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How to Unclog a Drain

How to Unclog a Drain

The holiday season offers a lot of fulfillment. From busy houses with with family and friends to cramped kitchens filled with turkeys, pies and more, our sinks and drains are at risk during the holiday season. As a result, many homeowner start searching “how to unclog a drain” vigorously following a big meal.

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All of those delicious side dishes from the family secret potato dish to fruit cup appetizers are devilish on drains. The smaller food particles that sticks to plates eventually get washed down the drain. This results in a blockage (especially on older drains)!

Plus, throw in some extra guests using the restroom and that small drainage issue in the bathroom can erupt into a full-fledged clogged drain. Therefore, for anyone hosting or entertaining guests during the holidays, consider contacting your trusted plumber if you have any small drainage issues.

How to Unclog a Drain

First and foremost, the best way to unclog a drain remains preventing a clog from occurring. To help avoid a clog, take some preventative measures, which help avoid costly mistakes, such as:

  • not pouring cooking oil (or fat) down the drain.
  • not putting poultry skins (chicken, turkey), starchy (potato peels, rice), stringy (celery) or fibrous waste (coffee grinds, corn husks) down the drain.
  • keeping the water running when you use the garbage disposal.
  • letting the garbage disposal “catch up” after waste is poured down the drain.

As for those houseguests, use common sense. Things that are hard to drain will create a clogged drain if there are already drainage issues. Even though machines seem indestructible, they do break down, so err on the side of caution and let them rest a little.

However, clogged drains occur and homeowners need a few basic strategies to unclog drains (and in particular, kitchen sinks).

Unclogging the Garbage Disposal

Frequently, a clogged garbage disposal is the main reason for drainage issues. Therefore, if you hear a low hum (rather than a healthy motor) when turning on your garbage disposal, then check the disposal! To fix, follow these steps.

  1. Turn the disposal off and unplug the unit.
  2. Check to make sure there are no tripped breakers in the fuse box.
  3. Attempt to clear the clog by turning the blades manually with an Allen wrench (there should be a hole at the bottom of the disposal).
  4. Plug in the disposal and turn it on (it might need a minute to cool off – if so, press the reset button on the bottom and try again).

If the drain persists, but the garbage disposal is clear and working, then take another approach.

Try a Plunger

Typically, homeowners with a little DIY knowledge and applying some elbow grease can fix most minor drain issues. And one of those DIY methods remains the common plunger.


The most likely reason for a clog is something stuck in the drain, like the fibrous matter from dinner. Plungers work because they help remove the substance likely causing the backup. Once remove, the drain works as desired. For some more info on using a plunger, follow these steps.

  1. partially fill the sink with water (if the drain is your kitchen sink with two sides, then cover the other side – possibly with a wet rag).
  2. work the plunger vigorously to break up the clog.
  3. remove any waste that comes into the sink because you don’t want to force it back down the drain.

Always remember not to plunge the sink if you tried a commercial drain cleaner. Plus, always allow the drain cleaner to work through the sink because the chemicals are dangerous if they touch your skin while plunging the sink. In general using chemicals can do more harm than good on the drain pipes.

Of course, at times, the plunger does help remove some substance, but the clog persists. It is possible to uncover the blockage through a baking soda/vinegar combo, snaking the pipes or cleaning the trap.

How Unclogging a Drain Differs from Cleaning a Drain

Many homeowners fail to realize the difference between clearing a clogged drain and cleaning a clogged drain. However, the two plumbing tactics provide significant differences and long-term results.

Clearing a clogged drain is a common DIY activity that simply allows the flow of water through a blockage. For example, using a snake or plunger clear clogs in the drain or garbage disposal. Plus, common drain cleaners simply clear the drain (in addition to potentially damaging your pipes).

Conversely, drain cleaning provides a more advanced solution than clearing a drain. For example, drain cleaning utilizes a high pressure water blasting machine that completely removes a blockage. Also, professional grade drain cleaning services leverage video equipment, which identifies the core problem of the blockage. Additionally, drain cleaning eliminates build up of certain materials within your pipes such as soap scum, mineral deposits and/or hair. Finally, drain cleaning offers a permanent solution (while drain clearing provides quick, but temporary relief).

As always, SolvIt is here to help. Although 100% clogged drains remain unavoidable, performing an annual maintenance and inspection of your drains helps prevent plumbing emergencies. For example if there is a major drainage issue that is causing a clogged drain, then you likely have a larger problem that cannot be solved with DIY tips. It may be time to consult with a trusted professional and SolvIt is here 24/7 (everyday, including holidays), so feel free to contact us anytime and make sure the water runs smoothly all year long.