Few things are more frustrating than staring at a pool of dirty, stagnant water sitting in your sink, shower basin, or toilet. In addition to slowing down your daily routine, untimely clogs can also make it hard to keep your plumbing fixtures clean, since that grimy water leaves behind a layer of sediment by the time the water finally escapes. Fortunately, you don't have to be an expert to clear those lines. Here are two easy-to-use tools you should keep around the house to make short work of tough blockages:
1: A Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum
If you are like most people, you might be tempted to pick up a bottle of drain cleaner at the first sign of a plumbing clog. Although those chemicals might promise to melt away grease and free clogs, they simply aren't right for the majority of household plumbing blockages.
Most commercially available drain cleaners work by combining ingredients such as sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide with aluminum turnings. When these materials are mixed, they react and form heat, which warms the standing water in your pipes to a boil. Unfortunately, while this heating action is effective against things like cooking grease clogs and gobs of hair conditioner, it won't do much to move solid objects through your plumbing. If your pipe contains a few dropped bobby pins or a small child's toy, using drain cleaner will only make a big, corrosive mess out of your plumbing fixture—which is why physical removal methods are always better.
Instead of spending money on chemical drain cleaner, invest in a wet/dry shop vacuum. Shop vacuums are available in a large range of shapes and sizes, which means that even people with small homes can probably find the space to store one. Shop vacuums also typically come with a few different attachments, which you can use to simply suck debris out of your pipes. By removing the drain grate and creating a tight seal between your pipe opening and your vacuum attachment, you might be able to remove a myriad of dropped objects, grime, and even loose hair.
2: A Hand Auger
Unfortunately, even a high-powered shop vacuum won't be much help if that clog has travelled deep inside your plumbing system. If toilet paper clogs or dropped objects have gotten stuck inside of tight curves or around junction points inside of plumbing, you might need to use the tool that most plumbers swear by: the hand auger.
Although the idea of using a professional plumbing tool might seem intimidating, hand augers are actually incredibly intuitive. Basic augers are nothing more than a semi-rigid metal cable with a blunt tip, which is loaded onto a spool that the user feeds into the pipe. As the line is pushed through the pipe, you can even tug the device around to clean off pipe walls. If you are worried about that hand auger reaching your clog, you shouldn't be. You can buy augers in a huge variety of different lengths to handle any job.
Hand augers typically cost between $20 or $30, with fancier or powered versions costing extra. If you will be using an auger for the first time, work slowly and follow your instincts. Don't ever push too hard or pull too suddenly, as it is possible to damage your pipes from the inside out. Put down towels around your clogged fixture to protect your home from splashes, and always wear gloves as you work—since you might have to clean off the end of the auger after you are finished.
By keeping the right tools around the house, you might be able to enjoy a healthy plumbing system—without all of the hassle. For more information about plumbing supplies, check out a company like Central Plumbing Specialties.