Plus, how to ensure it doesn't happen again.

By Katelyn Chef
June 21, 2021
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Unexpected home repairs tend to become necessary at the most inconvenient of times; a clogged drain in the middle of a family dinner or holiday gathering is the perfect example. What should you do if you find yourself faced with a stopped up drain in the kitchen, bathroom, or basement? Most people would think to call a plumber at first, but you can actually unclog the drain yourself.

oak point kitchen white sink
Credit: Lindsay Salazar

Clogged Drains by Type

"If your drain is clogged or just not running as smoothly as it should, the first step is to use a drain plunger. Using a sink or toilet plunger, place over the clogged drain and give it a few pumps," says Lou Manfredini, Ace Hardware's resident home expert. "If it is a double sink in a kitchen," he adds, "plug the drain on the opposite side so that when plunging, you are not forcing air out of the open drain but rather towards the clog."

As luck would have it, most drains can become unclogged by using this method. However, some clogs are more stubborn needing extra work. In this case, Manfredini recommends implementing the use of a drain snake. "I typically recommend one that is at least 10 feet long," he says. "This thin, strong wire goes down the drain, and once in position, spin it to loosen the clog, then flush it away with water." For an option, try the Cobra Tools Skinny Snake ($8.88, homedepot.com).

If plunging and using a snake drain still doesn't unclog your drain, there is a third option of drain cleaner. Manfredini explains that most drain cleaners are safe for plumbing pipes as they are either acids or bases. In Madredini's experience, he prefers the base drain cleaners as they have to come into contact with liquid to react. "Insta-Flo ($12.99, acehardware.com) is one of my go-to recommendations for drains that are draining really slowly. Pour the crystals over the drain, and then pour hot water over them to dissolve. Let them percolate in the drain to dissolve the clog and then run the water. Pro tip: Never mix drain chemicals and always read the directions on the bottles."

When you have plunged, snaked, and used a drain cleaner with little to no results, that's the time to call a professional, according to our expert.

How to Prevent Clogged Drains

Understanding that your drain, especially the kitchen sink garbage disposal, isn't a garbage can will help you prevent most clogged drain issues. Our expert emphasizes not scraping food off of pots, plates, and pans down the sink. Another thing you can do to preemptively avoid needing to haul out the plunger in the midst of a family dinner is regularly using an enzyme cleaner. "Consider using an enzyme cleaner once a month," says Manfredini. "Pour it down the drain in the evening right before bed and let it stand in the pipes overnight to eat away at the build-up along the lining of the pipes."

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