You use your kitchen sink several times, every day. You tend to put a lot of things intentionally and accidentally into the sink which includes food waste, hair, soap and others. Sometimes, these objects get drained and reach the sewers. In most cases, the soap and grease would attract all the objects to attach to it. This will cause an effect very similar to that of a rolling rock on a snow mountain. This avalanche effect would lead to a larger gunk inside the pipe. The gunk would stop the water from flowing effectively or completely block the draining of the sink. This is called as clog. The most commonly clogged drain inside a house would be the kitchen sink drain.
A shower drain gets a lot of hair which tangles itself into a ball. This hair mess along with soap residue attracts all other wastes. This clog mass will increase in size over time and block the drain. This blockage reduces pressure in the drain, which is very essential for draining through the pipes. The type of clog depends on the water that you use too. The minerals in the water also causes clog. When you discover that your drain is clogged, you would already be in ankle deep water and things would get messy from there. Thus, it is important to clear out the gunk, as soon as possible.
Next to garbage disposal, the most common clog that you can find in a house is the bathtub drain. Starting from hair to oil, everything gets into the drain and it would eventually get clogged. Soap residue has the tendency to attract more hair and other waste together. This would cause a large chunk of waste getting deposited over time. This chunk would grow in size and eventually blocks the water from draining.
A clog in a floor drain is not something uncommon. Before we get to the methods of unclogging a clog in that drain, we shall talk about the drain.
Understanding floor drain
Floor drain is a fixture that is fixed on the floor to drain any stagnated water on the floor. It is usually round, in structure. You might also find them in different shapes in many buildings. This drain is usually found in places where water can easily get stagnated inside the house like near kitchen sink, dishwasher, refrigerator, laundry equipment, swimming pools and others.
It has a small strainer that prevents foreign objects from entering the drain and from unwanted pests to enter into the house from the sewers. This strainer is not a very smooth one and sometimes, small objects like hair and other dust elements tend to get through the strainer and end up clogging the drain.
Just like any other drain in the house, the floor drains can also get clogged and can be unclogged with right equipment and cleaning solution.
This article is focused on providing you a detailed description of all methods which are commonly used for unclogging the floor drain. If you feel that the process looks complicated at any point of time, it is better to get professional help. There are a lot of service providers who would serve you within 24 hours and solve the problem with minimum damage to the drain. Any damage that you create to the drain pipes while unclogging would lead to serious problems and might need an extensive repair process, which would be both time consuming and expensive.
Identifying floor drain clog
The first step is to understand whether it is a clog in the floor drain or other problem that has led to the stagnation of water. We will talk about other causes for clogs later.
To identify this, remove the drain cover and you would find a small plug near the drain hole. This is called a clean out plug. The floor drain has two openings that would lead to the same drain pipe. The main opening is a U- shaped pipe and the clean out tube is a straight pipe and both leads to the same main drain. If there is a clog, the clean out plug would have no problem in draining the stagnated water, when opened. The clean out plug would be always closed.
If it has a metal body, you would need a hammer and a chisel, to remove it. Most of the plugs would be made of plastic and it would be easy to remove them. Remove the plug and wait for a few seconds. If the stagnated water gets drained immediately, it is definitely a clog in the drain, due to some sort of debris. Replace the clean out plug.
If you had damaged the clean out plug in this process, you can easily replace it with an expansion plug of 1 ½ size. It is easily found in almost all hardware stores. While replacing it, it is better to stick with plastic or rubber styled plug to make it easier, the next time. If you still prefer metal styled plug, there is no hard and fast rule. You can choose metal plug too.
If the water does not drain, even after removing the plug, then there is other complicated problem which has led to the clogging. We will talk about the reasons, later. If the water does not get drained even after opening the plug, get professional help. Most probably, you would be having a big repair process, which cannot be self-handled.
Yes, leaving the clean out plug open may sound like an easy solution to the problem if there is a clog in the main pipe. The normal drain pipe is given a U-shaped tube, for a reason. Due to the structure of the tube, a small amount of water remains stagnated in that curve, always. This water would stop sewer gas from entering into the pipe. If you leave the clean out plug open, you are allowing the gas to flow in and it would entirely damage the floor drain, leading to you spending a lot of money to repair it. This repair includes breaking the concrete or tiles around the pipe, replacing the pipe and then re-doing your floor. The time and money spent on this style of repair would be very high. Thus, after locating the clog, replace the drain plug. If you have damaged it or if the thread is rusted, it is better to replace the plug, you can find a replacement as mentioned before. The gas from the sewer does not just have a foul smell; it is harmful too.
What causes clog in floor drains?
Yes, the main cause of clog is debris. When grease gets accumulated in the strainer or anywhere in the drain, it would pull other debris to stick with it. Over time, it would become a big block in the pipe and would stop the water from flowing down the pipe. this is usually the main reason for clogs in floor drains and in other drains.
However, this is not the only reason to why water is not able to get drained. Here are some other reasons to why the water might be stagnated.
- Damaged or broken pipes – when the pipes are damaged due to wear and tear or, due to unprofessional use of strong drain machines, clog can happen.
- Water flow issues
- Improperly installed pipes
In these three occasions, the water would not get drained, even after opening the plug. Sometimes, after a heavy rain, leaves and dirt get accumulated in the pipes, leading to floor drains too. Even a small crack in the pipe would hinder the pressure of water draining in the pipe. This would lead to stagnation of water. You need to repair or replace the broken pipes.
If you think that there is a clog, you can try out simple methods first and leave complex ones to professionals.
1) Vinegar soda method
This is a very common solution for almost all kinds of clogs. Do you remember you chemistry classes? When an acid and a base are mixed together, you would start a neutralization reaction which would let out carbon dioxide and a lot of bubbles. Vinegar is the acid here and baking soda is the base. Vinegar and baking soda is used to dissolve the clog, thereby allowing flow of water through the floor drain.
First, using a screwdriver, remove the drain cover. Make sure to keep the screws carefully so that you can fix the drain cover later. For hygiene, have rubber gloves on. If the clog is very close, put your hands in and scoop out the clog with your hand and dispose it in the garbage. If the clog is very deep or you are in no mood to put your hand into the drain, pour some boiling water through the drain opening. Then, add vinegar and soda in a bowl and pour it into the drain, once it starts to create bubbles. After ten minutes add another liter of boiling water and close the drain cover.
This is also a preventive measure. If your floor drain gets clogged every now and then, you have to make sure that the clogs do not get accumulated too much. So, once in a while, add this solution to the drain to remove any accumulated dirt, before it blocks the whole path.
While using this method,
- Do not prepare the solution and store it. Once the neutralization process is done, the solution is no longer effective.
- Do not try this method after using any chemical drain cleaner.
This is the easiest of all and there is no chance of damaging the pipes in this method.
This is a very straightforward method to unclog a floor drain. Since the clog cannot pass through the floor drain, we are pushing it out by inserting a vacuum pressure.
Place the plunger on the hole. If needed, apply petroleum jelly on the sides of the plunger to have a good grip. Now, depress the equipment with full force for several times. Do not worry. You would not end up having the clog on your floor. Yet, for safety, have some cleaning cloth and put your gloves on. If you get some clog, remove it and dispose it. Add hot water through the drain and replace the drain cap.
You can also use vinegar and soda, after using a plunger. If you do not have a plunger, it is better to own it. It is simple and less expensive equipment that you ought to have in your home. There is no chance of damaging the drain pipes and plumbing in this method.
3) Drain Snake
Plumber’s snake or Drain Snake is a long steel wire with a hook at the end for pulling out the clog in your floor drain. You should insert the snake into the drain till you feel a resistance. The resistance is felt when you reach the clog. Now, rotate the snake so that the hook would attach itself to the clog and now, pull it up. Rotate the snake, while removing and repeat it as many times as needed. Have some sheets handy to dispose the waste off. If needed, add some hot boiling water after using snake. In certain cases, you may have to use vinegar and baking soda solution after using snake.
- Read in Detail: How To Use A Drain Snake?
While using this method,
- Do not give more pressure to the snake. You may break any pipe, which leads to bigger problems.
- Do not wriggle or try to pull it out, with force.
- Your hanger may look exactly like your snake. Your hanger might get stuck inside the drain leading to serious problem or causing damage to the drain. A snake is not very expensive. You can easily buy one from any hardware store.
There are mechanical snakes available in the market. Make sure to learn the instructions in detail, before using it. Moreover, make sure to insert only medium pressure, while using mechanical snake.
4) Chemical drain opener
When snake or plunger does not work, it should be a stronger clog with grease and fat. You need something stronger to dissolve it and chemical drain cleaners can be a better option. There are numerous chemical drain openers available in the market with different brand names. You are free to choose the one which you think would help you solve the problem. There are different styles of openers for different types of clogs too.
Since this article is not an advocate of any chemical drain opener brand, we are not going to compare any two brands. Follow the instructions in the bottle. Sometimes, the drain opener would simply loosen the clog. You may need to use a snake or a plunger to remove it completely. Do not add vinegar soda or any other solution into the drain, after using a chemical drain opener. Do not mix any two brands of chemical drain opener. It may cause unwanted reactions. Wait for a few minutes and flush it out with a lot of water. In case of using tablet form of drain openers, throw a couple of tablets or as requested into the floor drain, overnight. This will give enough time for the tablets to work with the clog.
- Check out: Best Liquid Drain Cleaner
If you are using this method,
- Do not mix it along with vinegar soda solution. There should be at least an hour gap between the two solutions.
- You can use snake or plunger, after using this solution but not a suction machine.
- The solution is harmful, when ingested. Thus, do not keep it anywhere, where the kids or pets could get hold of this solution.
5) Bio drain solution
These are bacteria based drain solution. After adding the solution into the floor drain, you should wait for a few minutes or as long as requested by the directions in the box. The bacteria will ingest all organic items and clear the clog. This solution is commonly used by people who are environment friendly and also who do not want to have harmful chemicals in their home. Do not immediately use boiling water. You would kill the bacteria. Using any other chemical solutions along with this type of drain opener would also kill the bacteria.
The bacteria or the vinegar soda solution can easily dissolve organic waste debris in the clog. If it is rust, plastic or other non- organic debris, you can use any mechanical methods of any of the strong chemical drain opener solutions available in the market. Bacteria would not damage your plumbing and it is very safe to use too.
6) Wet vacuum method
Not everyone who will have a wet vacuum at home. You can rent it too. Before starting with the vacuuming, first use any simple mechanical method like snake or plunger. Try to remove any loose debris, as much as possible from the drain. Insert the hose of the vacuum and switch on the suction. Keep it low and slowly increase the speed of suction. First, insert the hose into the drain. When you feel the resistance, you have reached the clog. Start the suction and remove as much debris, as possible. Remove the hose and wait for a few seconds. Now, use any simple method like snake or vinegar soda to loosen up the clog. Again, use the wet vacuum. Repeat this as many times, as needed.
In some cases, the clog would be very strong that your wet vacuum would do no good. In such cases, you would need a stronger suction machine like the professional drain cleaning machines. There are numerous ones available for rent but, stronger ones would lead to damage.
While using this method,
- Do not use chemical solutions along with the wet vacuum.
- Do not wear loose clothing, while operating.
- Learn to use the foot switch or other elements of the machine before operating it.
Professional drain cleaning machines
In simple terms, these are upgraded versions of your simple wet vacuum. Are you planning to use the professional drain cleaning machines by yourself? You need not buy them from the market for one use. They are very costly to buy too. There are numerous places where you can rent such equipment. Before you check out any rental store, you should learn the location of the clog and size of your drain hole.
You would need smaller draining machines if your drain line is smaller. For instance, a drain hole of 1 ½ inch to 3-inch diameter would need a small hose line of ½ inch cable. Larger floor drain would need ¾ inch cable. Using larger cable for a small hole would damage your pipes.
There are numerous types of machines and it is not possible to explain the direction of usage of all. In general, position the drain machine a little away from the drain. Plug in the machine but, do not switch it on. Do not use the machine if you are wearing any loose accessories or if there are any important small things around you like your wallet, keys and others.
Try inserting the cable into the drain and removing it to know your comfortable position. Place the foot switch near you. Switch on the plug and try controlling it with your foot switch. Once you are versed with these controls, feed the cable into the drain till you find the tension. If the motor slows down, you have reached the clog. Start the suction and stop once you feel that the sound of the motor has changed. This indicates that the clog is removed.
These are the available methods to unclog a floor drain. If you are not comfortable in using these machines, there is no harm in getting help from professionals.
When a drain gets clogged, you have two options to unclog it.
- You can either use any form of drain opener solution.
- Use any mechanical equipment to unclog the drain.
A lot of people opt for mechanical method instead of chemical method because chemical methods might be harmful for people and environment.
Moreover, the mechanical methods are considered more effective than any chemical method. There are numerous tools for unclogging a drain with tools. One such equipment is called drain snake. It is usually the final option that is chosen by people when plunging or opener solutions does not work.
What is a drain snake?
It is a long cable like tool that has a spiral wire at one end and a handle like auger, at the other end. The spiral end has to be inserted into the drain and the auger would stand as a handle with which the snake has to be twisted to grab or break the clog. Once you get hold of the clog, you should pull it out slowly. The process of using a drain snake depends on the type of the snake.
Types of Drain Snake
There are basically two types of snakes namely; manual snake and electrical snake. Are you someone who is using the equipment for the very first time? Do you want to know more about the method of using it in detail? Keep reading.
Manual drain snake
The snake is a slender and long wire like structure that it could fit into any common styled drain hole.
Push one end of the snake into the drain and turn the handle. This movement would coil the snake through the drain. Keep sending in the snake till you find a resistance for the movement of the snake.
There can be two reasons for this resistance. The first reason could be the structure of your drain pipe and the second reason is the debris which has been clogged inside the drain. If your drain pipe is U-shaped, the snake would obviously feel pressure when it hits the curve.
Now, crank the handle by applying pressure. Thus, you bend the snake to fit the shape of the drain. If the resistance is due to blockage, start rotating the snake. The clog will get attached to the snake. You can either spin it and pull it out or chop it off, so that it will get drained out. If the clog is due to some heavy solid object, entangle the object and pull it out.
Avoid the risk of damaging your drain pipe by Drain Snake
You should be a little familiar with the structure of your drain pipe. If you push harder on the areas where you have a curve in the pipe assuming that the resistance is due to some debris, you would end up damaging the pipe.
Once the clog is removed, let the water run in full force for a few seconds. Sometimes, the clog you remove would just be a part of the complete debris. Full speed water gushing into the drain would be enough to chop off the remaining parts of debris and push it through the drain.
Electric drain snake
As the name indicates, this type of snake is driven by electricity. It is almost like a power drill. An electric drain snake is commonly used when the clog is too thick and resistant or, when the distance between the block and the mouth of the drain is very high that cannot be scaled with a normal snake.
How to use electric drain snake?
- Position the cable and machine. The machine should be at least two feet from the clogged drain.
- Now, slowly insert the cable into the drain opening and push as much as possible. The cable you hold is usually 12 inches long.
- Push till the complete arc of cable is inserted into the drain.
- Now, switch on the machine. The machine will have a foot switch so you can easily guide the cable using your hand while operating the machine with your foot.
- If the cable experiences any resistance, pull out the cable, a little and then, try again.
- You can add another arc of cable, if required.
- When the cable reaches the end of the drain line, switch on the reverse button and you can retrieve the cable.
- Once the cable is removed, let the water run in full speed, for a few minutes. The water would gush out any remains of the clog attached to the pipe.
Do not push the cable with force. The machine you hold is similar to power drill. You may end up damaging the pipe line. You need to move the cable back and front till the debris is broken. If you are not comfortable with the snake, it is better to call a professional. There are a lot of places to rent an electric snake if you are not interested in owning one.
Sewer drain snake
Commonly sewer drain auger or snake is used by professionals who deal with bigger problems in the main line drainage system.
This drain snake is used for clearing debris in the main line of drainage. If you are planning to clear the clog in your sewer, you can use this snake. It is usually better to call a professional for this job.
However, if you still wish to unclog it yourself, you can use this sewer drain snake:
- Position the snake near the opening.
- Insert the cable into the hole for a few feet and then switch on the machine.
- When you hit a tough clog, you need to backup to avoid kinking the cable.
- Retreat the cable and then move the cable front and back till the clog breaks down.
- Do not force the cable through the clog.
- Once the clog is removed, pull back the cable and let the water run for several minutes to make sure that the clog is completely removed.
Common mistakes while using drain snake
The best way to use a drain snake is to make sure you know the common mistakes that people commit while using one and avoid them.
It may look very simple. Yes, it is just a long line of wire like tool. The drain auger or drain snake is a very effective tool but, mastering it takes a lot of time. Thus, it is common to make a lot of mistakes while trying to unclog your drain and you may even crack or break the pipes.
- A lot of people use unbent hanger, instead of a drain snake. It is a brutal mistake that can cause serious damage to your pipes. Though it sounds similar, an unbent coat hanger or any similar tool is not the same as your drain auger. Do not end up damaging the pipe by wedging the hanger in the drain. A manual snake would not cost a lot and do not end up paying more for damaged pipes.
- Inserting cable takes a lot of time and it might be frustrating. But, if you insert it fast, you might push the clog deep into the drain and end up having to rent an electric drain snake or call a professional. You might even damage the pipes with fast action.
- Forgetting the branch pipe is a common mistake. The clog might be in the branch pipe that is attached to the drain pipe. Remove the fitting so that you can auger the drain and reach the element that is clogging the pipe.
- Inserting and removing might break the clog and clear the debris. But, if you forget to twist the auger like a corkscrew so that you would not be able to completely remove the debris. Remaining debris would again start to collect more waste and clog your drains very soon.
- Every drain tends to get clogged, every now and then. Do not use electric drain snake very frequently. Use it only when it is needed else, you would be damaging the pipes more often.
- With electric snake, you can easily damage your pipes. It is better to call professionals. This is very common in cases where the pipes are already damaged or weak.
- If you are using gloves (it is recommended as you would be touching the cables that had been inserted into a drain pipe), it is better to avoid latex. The cable grabs the gloves and would rip them off. Use work gloves.
- Using the floor drain in the tub is another mistake. If you are using the drain snake for unclogging your tub drain, feed the auger through the overflow drain that is found a little above the drain on the floor of the tub. Using the overflow dent would make sure that the cable is not inserted into the air vent. The cable has to go down the drain.
- If you think that a tree root is the cause for the blockage, you should not perform any snaking. Leave it to professionals else, you would end up damaging the pipe.
- We all know that using a large snake for a pipe would damage the pipe. Thus, people always prefer to use the smallest snake for all pipes assuming that it would be a safer option. In reality, a snake that is too small for a drain would do more harm than unclogging the drain. If you are using a very small snake for a large drain pipe, it would also damage the pipeline as it tends to move a lot inside the pipe line. You should always choose a snake size which would suit the drain that is clogged.
How to choose the right drain snake?
As stated before, most of the problems arise due to not having the right snake for the job. This session would help you pick the right snake.
Should you spend more money on a power snake or will a manual drain snake be enough?
The power snake or electric snake is easier to use and also suits all sizes of pipes. But, if you are planning to use it for shorter drains and bore pipes, you can stick with manual snake itself.
There are power snakes for small drains like sink and lavatories. If your main sewer has constant problem, you need a sewer snake.
Choose the drain snake with right head
The head of the snake is the one that pushes or pulls the debris out. If you do not have the right head, you would end up spending a lot of energy for nothing or, end up damaging the pipes.
A screw or coil type head is used for pulling out the debris. For cutting and breaking down the debris, you need a cutting head drain auger. Using a cutting head for pulling out the debris or using the spiral head to cutting through debris can render a useless work or may damage the pipelines.
Learn how to use a drain snake properly
It is understood that you are planning to unclog your drain by yourself. If you end up damaging your pipeline, you would be spending more money on repair than you would have incurred for unclogging by professionals. Thus, it is important to learn the right way to use a drain snake. It might look like a simple tool without any complexity. But, there are a lot to learn about the drain auger and the ways to master it. It also needs patience to remove the clog without any major damage to the pipe lines.
To sum up, a drain auger or snake is a long wire like structure with either a coil or a cutting head on one side and a handle on the other. Insert the snake into the drain that is clogged and try to cut or pull the clog. You can also use electric snake which is very similar to manual one by the insertion and removal of cables are done through electricity. Once the clog is removed, water should be let out in high speed to make sure that the drain is perfectly unclogged. To avoid major build up of clog, it is better to use the drain snake to remove the built up clog at least once a month or once in two months.