What to do if you have a slow drain

We’ve all been there-- you go to brush your teeth in your bathroom sink, and the water fills up in there and doesn’t empty quite right. It either flows very slowly out of the drain, or doesn’t flow at all. Maybe it’s because your furry friend decided to plop down in there, like in this photo: 
But realistically, your drain piping is clogged or blocked. Your sink fills up with water quicker than the drain can suck it down, and you are left with a pool of dirty water rising up to the rim, which is not very sanitary or effective. While this is a minor issue, and not really a serious concern, it is pretty annoying and a clog can sometimes cause flooding if you aren’t careful. If your bathroom sink, kitchen sink, bathtub, or any similar appliance in your home is draining much too slowly, we have some tips that may help. And– bonus! — a lot of them won’t cost you much, if anything at all. So without further ado, let’s flush out these tips:

Clean the stopper

First, you’ll want to locate the stopper in whatever drain is running slowly. Your bathroom sink, for example, should have a stopper in it. This is usually a raised metal cover over the drain that has a mechanism attached which plugs or unplugs the drain if you push it or pull it. Sometimes this is a metal part at the top of your faucet that you can push down or pull up. Sometimes it’s just a stopper you move or twist with your hands. Whatever the case, most drains come with stoppers. This device catches hair, debris, shaving foam gunk, and other things that wash down your drain. We suggest taking the stopper out and giving it a good cleaning. Just unscrew it to remove it from the sink hole, then use a paper towel or rag to wipe away any gunk and hair stuck to it. 

Get rid of the gunk

Sometimes what causes a slow drain is a coating of gunk on the inside of the sink’s drain pipe. The thicker the coating, the narrower the opening of the pipe. Hence, a slower drain. The gunk can be a buildup of anything from hair, to shaving cream, to old toothpaste slime, to bar soap. Over time this stuff combines with dirt and debris and can create a pretty thick layer in the pipes. Luckily, there is an easy (and cheap) way to get rid of the gunk. All you need is vinegar and baking soda. No, we aren’t making one of those volcanos you probably made at the 5th grade science fair. But the idea is the same: to create a chemical reaction. Pour equal amounts baking soda and vinegar down your drain. We suggest ½ cup of each. The two ingredients will create a reaction that causes fizzing and bubbles. No need to fear, this is not harmful at all, but you do want to place a rag over the drain so it doesn’t spew out. Next, wait 15 minutes. You should see some white foam rise out of the drain a bit. This chemical reaction will help break up and unclog any muck in the drain pipes. After the time is up, pour hot water or boiling water down the drain to flush it out. Your pipes should be way less gunky now. Wow, the magic of science!

Photo credit: nshuddha


Lift out debris

What if you’ve tried these things and your sink is still draining slowly? There’s another thing you can try. Go to the hardware store or a general store like Walmart, and buy a “drain-cleaning tool” (otherwise known as a small hair clog tool). They look like this: 

They’re only a few bucks and they’ll do wonders. This tool looks like a long stem, usually made of plastic. On one end there is usually a handle for you to hold onto, and on the other end are tiny barbs sticking out of the plastic for gripping hairs and debris. Once you’re home, go to your slow drain. Take your drain-cleaning tool and stick it down the drain hole. Hold onto the handle end and push it down as far as it will go– wiggle it around a bit if needed. The barbed end should pull up hairs and dirt and grime that is stuck in the piping. You may not like the look (or smell) of what you pull out, but it will help immensely with keeping your drain pipes clean. Even though this is not a fun task, hopefully, the drain will flow quickly and efficiently afterwards.

Get help (and preventative maintenance for next time)

If you’ve tried all of these things and your drain is still stubbornly not flowing quickly, you can always try asking a plumber for assistance. This is a great idea especially if you don’t want to do the dirty work yourself. We’ll help you! Ask us for our list of trusted contractors. We have plumbers that we can call, and they’ll come in and help you fix your slow drain, worry-free. If our above tips did help you unclog and de-gunk your drain, but you want to prevent this issue from springing up again in the future, call a plumber. Hair will run down your drain and gunk will inevitably gather down there, and so a plumber will provide preventative maintenance for that.

If your sink water flows poorly, the toothpaste gunk is swirling around in the dirty water, and you’ve just about had enough, try these tips. You deserve to have well-running appliances in your home. You deserve to be in a clean, efficient environment, and have peace of mind!

Justin Jurovcik

Justin Jurovcik

Home Inspector & Fireman
Owner: ARK Home Inspection

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