Thursday, January 9, 2014

How not to unclog a drain

'Drowning Ant' photo (c) 2009, Bailey Weaver - license:

We have been living in our house for about 3 years now. For those 3 years we have had slow drains that clog on a seemingly regular basis. Part of it is our own fault. We don't have a garbage disposal in our kitchen and we manage to forget that. We put food in the drain anyway. Not a lot, but just enough to slow it down after a few weeks. That drain we try to do better about and we are getting there. However, the drain in our full bath clogs with regularity and we really don't know why. We wash our hands and brush our teeth there. How does that slow down and sometimes clog up the drain? The answer is probably that we have crappy pipes and need some new ones, but let's be realistic. We attempt to take care of them, but inevitably we have to use some method to unclog the drains. 

We have tried the stuff you can buy and it kinda works, but isn't awesome. So I decided to try something different. Baking soda and vinegar. How hard can it be right?


I looked at a website with a recipe and tried that. (Yes. Just one. And yes I realize that is part of my problem.) It fizzled, but didn't really do anything. So I clicked on a different site that had a few more instructions. The baking soda amount was tripled, but the vinegar amount stayed the same. I thought, "Wow. If the baking soda was that far off, no wonder it didn't do anything." So I put more in and it started coming out of the drain. Then I thought, "Uh oh. I don't think this is right." I put the vinegar in the drain. Well on it more than in it. It fizzled and the drain was still clogged with baking soda. So I put more in the drain and then put the cap on the drain. I left it for 30 minutes and ran semi warm water through the drain. It was still clogged. I put more vinegar in it and waited 30 more minutes. More water and still clogged. I ran out of white distilled vinegar and used apple cider vinegar.
Nothing seemed to be happening. So I left it alone.

I finally went to bed and was later awoken to my husband trying to fix the drain. I felt bad and went back to sleep thinking I would apologize in the morning. In the morning, I got up and saw small white flecks around the room. I realized he had tried to get the baking soda out of the drain with a hanger. And there was still some packed in there. I felt bad again. So later I emailed him to apologize and tell him I would pick up the right vinegar to try again.

That night or maybe the next, I don't remember, Drew tried it. Except he read various websites and had a better idea of what to do. He had the right recipe AND you have to pour boiling water down the drain. I missed that part. If I had read more sites, I might have known that. Thankfully, Drew is a better researcher than me. So he did that a couple times and it didn't seem to be moving much.

So Drew finally got the idea to see what else we could do to unclog the drain. He found a great solution. Use a plunger. He did that and the drain was unclogged in seconds. He came to the kitchen and unclogged that slow drain. He was ready to unclog more, but we were out of slow drains. I'm sure we'll work up to another slow drain soon though. Thankfully now we know how to fix it.

Are you as handy around the house as I am?


  1. Yay Drew! My two most recent house experiences involve dropping down all the extra fun flecks from my countertop resurfacing that I didn't know were on the top edge of the dishwasher all down into the bottom when I opened it (practically a brand new dishwasher). The cleanup involved a shop vac that I was fortunately able to borrow though it was impossible to get it all as some fell down in some cracks at the bottom of the tub. The next night I did a load of clothes and forgot that my drain for that has a partial clog and has been backing up into my sink. My sink which is not reconnected yet as it has to wait until Saturday for the countertops to fully cure. So halfway through the cycle water is flowing out the pipes all around in the kitchen. 3 towels and a couple of big bowls later, the mess is cleaned up. No more laundry for me until Saturday! Feel better yet? :)

  2. I do feel better. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Don't feel too bad, Andrea. Your effort alone to research and fix the clog is commendable enough. With that mixture, the usual process is baking soda first, then vinegar, last is the lukewarm or boiling water. With such recurrence of the same problem, have you given thoughts of getting your place checked by professionals? It would be a treat not to have a slow drain every other month. Right?

    Levi Eslinger @ Capital Plumbing CA

  4. The drains probably do need to be evaluated by a professional. However, we don't have the money to fix whatever they might find. So we'll just keep going with this until the money comes along. Thank you for the suggestion though.