Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bathroom Sink Drain

Question: "Our bathroom sink drains really slowly and we've put a whole bottle of drain-o down that sucker. Is there anything else we can do?" - J

Answer: Drain-O is a little questionable when it is used. If used a lot, it can actually damage pipes. Also if the clog is not in a spot where it can sit, it won't do anything. One option is very simple, cheap, and it's non-toxic. First, run the water on hot for at least 5 minutes to warm the drain line. This will help loosen and soften any buildup. Next put down about a tablespoon of baking soda followed by some vinegar. Let that sit for 5 minutes then run the hot water again for 5 minutes. You will probably need to do this 3-4 times to flush out the pipe. You can increase the amounts of baking soda and vinegar, just do not use to much baking soda to start with as it can clump and cause another clog! It also may be best to remove the drain stopper if possible so it is easier to poor the baking soda and vinegar down the drain. This method works best for clogs from soap scum, grease, oils, and other liquid like items that can build up over time.

If the clog is from hair or other solid or mixed with soap and other lovely things, you may need to take the drain apart and clean the P-trap out or look for the clog. This can usually be done without any tools but can occasionally require a set of slip joint pliers, like Channel Locks, to get stubborn slip nuts loose. I would only suggest doing this if you have a plastic drain line. If yours is metal, it can corrode easily. This will make it very hard to take apart and very easy to break. If you break it then you will need to replace the P-trap section of the drain line or possibly more. I would only take apart a metal drain line if you feel comfortable accepting this possibility and replacing the P-trap.

Here is a basic breakdown of a drain line under a bathroom sink.

1. Shut off the water to the faucet or a least make sure no one turns it on while you have the drain disconnected.

2. Place a small bucket or pan under the P-trap (curved U shaped part of the drain line)

3. Loosen the slip nuts on both sides of the P-Trap. It will probably be easiest to start with the top one on the tail piece(part of the drain attached to the sink itself) As you loosen the lower one, water will start coming out.

4. After both nuts are loosened up, pull the P-trap down off the drain. Be careful since there is water in the trap.

5. Once the trap is removed, pour out the water and see if there is a clog in it. You may see the clog in the trap or in the open ends of the drain line from the sink or to the wall. You can clean this out the best you can, if you see a lot of build up, wipe it out the best you can and rinse out the trap in another sink with hot water to remove as many of the deposits as possible.

6. Now you can reassemble the drain. You will notice there is a beveled section of pipe that connects to the lower part of the trap as this is not adjustable up and down. On the taller, straight part, there is a plastic or rubber washer that has the same bevel. This seals the drain line. It is OK if this slides as the coupling nuts will push them into place. You will want to make sure both of these beveled sealing surfaces are clean as any debris will cause a leak.

7. When tightening the slip nuts make sure they are snug, but do not over tighten. You should be able to tighten these by hand without needing to use pliers.

8. After everything is back together, test for leaks by running the water for a few minutes. If you notice any drips, tighten the nuts a little more as this should stop them.

Hope it helps!


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