Drain cleaning methods: the pros and cons of the best options

Drain cleaning methods range from simplistic to complex. The worst cases might require a complete repair of the drain system, meaning it will take a professional plumber to get you back in working order. However, many can be tackled without great expense. What are some of the best methods for cleaning your drains?

1) Hot water

Practically cost free and taking only moments, running hot water down a drain can free up congealed fats/greases, which often become the catchall for small to large bits of debris. Some homeowners make it a habit to run the water for 15 minutes to dislodge any buildup as a preventative approach.

The only con to this drain cleaning method is that some will take it to the extreme and dump boiling water into the drain, which is not good on PVC pipes, most of which are rated to handle 140 degree water. At a boiling point of 212 degrees, this far exceeds what’s recommended and can lead to the pipes having to be completely replaced.

2) Homemade remedies

If you’ve got a clog that is too significant to be dislodged with hot water, try using a homemade solution, such as vinegar and baking soda. The perk is that while you’re taking an approach that is more aggressive than water alone, it’s not as extreme as commercial cleaners, which are quite toxic.

The con to this drain cleaning approach is that it can be ineffective on different types of materials. For example, one of the most common clogs is related to fats/grease being improperly disposed of in the drain. The vinegar and baking soda mixture aren’t surfactants, which means they can’t adequately dislodge oil and grease.

3) Chemical drain cleaners

Drano, Pure Lye, Invade, CLR, GreenPig – they’re all highly rated chemical drain cleaners that can start working on clogs quickly. In fact, the majority of clogs can be “eaten away” in 10 to 15 minutes. They are often used in tub/shower drains where hair is the main culprit, or in the kitchen sink where food buildup and grease are blocking the drain.

The cons of using chemical drains are many if you’re eco-conscious, as they contain many pollutants. Furthermore, they can create noxious fumes and they are dangerous when coming in contact with skin. Finally, the chemical reaction that allows the products to break down debris can also be bad on plumbing pipes, especially if this drain cleaning method is the most often used for unplugging the drain.

4) Plunger

It’s not just for the toilet – it can be used in any drain. A plunger works by creating suction over the drain and forcing air in and out of the drainpipe as it is plunged up and down. This can allow whatever is built up inside your drain to break free. It’s a quick and easy solution that involves no cleaners and doesn’t damage pipes.

The con for using a plunger is that if it’s a serious clog, it will simply move it deeper into the system, forcing a more drastic measure, usually carried out by a plumber, and it could involve using jet rodding methods or a snake.

4) Snakes

A coiled spiral snake is an often-used tool by plumbers and DIY homeowners. It comes in a variety of lengths and attachments to the end, but it is spun into an obstruction, breaking it apart. Most snakes only require manual use via a small auger, but some are attached to a drill for quicker, deeper penetration.

While the snake can get a drain water flowing in the right direction, it’s often seen as a temporary fix because it doesn’t scour the inside walls of the drain, leaving deposits behind that can be a gathering spot for future debris.

5) Hydro jetting

For a highly thorough drain cleaning method of removing clogs and cleaning the walls of the drain pipes of all debris, hydro jetting, also referred to as jet rodding, is used. This is an application employed by plumbers whereby a stream of water under high pressure is shot through a customized nozzle, sending water in several directions for a more comprehensive cleaning and removal of debris.

If your pipes aren’t strong enough to hand the pressure, hydro jetting is going to be a big mistake. You don’t want to clear a clog at the expense of your pipes. Only a qualified plumber should be allowed to push forward with this procedure, and only after the plumber has fully examined your pipe material and is sure it can hold up to water blast.

Commercial drain cleaning services

At Valley Fire Protection & Plumbing, our highly trained plumbers have all the tools they need address all your drainage issues. We utilize video cameras to find exactly where your clog is, what the material is made of and make the determination then as to what method is best for the specific scenario. From simple toilet clogs to more complex drainage problems deep within your system, we have the experience to tackle it all, so contact us today and schedule an appointment.

Related Topics: drain cleaning // Plumbing Tips
By: Tom Hartel
I acquired my expertise by directing day-to-day operations of the business for over 20 years. Continuous hard work helped me become a nationally recognized speaker and expert on fire protection, fire sprinklers, special hazards, and plumbing systems. In this blog, I share my knowledge that will hopefully help you make better decisions for your projects.


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