Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sometimes you just have to get dirty

My bathroom sink was stopped up for a couple of days. What I really needed to do was remove the trap and clean it out, but that seemed too hard. I have all the tools, but I’d have to clean out the cabinet, find a bucket, unhook the trap, and clean. I wanted to fix it without getting dirty.

So first I tried the plunger. All I got was air shooting through the overflow holes and the water just taunting me with its stillness.

Next up, I snapped off a long piece from a plastic clothes hanger. The stiff plastic slid down the drain, but when it hit the bend in the sink trap, it stopped.

Another stoppage remedy I’ve heard of is pouring baking soda down the drain, then pouring in vinegar. The chemical reaction is supposed to loosen up clogs and dissolve them down the drain. So into the kitchen for our industrial size baking soda. I poured about a cup down the drain, which was now full of baking soda. I suspect it’s not supposed to have that much. Then I went for the vinegar, and saw that I have all kinds of fancy vinegars—balsamic, rice, wine—that no way was I going to pour down the sink. I discovered a bottle of cleaning vinegar I got a Target some time ago. I had expected the cleaning vinegar to be extra strength, but in fact it’s weaker than the stuff for cooking. I poured the whole bottle down the drain and got a spectacular foam show, but the sink was as stuck as ever—actually worse, because it had all that baking soda in it.

I gave up that night in favor of buying a sink snake. On the way home from work the next day, I stopped in Target and realized that Target shoppers never have complicated stopped-up sinks, because Target carries as many sink snakes as it does cold-blooded ones—none. I did find a liquid drain cleaner that came with a puny toothed strip to jam down the drain to catch the clog. I’ve used these before and they work great. This one, though, went as far as the bend in the trap and stopped. I poured in the glop and waited the half-hour for it to work. It released a few bubbles, but the water level remained the same.

By now it was almost 9 p.m. and I wanted to get to Lowes before it closed at 9:30. We drove to Lowes to discover that it now closed at 9 and was locked up tight. That sent us to the 24-hour Walmart where we bought both a toothed strip—this one longer, harder, and straighter—and a quasi-snake with a brush on the end.

In the end, neither tool worked, and I had to clean out the cabinet, dissemble the sink trap and clear it out. I found tweezers, hair clips, elastic bands, and some nasty unidentified junk in there. They were stuck so firmly that even a plumbers snake probably wouldn’t have dislodged it.  I ended up wasting time and money for a problem that could have been cleared up the day before. As a bonus, I now have a clean cabinet and a new mesh guard to keep the tweezers and hair clips out of the drain.

So next time I’m encounter a problem, I’m going to think of how I can solve it right then, maybe getting a little dirty, but without driving all over and shopping past my bedtime.

See you tomorrow.


  1. I'm so thankful my roommate friend is a plumber now I just need someone to help me with my leaky basement! Glad you got it unclogged!!!

  2. I have had luck with that Turbo snake which I bought from Wallgreens rather than buying it online a paying the absurd shipping charges. Worked well but pretty disgusting to pull stuff out of the drain.

    It probably wouldn't be able to handle things like tweezers though. :)