Look Here First When Your Drain Clogs
It’s tough enough when you try to sterilize a tub once your little one has used it to “bathe!” But, it’s even worse when the water (if it can still be called that after a kid bath) won’t drain! And that’s where we come in. We can’t do much about cleaning the tub except to remind you that there are several extremely effective spray cleaners available as well as scrubbing tools with very long handles. As for the slow drain – we think we be a little more help.
By the way, drains that incorporate mechanisms to open and close them are all pretty much alike. Whether it’s a bathroom sink or a tub, somewhere near the inlet – or at it – there is a plug that prevents water from escaping from the fixture when it is properly positioned. The good thing is that when the plug is in the closed position you can fill the sink or tub with water making washing and bathing easy as pie. The bad thing is that there is always a trade off. In the case of built-in drain stoppers the same plug that makes getting bathed a breeze is the device that causes most clogs.
Let’s look at why. Basically, a sink or a tub each handles 3 elements when doing their job: Soap, water and a person (or part of a person). The person part of our equation is usually covered with one or more of the following: loose hair, cosmetic oils, hair spray, body lotion, dead skin, and yes, some degree of dirt — more in some cases than others. During the scrub down the soap blends with the aforementioned uglies to create a paste that can often be stronger than Crazy Glue’s best adhesive. Unfortunately, the gunk to which we refer always ends up traveling down the drain. Of course, that’s where it is supposed to go. Well, the only contraption that exists between the inside of the fixture and the entrance to the city sewer plant is the built-in stopper. It is the one and only moving part in the system and is a major culprit when it comes to latching clogging. There is no other sewer part that latches onto soap-scum-inundated-body-hair more quickly than that silly stopper. Yuck!
Often when a clog occurs our first thoughts usually turn to “grabbing the drain cleaner.” Wrong! A drain cleaner is OK when a p-trap is clogged (the p-trap is the curved device located just beneath the drain inlet in every plumbing fixture). But, most clogs in sinks and tubs occur above the p-trap at the built-in stopper. Using drain cleaner usually won’t work on this kind of clog. The drain cleaner settles in the p-trap completely missing the stopper. That’s because the p-trap is usually several inches below the stopper. For drain cleaner to work on a stopper one would have to remove the p-trap, cap the lower section of the drain and fill the sink with drain cleaner. Unfortunately, this can be dangerous, difficult and time consuming – especially with bathtubs. Built-in stoppers are irregular in shape – especially some of the ones used in sinks – and therefore they are really good at catching grease-filled, gunk-inundated hair. And these are elements that will cause a sink to clog more quickly than anything. Again, adding drain cleaner doesn’t do it. The drain cleaner will trickle right past the mass of hair on the drain plug and will move into the p-trap where no obstruction may exist. Now don’t get us wrong. A slow drain can be caused by a clogged p-trap. And in such a case, drain cleaning would be our choice to correct the problem.
Tub drains are a little more complicated and often require the removal of two screws at the overflow followed by the removal of a piece or two of operating linkage. Pop-up stopper systems in tubs are slightly more complicated than the ones with the “hidden” stopper (plunger system). But, with a little patience, screwdriver and some good old Yankee ingenuity you just might find this one worth doing yourself.
The same holds true when a stopper is leaking. If the stopper has a gasket it may need replacement. You may never have realized that a gasket existed until you look. All good plumbing stores carry a myriad of these puppies in just about every shape, size and form. Also, all built-in stoppers are connected to some kind of control linkage. The linkage can be adjusted to cause the drain to open more or close more tightly. This also is a great do-it-yourself project. Once you have done one you will want to check out every other fixture in the house. In addition, we recommend having professional grease trap services clean your grease trap at least twice a year.
The really nice thing is that once a clogged stopper is properly cleaned, and or adjusted, the fixture in question will operate as good as new – literally better than ever. And you will feel superb. And, that’s all there is to it.