A Second Shot at Drain Clogs – Plungers and Augers
If our natural drain cleaning solutions failed to work or you would rather not use any type of drain cleaner, there are several mechanical ways of clearing a drain clog.
The easiest to use is a “plumber’s helper” or a plunger. There are two types of these – the cup plunger and the flange plunger. The latter, a bellows shaped instrument, is for toilets only, the more familiar cup type is for sinks and tubs, but both work essentially the same. A caveat, some people warn that a plunger can actually work to force a clog further down into the drain where it can be more complicated to remove. We think it is worth a try.
To use a plunger in a sink clog make sure the stopper is open or remove it completely and if it is a bathroom drain plug the overflow hole with a cloth or duct tape.
Place the cup of the plunger over the drain, seating it firmly and push down on the handle sharply three or four times. Even if the water in the sink vanishes when you release the plunger run the water for several minutes to make sure everything is flowing freely. If not, repeat. Don’t give up too easily, sometimes a plunger works immediately, sometimes it takes several tries.
And sometimes it doesn’t work at all.
But we are resourceful. Next you could try a sink auger.
An auger is a cable with an auger bit on one end. The cable is usually coiled within a canister or drum with a crank on one side and a set screw to hold the cable. There is one type of auger for sinks and another for water closets. We are talking here about sinks.
Pull out the bathroom sink stopper or remove the kitchen drain baskets. Loosen the set screw and pull out a length of cable, push it into the drain, tighten the set screw and turn the crank. You should be able to feel the clog when you hit it; continue to try to drill through it so the auger can grab hold of it. The idea is to pull the clog out of the drain (this will be icky – rubber gloves are recommended) but if you cannot remove the clog perhaps punching through it will allow enough water to pass through to wash the clog out of the drain
If enough cable has been released to reach through the trap (the U-shaped pipe under the sink) then the stoppage is probably beyond the effective reach of the auger and the trap will have to be removed.
Buck up, we will get through this as well as the clog but it will require one more chapter in the story.