Drain Disdain

12 Aug

This was going to be a product review. The drain in our bathroom was not clogged, but it was a little slow, like if you put both faucets on full blast the drain wouldn’t keep up and the sink would start to fill and then take a while to drain down. I decided I’d try some drain cleaner since I didn’t feel like trying to snake it out. I went to our local hardware store and was recommended a product that was supposed to work very well. Here’s the picture of it from when this was supposed to be a simple product review.

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It’s called FlowEasy drain opener and it’s supposed to be more gentle than something like Drano. It’s a buffered acid which supposedly means it’s not bad for the pipes, although the precautions they suggest you take to protect the sink sort of make me think it might not be that gentle after all.
The directions ask you to pour in a certain amount, a pint in this case, and then cover the drain and wait 15 minutes (but no longer) and then rinse with cold water for 5 minutes. As soon as I put the liquid in you could tell a reaction was occurring, it is activated by contact with water. They warned me it could smell pretty strong so I opened the window, turned on the exhaust fan and closed the door while I waited the 15 minutes. I went downstairs and you could actually feel the heat in the pipes from the action of the acid. When I rinsed it out it seemed like the water was flowing great, I cleaned up and cleaned the bathroom and I was pretty pleased.
The next morning, however, I ran the sink and it started to back up. It backed up to the point that it would not drain at all. I think what happened was that some of the gunk that was dissolved by the acid finally broke loose and piled upon itself to cause a clog. I hoped maybe a little plunger work would help but all it did was push loose crud around and I was also rewarded with water shooting out the overflow. Even when I tried to cover the overflow plunging still didn’t do the trick.

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It was time to get some tools out and try to find where the clog was and hopefully dislodge it. I got a shallow pan and a cup from the recycling bin and emptied all the water I could from the sink, then I took off the P-trap to see if that contained the clog. I did a pretty good job of containing the spillage, and there was some loose particles in the trap, but nothing major. the pipe was pretty clean. I then tried to remove the tail piece where it connects to the drain in the wall, which was a tough job, but finally with a pipe wrench and the assistance of a mallet I was able to break it loose. There was not visible clog at this point either so I went and got the snake, which is just coiled flat steel with a little hook on the end to try to catch hair and other debris that might cause a clog. The fear with a snake is that once it’s in the pipes the hook might actually hook onto something solid and you won’t be able to get it back. This was not a problem for me because I couldn’t even get the snake around the first bend. The drain goes into the wall and then quickly goes to T fitting, with one pipe going down for the drain and one above going straight up for the vent line. This is a straight T fitting and the snake just did not want to go around this corner no matter what I did. It was very tempting to try to use more chemicals to break down the remaining clog but I didn’t want to get dressed down by the person I knew I’d be calling if it didn’t work.

So, I skipped that step and some aggravation and went straight to the calling an expert step. It’s a tough thing for a person like me to have to do, to admit that I couldn’t do something that seems to be within my capabilities. But, I really didn’t feel like re-builidng the entire drain system for the house, and I have a feeling Corinne might not be too pleased to be showering at the gym while I tried to figure out how to do so. I’m sure I could do it if I really wanted to, but it would probably be time consuming and messy, and I had already spent too much time monkeying around under the sink. When I talked to Deegan, the plumbers that installed our new heating system, they said they could send somebody by later that day. When he showed up he obviously was a little concerned with what I had put down the drain, but he actually seemed to condone my do it yourself effort, and gave me credit for at least trying. He brought in the power snake, which is a little more sophisticated, and work off a drill motor powered coiled snake, which is a lot more flexible than the solid spring steel.

This machine spins around to try to scrape the walls of the pipes and dig in to clogs and drive them out. Even with the big machine he still had to fight the hard turns in the pipe. He did pull out a very old toothpaste cap, which probably was helping to create a dam. After a while of trying he wasn’t sure he had gotten it but he was a hitting a point where the snake would not go any farther in so he decided to try re-assembling the drain and running some water to try it out. It flowed nicely and we even ran the tub and flushed the toilet to make sure the clog hadn’t relocated itself. It wasn’t exactly cheap to have this service performed, which is why I tried to avoid it in the first place, but the plumber did say that at least I should be reassured by the fact that even he had trouble with the big machine.

A few days later our drain still seems to be in working order so hopefully that should be it as long as we can avoid dropping caps down the drain!

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