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Troubleshooting clogged drains

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Common causes and possible fixes for clogged drains.

Typical reasons why drains get clogged

1. Clogged drain pipes

Gunk accumulates on the walls of drain pipes and reduces water flow.

Causes: Dirt, skin flakes, hair binding to soap scum

Troubleshooting:

  • Remove and clean the drain stopper.
  • Next, try using a plunger, remembering to block the overflow drain in the tub or sink.
  • If that doesn't work, remove the drain elbow joint and clean it out.

How to prevent:

  • Clean drain stoppers routinely to prevent clogs and use a hair strainer drain-cover to trap hair before it goes down the drain.

2. Clogged toilets

Flushing items that do not dissolve or break apart in water.

Items: Feminine hygiene products, cotton-tipped swabs, dental floss, pre-moistened diaper wipes

Troubleshooting:

  • Try using a plunger to shoot jets of water to clear the drain pipe.
  • Next, use an inexpensive hand-powered drain auger to reach between 2 to 5 ft. down the toilet's drain pipe and break up or retrieve whatever is blocking the pipe.

How to prevent:

  • Only flush waste and paper that readily dissolve in water.
  • Clean toilets regularly to keep water flowing smoothly.

3. Clogged kitchen sinks

Leftover food and fat gets caked onto the drain pipe wall.

Causes: Cooking grease or oil, detergent soap scum, un-dissolved food particles such as rice (which expand in water)

Troubleshooting:

  • Run very hot water down the drain to soften the clog, followed by a dollop of dish detergent and then more hot water.
  • Wait a few minutes, then use a plunger and repeat the hot water.
  • If you still have no luck, you may want to use a chemical drain opener, but use caution.

How to prevent:

  • Dispose of large amounts of kitchen grease and oil by letting them solidify. Scrape the mess into a plastic bag, seal it, and throw it out with the garbage.
  • Small amounts of oil (less than one cup) should be thoroughly diluted with hot water and dish detergent before being poured into the sink.
  • For ongoing clogged or slow drains, have a plumber inspect the plumbing to determine if the drain line was properly designed and installed. Both drain pipe venting and slope affect how well drains work.

4. Clogged vent pipe

Sink gurgles when you flush the toilet.

Causes: Not enough air getting into the vent pipe.

Troubleshooting:

  • Check that nothing is blocking the vent pipe opening on your roof, like a bird or animal nest.
  • Check under sinks for gulp valves, typically mounted at the end of a drain line - they look like a plastic cap from a can of spray paint. (The valve prevents sewer gas from escaping the drain line but lets air into the vent pipe when there's enough suction.)
  • Fill the sink with water and then drain it out all at once. You should hear air getting sucked into the gulp valve. If not, the valve might need to be replaced.

Warning:

  • Venting allows sewer gases to escape and prevents them from building to dangerous levels inside your home.
  • Contact Enercare professional plumbers immediately, if there is a constant odour of raw sewage.

5. Clogged main drain

Slope determines how well wastewater is carried to the sewer line.

Causes:

  • Too much slope: water can run too fast and leave waste material behind. Over time, the buildup forms a blockage.
  • Too little slope: water and waste pool in the pipe, allowing some waste to settle and form a blockage.

Troubleshooting:

  • Remove any blockages with a plumbers' snake and then flush out the pipe with water.

How to prevent:

  • Have a plumber install a new pipe set at the proper slope to carry sewage away more effectively.

 

Enercare | Troubleshooting Clogged Drains

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The contents of this webpage are provided for general informational purposes only. We do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability or accuracy of the information as it relates to your circumstances. Any action you take upon the information provided is strictly at your own risk. This information is not a substitute for, and is not intended to replace, independent professional advice. It is your responsibility to take all safety precautions and to refer to the product manufacturer's instructions or contact a licensed technician, as appropriate.