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Drains: How to Prevent and Unclog Blocked Drains | The Old Farmer's Almanac

How to Keep Drains from Clogging

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A backed-up drain

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Signs of a Drain Backup: Thinkstock
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Prevent and Clear Blocked Drains

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If you have running water in your home, here are a few important things you need to know about your drains!

Signs of Blocked Drains

When your sewer is plugged or your septic tank needs pumping, here’s what could happen:

  • Water backs up out of your tub drain when you flush your toilet.
  • When you empty your bathtub, the water stops flowing and bubbles back at you or bubbles into the toilet.
  • When you empty your kitchen sink, the sink water backs up into the toilet.
  • When you flush your toilet, sewer water backs up through an outside downspout, patio drain, driveway drain, or the lowest floor drain in your house.
  • When you run a load of laundry, soapy water comes up into a toilet, shower, or floor drain.

How to Unclog a Drain and Prevent Clogs

  • Let plenty of water run down the drain by keeping the faucet open for up to a half a minute each day.
  • Sink lines commonly plug because not enough water is flushed through them, especially after the garbage disposal is used. Run the faucet for about five seconds after you turn off the disposal. This helps flush the line.
  • Never pour hot oil or grease down the sink—whether or not you have a disposal.
  • About once a month, fill the sink to the top with very hot water. Using a fork or other kitchen utensil so you don’t scald your hand, remove the sink’s plug. As the clean hot water swirls down through the sink line, it takes much of the grease buildup with it.
  • Drain-cleaning chemicals, if used improperly, can solidify in a drain line and aggravate the blockage. If the chemical doesn’t eat through the blockage, therefore not flushing down the drain, the chemical sits in your sink line. It crystallizes, and then there is no way you can easily clean a sink line after chemicals harden in it. Always be sure to follow the instructions 
  • It’s a good idea to keep a simple plumbing snake in your home. The snake can help you unclog your sink, bathtub, or shower drain if hair and other gunk happens to block them. A simple plumbing snake can be bought at your local hardware store or online for only a few dollars.

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To Keep a Toilet from Clogging

  • Don’t put anything foreign down the toilet except toilet paper.
  • Items such as dental floss, Q-Tips, baby wipes, feminine hygiene products, or any other paper product cling to the roots in the sewer and cause an immediate blockage.
  • Always have a plunger on hand, and don’t wait until you need one to buy one—by then, it’s too late!

More Helpful Household Hints:

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