Do I Need To Clean My Drains?
On the seemingly endless list of household chores, “Do I need to clean my drains?” is likely not top of mind. Kitchen and bathroom drains are not something homeowners pay all that much attention to unless there is a problem—odd smells and sounds, or water that backs up and takes its time to empty or doesn’t even drain at all. These are all signs of clogged drains.
Clogged drains are an inconvenience that in some cases a plunger can’t solve. Which means an added expense to call a plumber to unclog your drains. So the short answer to the question, “Do I need to clean my drains?” is, “Yes, if you want to avoid costly repairs in the future.”
For a longer answer to “Do I need to clean my drains?” let’s look at:
- Signs a drain is clogged
- What causes a drain to clog
- How to prevent drain clogs
- How to clean drains
- The benefits of regular drain cleaning
- When all else fails…
Key signs that answer the question, “Do I need to clean my drains?” are:
- Water drains slowly. That’s because substances such as hair, grease, soap, dirt, and/or other foreign objects are stuck in the drain, impeding water flow.
- Foul odors. This is usually an indication of rotting food stuck in the drain or, worse, gasses from a sewer backup.
- Gurgling noises. This is an indication of insufficient air in the drain system and possibly a more serious problem than a clog that is impairing air flow. Gurgling noises may indicate lack of proper venting in your plumbing system or a serious blockage in a sewer line. If you have a septic system, and particularly if there are unpleasant odors as well as gurgling noises, the septic system itself is probably due for maintenance. In some cases, gurgling noises from a toilet coupled with slow-flowing drains may indicate a sewer blockage.
Drain blockages are caused by an accumulation of grease and fat, hair, excessive toilet paper and baby wipes, and in some extreme cases, tree roots that cause pipes to split.
If you follow a few general best practices, the question of “Do I need to clean my drains?” isn’t a hard “no,” because these steps to prevent drain clogs in the first place arguably are sort of like cleaning drains. To keep your drains clean and prevent drain clogs:
- Do not pour grease or fat down the drain. Fatty substances tend to stick to the sides of pipes instead of rinsing down into the sewer system. For the same reason, even when fat and grease do rinse down into the sewer system, over time this leads to “fatbergs” that can seriously damage sewer infrastructure.
- Use screens on bathroom basins and shower drains, as well as kitchen sinks. Catch hair before it goes down the drain and collects to block water flow. The same applies to kitchen drains; screens prevent food particles that are best put in the compost bin rather than down the drain.
- Keep foreign objects out of the toilet. Excessive paper and wipes can stick inside the drainpipe. If you have small children, impress upon them that the toilet is not a general disposal device.
- Use liquid soap instead of bar soap. This prevents soap scum buildup that can clog drains.
- Use a water softener. If you have hard water, mineral buildup in your drains is more likely.
Even if you rigorously follow the above best practices to keep your drains clean, the answer to “Do I need to clean my drains?” is probably still a “yes.” To clean your drains beyond preventative measures that prevent drain clogs, perform the following every few weeks:
- Put on rubber gloves. It’s also not a bad idea to wear eye protection.
- Remove the drain cover and stopper. Insert the end of a metal coat hanger and gently probe for any debris. Carefully remove and dispose of the debris. Remove any collected debris from the drain stopper and rinse in a bucket of water.
- Run boiling hot water down the drains. If you are getting a whiff of foul smells, pour a little vinegar down the drain, wait a few minutes, and then follow with the boiling water. Some people also like to dissolve baking soda in the water. Do not use a commercial drain cleaner, as this may actually damage pipes; in addition, chemicals in these cleaners frequently are not environmentally friendly. If you prefer, there are enzymatic cleaners that are safe to use.
So far we’ve discussed how to avoid drain clogs in the first place by following best practices, and how to perform regular drain cleaning. However, if despite all your efforts you have a drained clog, the obvious answer to “Do I need to clean my drains?” is of course “yes,” but you need to take some additional steps.
- First, follow the steps above to remove any debris in the drain and pour boiling water and/or vinegar or baking soda (or an enzymatic cleaner) down the drain.
- If water is still not draining properly, get a plunger. Fill the sink or basin with water. Make a slow initial plunge to force air down the drain. (If you push too hard for the first plunge, you’re more likely to splatter the contents of sink or bath water and still not force enough air to remove the clog.) Wait until water drains completely, then keep the plunger firmly in place and proceed to push harder for about 20 seconds. If the clog is still not removed, add water and repeat.
- If the plunging does not remove the clog, you can try to insert a snake into the drain and attempt to dislodge a deeper blockage.
- If you still cannot clear the drain blockage, it is time to call a plumber.
If the tips above do not solve your problem of slow or blocked drains, and especially if you are experiencing problems in multiple drains–which indicates an underlying issue with your plumbing system–you need a professional to clean your drains. Your problem could be due to deteriorating pipes, a clog deeper within the pipes, or something obstructing your main drain line.
To accurately diagnose the problem, an Ongaro and Sons plumber can utilize a video drain inspection to pinpoint exactly where and why drains are clogged. Once a video inspection is completed, there are a number of options available to clean the drains or clear stubborn clogs that are beyond the capabilities of most homeowners.
Ongaro and Sons has seen more than their fair share of clogged drains. After 90 years in business, Ongaro and Sons fully understands the needs and expectations of homeowners. You can depend on family-owned and -operated Ongaro and Sons to perform effective and efficient drain cleaning and help you avoid a plumbing catastrophe.