How to Clear a Clogged Drain With a Plunger

We've all seen them. That funny-looking stick with a rubber suction cup at the end. Perhaps you even have one in your home. If you don't have a simple little device known as a plunger handy, by all means get one. Why? Because a plunger is an excellent drain-cleaning tool. In fact, the only real drawback to this inexpensive device is incorrect use. The biggest mistake people make is pushing on the plunger repeatedly, then wondering why water doesn't just flow right back down the drain like a mighty river. It won't happen. Not this way. Word to the wise: If you want use a plunger, use it right. Here are a few tried and true guidelines:

  • Make sure your plunger has a suction cup big enough to cover the drain opening entirely.
  • Whether we're talking toilet bowl, sink, bathtub, or other fixture, make sure it's filled with enough water to cover the plunger cup.
  • It's important for a plunger to form a tight seal with the surface it contacts. A good way to ensure secure contact is by coating the rim of the plunger cup with petroleum jelly.
  • Use wet rags to cover all other outlets such as the overflow, second drain of a double sink, and nearby fixtures.
  • Submerge the plunger at an angle that prevents air from getting trapped beneath it.
  • Position the plunger upright and pump forcefully for at least 15-20 repetitions.
  • Perform this cycle two or three times before you throw in the towel.

Clearing a Clogged Drain With Chemical Cleaners

If all of your plunging efforts have failed to accomplish the drain-clearing you had hoped for, you might want to consider chemical cleaners. These agents frequently can be a powerful resource in the battle to unclog drains. You should be aware, however, that overuse can eventually damage your pipes. Nevertheless, chemical cleaners can be extremely helpful when used properly. This means carrying out your cleaning in a well-ventilated room and taking the following precautions:

  • Avoid using a plunger whenever a chemical cleaner is already in the drain. There is a risk of splashing yourself with a caustic agent.
  • Use rubber gloves to protect your skin from burns.
  • Avoid using a chemical agent whenever there is total blockage. Not only will you fail to unclog the drain, you'll be stuck with the added problem of ridding yourself of caustic water.
  • Chemical cleaners don't go well with garbage disposals. So keep all chemical agents out of them.
  • A cleaner should match the clog. Alkalis are grease cutters. Acids are excellent at dissolving debris such as soap and hair. Read the labels so you know what you have.
  • Never mix chemicals. An acid and alkali combination can prove very explosive.
  • Get the better of your curiosity and avoid looking into the drain after chemicals are poured inside. Chemical agents are very active and often emit toxic fumes.

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