can also clog drains. Pouring liquid grease down a kitchen sink or any drain is a big mistake.
It can solidify and choke off the drains or the main building drain line. Pour lukewarm or cool grease into paper towels or old newspapers and throw it away with your normal garbage.
Easy Drain Cleaning Video
Watch this video to see how to design drain pipes so you can clear clogs FAST.
Powdered Oxygen Bleach
Stain Solver is a powdered oxygen bleach that can do a great job of clearing drains. It dissolves grease and softens biofilm. Stain Solver is certified organic, made in the USA and has no odors like offensive chlorine bleach.
You mix the Stain Solver powder with hot water, stir until it's dissolved and then pour it into the clogged drain.
It works best if you use a wet-dry vacuum first to suck out as much water from the clogged drain as possible.
Use small extension tubes or plastic tubing taped to the vacuum hose to get water out of drain pipes.
Doing this allows the concentrated Stain Solver solution to get in contact with the clog.
Liquid Drain Cleaners
The liquid drain cleaners can work very well too. I decided to try a maximum strength off-the-shelf product purchased from a local grocery store even though I knew my Stain Solver would work.
I always love to try new methods and products.
It was a thick product that poured like maple syrup. These common drain cleaners are actually a combination of regular household bleach, alkali chemicals (sodium hydroxide) and other ingredients.
The bleach component works great to dissolve hair, cosmetics and soaps. The alkali ingredient works with the bleach to actually soften and dissolve the biofilm deposits.
Foaming Drain Cleaners
New foaming cleaners are now available that coat the entire inside of the pipes. The foam attacks biofim buildup on the side walls and top of the pipes. These surfaces are usually left untouched by the liquid drain cleaners.
Wet Rags & Vacuums
To make sure I got the most punch from the product I purchased, I did something different. With a wet rag stuffed down the tub overflow tube, I used my powerful wet-dry vacuum to suction out all of the water from the drain pipe and the bathtub drain trap.
This allowed me to pour the contents of the drain cleaner directly up against the clog. Within fifteen minutes, my bathtub drain was flowing like new!
Limit Use In Septic Systems
Regular chemical drain cleaners contain ingredients that are harmful to septic systems. The chemicals can kill off beneficial bacteria within the septic tank.
If you have a septic system, you should use opens in a new windowStain Solver on a regular basis. It can prevent clogs before they happen. When used on a regular basis and according to manufacturer's recommendations, it will not harm your septic system.
Stain Solver oxygen bleach will help to minimize biofilm buildup on the inner walls of pipes. It also adds beneficial oxygen to your septic tank.
Copper = Natural Biocide
Copper drain lines seem to have the fewest clogs. The copper actually poisons the biofilm slowing its growth and buildup.
Plastic drain lines are also resistant to clogs although biofilm will attach itself to the smooth insides of these pipes.
Galvanized iron and cast iron pipes clog most frequently due to their rough inner surfaces. If you're installing a bathtub in a new home or remodeling project, put in a 2 inch diameter trap and 2 inch drain line. The larger pipe size will be more forgiving and easier to clean out.