5 Mistakes to Avoid When Drain Cleaning

Ugh. A clogged drain. Whether it’s your kitchen sink, your bathroom basin or the tub, facing an ugly brew of dirty water and drain contents is on nobody’s list of a good time.

Although it’s tempting to tackle the problem yourself, that can sometimes lead to even worse problems – even medical emergencies. While your best bet is to call a plumbing professional, if you do decide to give DIY a try, watch out for these five common mistakes.

1. Letting It Happen to Begin With

The easiest way to conquer a clogged drain is to prevent the problem from happening in the first place. Drains are designed to handle fluids – not hair, stringy vegetable peelings or oversize wads of tissue paper.

Spare yourself annoyance by using a hair catcher in the shower or tub when it’s time to shampoo, dumping vegetable peelings and similar kitchen materials into the trash (or even better, the compost pile) and teaching your kids not to go overboard on paper use.

2. Careless Use of Caustic Chemicals

If your first reaction when the tub or sink drains slowly is to reach for a chemical drain opener, watch out. These highly caustic chemicals can burn you severely, so a careless moment — or even worse, vigorous plunging after pouring in chemicals – can lead to an emergency room visit.

Not only that, chemical drain cleaners don’t work on solid clogs, such as hair, food or paper. Plus, overuse of these toxic products can actually erode or break down your pipes.

3. Sticking Things Down the Drain

Another common response to a clogged or slow drain is to grab the nearest broom handle, kitchen knife or coat hanger and stuff it down the drain to try and fish out the clog.

While this is occasionally effective if the drain is full of hair right near the surface, chances are, you won’t be able to reach the blockage.

If you do reach it, however, you risk pushing it even further down, or simply getting the tool stuck in the pipe. Now you have an even bigger problem to deal with.

4. Grabbing the Garden Hose

It seems reasonable; use water pressure from a garden hose to blast the clog away.

Unfortunately, what’s likeliest to happen in this scenario is either: 1. You damage the pipe, or 2. Water erupts out of the drain and into your face. Neither is a good outcome.

5. Using the Wrong Plunger

While proper use of the right plunger can be very effective, too many homeowners don’t know the right way to plunge. First off, use the right plunger: toilet plungers have a cup or bell-shaped bottom, while sink plungers are flat.

Once you have the plunger in place, make sure the drain is completely sealed, and then slowly and methodically work the plunger up and down, keeping the seal intact.

Don’t make the common mistake of quickly plunging up and down as if you’re doing an arm workout – this is ineffective at best and at worst, will blast dirty water all over you and the floor.