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DIY Methods to Unclog a Drain

DIY August 1, 2018
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Lindsay Cutler

There are plenty of ways to unclog a drain, but it’s not always clear which method is appropriate for your home’s plumbing. It’s always best to start out with the gentlest solution possible, and then move on to more aggressive measures, to prevent possibly damaging your pipes. Here are a few beginner DIY methods to unclog a drain in your home. If none of these solutions work for you, contact a plumber for a professional opinion.

Baking soda and vinegar solution

It’s not just for your 7th grade volcano! This mixture’s fizzing power can also help clear away mild clogs, such as in your bathroom or kitchen sink. First, pour boiling water down the drain and wait until the water clears. Next, pour about half a cup of baking soda down the drain. Follow that with a mix of one cup of hot water and one cup of white vinegar. Let this mixture work its magic for at least one hour, although it’s best to let it sit for as long as possible for maximum effect. Afterward, use the hot water tap to drain it away and observe if the water is draining properly.

Soda or cola

This is lesser-known fix you can find in your refrigerator. Pour a 2-liter bottle of cola — Pepsi, Coke, or generic brand substitutes  — down the clogged drain. Soda is actually quite caustic and effective at clearing away buildup in your drains, but it’s far milder than commercial drain cleaners. Let it sit and wait at least one hour before turning on the hot water to drain it all away.


If none of the mixtures are doing the trick, try to manually unclog your drain with a plunger. It’s important to use the right plunger — a simple toilet plunger won’t do if you’re working with a smaller drain, such as in your sink or shower. You’ll need a cup plunger designed for smaller drains. Unscrew the grate or stopper and apply the cup plunger to the drain, and try to create as tight a seal as possible (applying petroleum jelly to the rim of the plunger can help with this). Then plunge vigorously, run water to see if the clog has cleared, and repeat as necessary.

Clean the p-trap

If the vinegar or soda method aren’t effective in unclogging your drain, you may have to physically remove the source of the clog. Luckily, you don’t need to call a plumber to clean the  p-trap — you can do it yourself! The p-trap is the curved pipe under your sink designed to catch debris so it doesn’t enter the rest of your home plumbing system. Place a bucket under your sink to catch excess water, and use a wrench or pliers to unscrew the u-shaped pipe (the p-trap) under your sink. Empty its contents and take the p-trap to another sink to rinse and clear any debris. Then replace to see if your clog has been resolved.

Snakes, augers and millipedes

Although snakes and millipedes are sold in every hardware store, it’s possible to damage or possibly puncture your pipes if done incorrectly. If you’re a plumbing novice, it’s recommended to get a professional plumber to snake more serious clogs that couldn’t be repaired with the methods previously mentioned.

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