08 October A clogged sink with a checkered pattern

What Plumbers Use to Unclog Drains

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Clogged drains are one of the most typical reasons why homeowners enlist the help of an expert plumber. Even the most careful homeowners may find themselves faced with this problem from time to time – whether it’s food material clogging the kitchen sink, hair clogging the shower’s drain, or excess tissue paper clogging the toilet drain. As tempting as it may be to use drain cleaners or DIY fixes for really stubborn clogs, you’ll save time and effort by calling in an expert plumber who has the knowledge and the tools to quickly resolve the issue while also keeping your pipes out of harm’s way. 

In this article, we’ll shed light on the most important tools that a plumber uses when dealing with clogged drains such as drain snakes, hydro-jetting machines, and so on. Along the way, we’ll cover some basics about caring for your pipes. Let’s get started!

A plumber looking at the kitchen sink’s pipes

Is There A Way to Completely Avoid Clogged Drains?

Clogged drains are a fairly common problem for households. Although it might not be possible to entirely avoid small food particles or natural mineral buildup from your water supply, the best way to avoid clogged drains is to make sure that the drain is covered and/or keeping certain materials or substances away from it. Here is a list of the most common clog-forming materials and substances that should be kept from entering the drain:

  • Hair
  • Grease or oil
  • Solid food
  • Soap scum 
  • Dirt
  • Paper products
  • Cement, grout, or joint compounds

A preventative measure that is advisable for homeowners is to regularly clean their drains. This ensures that any buildup is kept in check and would lessen the chances of a drain worm infestation. Regularly pouring down one cup of white vinegar followed by 2 quarts of hot (not boiling) water after 30 minutes can do wonders. 

In some cases, however, avoiding clogged drains is not as straightforward. For example, if you live in a hard-water area, you might have blocked drains due to the calcium buildup in your drain pipes. Also, if your home has Kitec plumbing installed, then your pipes are especially vulnerable to getting blocked due to a chemical reaction in its brass fittings – indeed, pipe blockage and leaking/bursting are inevitable. In both of these cases, it would be best to get in touch with an expert plumber who can advise you on the most feasible and long-lasting solutions.  

Can DIY Plumbing Fix A Clogged Drain?

The most dangerous (yet popular) DIY way to deal with a clogged drain is by using a drain cleaner, but pouring down a chemical solution that dissolves clogs while leaving your pipes unharmed sounds too good to be true – because it is. Plenty of drain cleaners contain harsh chemicals that can warp or damage your pipes and are absolutely bad for the environment. As if that wasn’t enough risk, most drain cleaners only dislodge a clog (not destroy it), which is only a short-term solution to what is now a bigger issue.

Another method of DIY plumbing is more physical than chemical and is gaining some popularity. This involves the use of hanger wires (or something similar) to reach into a drain in an attempt to break up whatever is clogging the pipes. This method can cause the hanger wires to actually get stuck in the drain and cause further damage. 

We recommend that if you encounter a clog, you can try a plunger to see if it will help – but if not, avoid the DIY plumbing methods mentioned here (or anything similar) and simply call in a certified plumber.  

Closeup of a faucet with a drop of water

How Do Plumbers Fix Clogged Drains?

As we go through the main tools that plumbers use to fix clogged drains, you’ll notice that they use mechanical means – not chemical. Please note that some of these tools can be dangerous when not used properly so it’s best to leave it to the pros. With untrained use, there’s a risk of damage to the equipment, damage to the pipes, and/or injury to the user.

1. Video Inspection Equipment or a Drain Camera 

This first tool does not clear or clean the drain but is the crucial first step to diagnosing the problem. By first using video inspection equipment or a drain camera, plumbers can eliminate the guesswork, locate and identify the clog, and assess what types of tools will be needed to fix the problem. 

This kind of equipment mainly consists of a miniature waterproof camera and LED lights that are mounted on a long waterproof fibre-optic cable. The camera is hooked up to an LCD monitor and can usually be tilted or zoomed remotely. The LED lights can be controlled remotely as well. Drain cameras used by expert plumbers are steerable to easily navigate through pipelines. If you haven’t seen this kind of equipment in action just yet, it can be a truly rewarding experience when a clog is located using this smart and technologically-enabled method.    

2. Drain Snakes or Drain Augers 

The two main kinds of drain snakes or augers are manual and motorized. A manual drain snake is operated by rotating the handle which then causes the corkscrew-like tip inside the drain to rotate as well. In this way, soft clogs can be pulled right out. But the limitation of the manual drain snake is it cannot deal with tougher, more stubborn clogs. 

This is why most plumbers will bring along a motorized drain snake or auger. These usually have a reach of around 150 feet and can clear much larger and tougher blocks. So how does it work? Similar to the manual drain snake or auger, it is guided along the pipes to reach the blockage or clog. Then, the plumber activates the motor, setting the end of the coil to drill into the clog.  

3. Hydro-Jetting Machine 

The use of the hydro-jetting machine is typically recommended if a motorized auger does not have any success in clearing the clog. It is also the go-to solution if the clog is located further down your sewer line. 

This machine uses highly pressurized and heated streams of water to blast away any debris in your pipes. The process is far more thorough and restores your drain and pipes to an almost-like-new condition. This comprehensive method of cleaning eliminates any grease, soap scum, mineral deposits, and debris, leaving the drains cleared and fully functional. 

A plumber using a hydro-jetting machine on a floor drain

Who Can I Contact to Fix a Clogged Drain?

Dealing with a stubborn clog in your drain? We’ve got you covered. Here at PlumbWize, we pride ourselves in delivering top-notch service that’s quick, reliable, and gives long-lasting results. We can help with residential plumbing, commercial plumbing, and even 24/7 emergency plumbing. And we’re only a phone call away, whenever you’d need us. Contact us today!

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