DIY Drain Cleaning Tips From Northern Virginia Plumbers


Fighting clogged or slow drains on a regular basis? You might need drain cleaning. It’s all but inevitable that you’ll end up with a clog somewhere in your plumbing sooner or later, but when it won’t come undone or you find yourself constantly dealing with clogs and lines in your tub and sink where water isn’t draining quickly, it’s time to act. Of course, like most of us, you’ll want to try to handle it yourself before you call a plumber.

To make sure you’re taking the right steps to clean your drains without damaging them, we’ve put together a quick guide to DIY drain cleaning, including signs you need it, methods to use, methods to avoid, and when it’s time to call a professional.

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Signs You Need Drain Cleaning

The symptoms of drains in need of a good cleaning are pretty obvious once you know to look for them, but many homeowners don’t realize there’s a problem until it gets fairly severe. If these sound familiar, it’s time to clean your drains:

  • Slow drainage: If you frequently find yourself walking away from sinks still slowly draining water or standing in ankle-deep water when you’re running a shower, you probably need drain cleaning.
  • Frequent clogs: If you end up with clogs that back up your entire system on a regular basis, even if they go away without too much trouble, you have a problem brewing. You shouldn’t be plunging your toilet multiple times a week — and you definitely shouldn’t be plunging your kitchen sink or other parts of your plumbing.
  • Bad smells from drains: If your drains smell awful, this can also be a strong sign you need drain cleaning. While this can also stem from more serious problems, it’s common for it to mean something gross is sticking to the walls of your pipes.

DIY Drain Cleaning and Clog Clearing

So, you have drains that need to be cleaned or a clog that needs to be broken up right this moment. For both of these, you’ll want to use similar methods. For most of them, you’re going to want boiling hot water (or very hot tap water, if you have your water heater set fairly hot) and something to add to it to encourage the clog or crud to go away.

Clogs mostly consist of oily and fatty materials like grease and similar substances adhering to the walls of your pipes, narrowing them and catching other materials like starches, so-called “flushable” wipes, fibrous vegetables, etc. For this reason, dish soap and a lot of hot water can work wonders for encouraging everything to clear out.

Just keep in mind that your pipes can be long and cold and there might be plenty of cold water along the way, meaning that what seems like a lot of hot water might not be so hot when it makes it to your clog. You’ll need a large amount of hot water or a steady stream (if your clogged or slow drains permit).

If your problem leans more toward bad smells or long-term slow drains, a blend of vinegar and baking soda can be a better bet. Sluice it after a while with boiling hot water.

You can also invest in off-the-shelf enzymatic cleaners to do the job, though they’re not always substantially better than DIY options. Never use caustic cleaners in your home plumbing or try to force clogs with pure muscle power, though — you risk serious damage to your pipes and home.

When Should You Call Pros Like M.E. Flow?

When clogs refuse to respond to basic DIY methods, bad smells and slow drains persist, or something else seems to be involved with your drain issues, it’s time to call a professional. Some drain problems can be beyond simple drain cleaning, such as tree root infiltrations or narrowing of old pipes of certain materials; others can require drain cleaning, but using the tools and techniques of professionals, such as high-pressure jet cleaning, snaking, even cutting out unbreakable clogs and replacing the section of pipe.

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If you find yourself in need of professional drain cleaning in Northern Virginia, don’t hesitate to call M.E. Flow! Reach our Winchester office at (571) 350-3183 and our office serving the Leesburg and Alexandria area at (571) 350-3183.

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