Whether you come across a clog in your kitchen sink or a back-up in a shower drain, it can easily put a damper on your day. The last thing you're going to want to do is spend hours getting the plumbing back in working order. However, with a few simple tools, trusty methods, and a little practice, you can become an expert at doing away with pipe clogging debris.
1. Tools For the Job
The most important tool you'll need for snaking your own drain is a hand auger. If the clog seems insignificant enough though, you might not want to go out and spend the money on such a thing. In which case, a coat hanger might very well do the job just fine. Simply disassemble the coat hanger such that it becomes a long, fairly straight strip. But, it's important to keep the original hook-shape on the end - it'll be good for catching any debris, deep down in the drain. You might want to make the hook a bit narrower though, so it can fit down the pipe, properly.
If you happen to be dealing with a much more intense clog, chances are, a clothes hanger just won't do it. As we've already said, you're going to need a hand auger. For general usage, a 3/8 in, 20ft-long model ought to work just fine for you. If all hardware store seems to have is a 1/4 in, this will most likely work fine, too. While you're at the store, pick up a plastic bucket to fit under your drain, along with a flashlight and rubber gloves.
2. Use The Drain Auger Properly
Many people think that since the tool is so simple, they can use it however they want, and that there's no real way to snake a drain. This just isn't true. Following a specific procedure will actually yield that best results. First, if you have a tub screen or a hair trap covering your drain, move it out of the way.
Next, slowly push the snake cable into the drain, and turn the handle in a clockwise motion as you push. If you have difficulty pushing (perhaps because the drain is so clogged), trying holding the handle with both hands. While lowering the "snake" mechanism, alter your grip until it's about 2 or 3 inches from the mouth of the drain - this will allow you to control your motion and get a better sense of the nature of the clog, a lot better.
On your way down to the obstruction, you might here a decent amount of scratching, or it might seem as if the cable has hit a wall - at this point you're just coming upon a curve in the pipe - just keep pushing past it.
When you feel a significant amount of resistance, you know you've reached the particular barrier that has been giving you problems in your pipe. The clog ought to give way just the slightest bit though when compared to the resistance of the pipe itself, which shouldn't give way at all.
Next, you should try to hook the clog. While continuing to turn the cable in a clockwise manner, ever so slightly pull up to see if you've gotten a hold of any of the debris. You should feel a bit more weight on the auger, if done correctly. Next, continue to prod the material, in order to begin to break it up. After doing this for some time, you should eventually poke through the other end. If the clog just won't allow you to puncture through it, it very well might be a solid object that you've initially hooked.
Pull the snake out of the drain very carefully so you don't lose the clog, if it's hooked on the snake. After that, clean the debris off the snake with a towel as it comes out of the drain. Dump this excess debris into the bucket. Continue pulling up as much of the clog as you can until the snake is free.
3. Use Hot Water
If the drain still happens to be clogged, it's a good idea to run hot water through it. Fill a standard sized teakettle up with water, and put it on the stove until it reaches a point of almost boiling. Slowly pour that hot water down into the drain. It may take a few moments to rinse away the remnants of the clog, but with this method, it should begin to slow quickly. Why not just run the hot water on your showerhead, you ask. Well, shower water often doesn't get this hot, and also, showerheads often can't shoot directly into the drain, and at a close enough proximity to be truly effective.
4. Use a homemade Concoction
If 100 percent hot water still doesn't seem to be doing the trick, you can always add a half a cup of baking soda and 1 cup of vinegar to hot water, pour it down the drain and see what happens. Allow it to sit for 15 minutes - this method is known to be extremely effective. So, if you're willing to part with a few of your essential backing elements - definitely give it a try!
5. Use Chemicals
As a last resort to unclogging a drain, you can always go the chemical route. Caustic soda (sodium Hydroxide) is a harmful chemical substance that can definitely do a number on most of the debris that will end up in your drainpipe. Pour 3/4 of a gallon of cold water into a mop bucket, and then add 3 cups of caustic soda. Stir the mixture well, and it will soon begin to fizz. Next, pour it into the clogged drain and leave for 20-30 minutes, then flush it with pure hot water - repeat as necessary.
If none of these options seem to yield any positive results for you, don't be hard-headed, it might just be time to call a plumber. The job could very well be beyond your knowledge or handyman-skills, and there's nothing wrong with that. After all, that's why plumbers are in business, in the first place.