Drain Cleaning 101


Drain Cleaning 101 – Drain Cleaning Methods and Tips

Drain Cleaning 101 – Drain Cleaning Methods and Tips

Nobody likes the idea of clogged drains. A partial or full drain obstruction comes laden with a myriad of issues, from slow drainage, backflow to flooding. Some issues are merely frustrating, while others can cause expensive damage.

This post will guide you through essential things you should know about drain cleaning methods, along with ways to identify and prevent drain clogging. Let us dive in.

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Common Drain Cleaning Methods

» Chemical Drain Cleaning

This approach employs the use of liquid or solid forms of acidic and alkaline products. Efficient and readily available, the chemicals are poured directly into the clogged drain, where they dissolve the substances clogging the drain.

Alkaline cleaners often comprise potassium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide and may include additives to help initiate the cleaning process. Acidic cleaners contain much stronger acids and often serve as the last resort solution for stubborn clogs.

At Gallegos Plumbing, we highly advise against pouring products down your drains without understanding their health risks and the damage they can cause to your pipes. As such, you should leave chemical drain cleaning to professional plumbers since they have the experience to select and use the chemicals.

» Snaking

Snaking or cabling involves the insertion of a long, flexible, and about ¼ inches auger into your drain pipe. The coil of wire goes down your drain, bores into the clogs, and breaks them apart or draws them up.

Drain augers are available in hand-operated and motor-driven models. With a limited reach of about 25 feet, a hand-operated auger has a hand crank and a flexible cable. The hand crank helps elongate the cable down the drain line until it reaches the clog, where the corkscrew drills and disintegrate the clog.

Offering greater reach and torque, a motor-driven auger comes with a cable rotation mechanism but requires the operator to feed the cable manually. But available today are models with both cable feeding and rotation mechanisms.

If you have little experience cleaning drains with augers, you risk damaging your pipes. It is best to call an experienced and highly reputable plumbing company for help.

» Hydro Jetting

A green drain cleaning method, hydro jetting uses a special nozzle and high-water pressure to unblock clogs. The nozzle is attached at the end of a hose that connects to a pressurized water tank. A plumber pushes the hose down the drain line, often via a cleanout, and the high-pressure water forces itself through the pipe. The water pressure and energy are enough to break apart and flush all built-up debris and even roots.

A recent upgrade to the conventional hydro jet cleaner is the pulse jet drain cleaner which encompasses a vibration-generating mechanism to push the hose through the drain and dismantle stubborn clogs.

Hydro Jetting Drain Cleaning Services

Homeowners often ask about the differences between snaking and hydro jetting. Here are the differences:

  • Whereas snaking/cabling breaks apart or pulls out clogs, hydro jet drain cleaning blasts and removes blockages.
  • Cabling is best suited for occasional clogs, while hydro jetting is tailored to offer long-term drain cleaning results.
  • Whereas you can snake a drain by yourself, leave hydro jetting to professional plumbers.

» Air Burst Drain Cleaning

This approach uses accelerated gas such as carbon dioxide to disintegrate and dislodge debris accumulated in a drain line.

You can perform this task by yourself by first attaching a wand fitting to a compressor in compliance with the manufacturer’s guidelines. Next, push the wand deep down the drain. Then, stuff old rags in the drain around the wand to secure it in position and prevent air from escaping and increase compression power.

The next step is to squeeze the trigger on the wand to release compressed air into the drain. Running the air for about five minutes is enough to unclog the drain. When done, turn off the compressor, remove the rags and wand, and run the water to see if the drain is clear. If the blockage is still present, repeat the process until it successfully removed. Otherwise, call a plumbing professional for help.

6 Warning Signs Your Drain Needs Cleaning

» Slow Flowing Water

Among the most obvious indicators of a clogged or damaged drain is slow draining water. You may notice this issue in the sink and bathroom drains or when you flush your toilet. Whereas people often ignore this problem, it rarely solves itself and may escalate into flooding and bursting of pipes.

» Smelly Drain

Noticed a foul smell emanating from your drain? It is another indicator of a blockage in your drain where decaying debris and stagnant water have accumulated. The smell may even begin to occur even before you notice more evident signs of clogged drains, so intervene early to prevent future damages and costly interventions.

» Gurgling Sounds

If you hear gurgling sounds whenever you drain large amounts of water through your bathroom or kitchen sink or flush your toilet, you could be facing a drain clog problem. Debris buildup in your drain impeded the flow of air and water. The trapped air is the culprit of gurgling sounds.

» Backflow

Water backing up from any of your pipes indicates a sewer line or pipe problem. Immediate intervention is needed to prevent contamination risk and further damage to the property.

» Dampness

Damaged or cracked drains leak water and cause dampness in the surrounding areas. The damage, often associated with penetrating damp and wet rot, is usually due to persistent clogging, which prevents the smooth flow of water down the pipes. It is essential to clear the drain even before fixing the damage caused by the leakage.

» Raised Water Level in Toilet

A raised toilet water level indicates that an obstruction is preventing water from flowing out of the toilet. Fixing the clogged toilet without first addressing the issue will likely cause toilet overflow. If you cannot solve the problem independently, do not hesitate to call for professional drain cleaning services.

Top Causes of Clogged Drains

» Hair

Hair can accumulate to the extent of slowing down or totally impeding water flow. Whereas hair comes out from the head naturally, you can safeguard your drain from potential clogs with a number of good practices.

You can use needle-nose pliers to pull hair from the drain rather than allow it to sit on or wash down the drain. Available in local hardware stores are drain screens that prevent hair from going down the drain line, besides easing the hair removal process. It is an easy and inexpensive option than having to buy and pour large amounts of harsh chemicals to clear the clog or even replacing your pipes.

» Food, Oil, and Grease

You should place food bits and chunks in a garbage can, never in the bathtub, kitchen sink, or laundry drains. Food items can be sticky, hard, sharp, or stringy; none of these is good for your drain pipe. Other types of food, like rice and pasta, tend to expand when added to water.

Because oil and grease are often in liquid form, you may see it fit to dump them down your drain along with some hot water. However, they harden once they enter the drain, and together with food items, they can build stubborn clogs in your drain.

» Facial Towels and Napkins

Unlike toilet papers designed to break down when wet and flushed down a toilet, facial towels and napkins do not disintegrate easily in water and will likely clog your plumbing when flushed down in bunches. If your drain gets clogged with these materials, you have little choice but to consult a drain cleaning expert. To prevent this situation, always dispose of used tissue paper, baby wipes, and napkins in the garbage can.

» Feminine Hygiene Products

Feminine hygiene products pose a serious threat to plumbing. When these products end up in the drains, instead of breaking down, they absorb lots of sewage water leading to blockages.

» Disintegration

Although drain pipes are designed to last longer, this does not guarantee they will remain in excellent condition forever. Main sewer lines and drains in older homes are more susceptible to breakages. Joints can separate, and the soil may shift, causing the pipes to sag or shift. Continuous pressure and freeze-thaw process during winter can also damage your plumbing.

» Tree Roots

While tree roots do not affect indoor drain lines directly, they can wreak havoc in the sewer line and underground pipes. Roots penetrate cracks in these pipes and grow inside them, further damaging the pipes and obstructing water flow. In this case, you will need rooter services. Other services like excavation, pressure jet cleaning, and Trenchless sewer repair may be necessary.

Preventive Measures: Keeping Drain Clogs at Bay

The list of measures you can implement to prevent drain clogs can be endless, but we have compiled some practical tips based on our experience treating different plumbing issues.

  • Use drain guards:

    Kitchen sinks and bathrooms are often equipped with drain guards, but if the holes are large, the drain guard will likely not work as expected. For better bathroom drain cleaning results, install drain guards designed to trap hair. For professional kitchen drain cleaning results, choose a metallic mesh guard that will prevent food items from entering your sink drain.

  • Give your garbage disposal a break:

    whereas garbage disposals are designed to grind up small, relatively soft food remains, they are not meant to serve as garbage bins. Avoid putting anything tough, fibrous, or hard in your garbage disposal- think vegetable stalks, eggshells, fruit peels, bones, and potato peels. Keep starchy foods like potatoes, rice, and pasta away from your garbage disposal because they create a gummy paste that often clogs drains.

  • Keep grease and oil away from your sink drain:

    As mentioned earlier, grease sticks to the inside of your pipes, solidify, and act as a sticky trap for debris. Over time, the blockage can clog pipes and drain. Instead of pouring grease and oil down your drain, pour them in a sealable container and then put the sealed container in a trash can.

  • Vinegar and baking soda:

    Every three months pour baking soda and vinegar (one cup each) down your drain. The two compounds react to break down fatty acid into easily washable substances. Allow the compounds to work for about 15 minutes, and then flush the pipe with boiling water.

  • Run boiling water down your kitchen sink regularly:

    Regardless of how committed you are to keeping grease off your drains, some clods will still end up in your drain when you wash utensils. Once you are done washing dishes, always run hot water down the pipe to break up and move the grease away from your drain system.

  • Watch what you flush:

    Because toilets are designed to handle toilet paper and human waste only, always put bulky, stringy, and dense materials in the trash instead of flushing them down your toilet.

Related Article: Plumbing 101

Gallegos Plumbing Professional Drain Cleaning Services

At Gallegos Plumbing, we offer non-destructive and cost-effective drain cleaning and plumbing services in Thousand Oaks and across Ventura County. If you suspect your drain is clogged, call our team today at (805) 750-1830 or drop us a message here for scheduling full spectrum plumbing solutions and drain cleaning services, and we will make sure that your whole house plumbing system is in proper working order.

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