While a serious clog requires attention from a licensed plumber, most problems are anything but serious. The tools for basic clog busting are inexpensive and readily available. Before you schedule that emergency plumber appointment, try these techniques to bust the clog yourself. Once you've tried everything in your power to take care of the problem yourself, you will still have plenty of time to call the plumber.
Baking Soda and Vinegar
If you don't have a box of baking soda and a jug of vinegar in your cleaning supply closet, then you should rectify that situation sooner rather than later. These two substances are both inexpensive and effective ways to clean just about anything. In this case, you are interested in the reaction that occurs when you combine the two substances. You may have used it when you were younger to create a model of a volcano. This action is very similar to what happens when you use commercial drain cleaner, only the result is something that is completely safe if it fails to break up the clog.
The first step is to clear out any hair that you can reach from the drain. From there, pour the baking soda as far down the drain as possible. Next pour on the vinegar and let the mixture bubble away. Finally, run hot water through the drain to rinse away the remaining baking soda as well as any loosened up gunk.
A pipe snake is another thing that you should consider investing in. While the ones you can get at the home improvement store aren't as long as the ones that plumbers use, it will still be enough to bust most clogs. They do tend to form near the drain itself-- if one forms further down in the system, then you probably have additional problems that need to be addressed by a professional. If you really want to try and get a deep clog yourself, talk to the staff at the home improvement store. They may have a larger pipe snake available to rent. Take the opportunity to clear out all your drains without the damage caused by the caustic chemicals in traditional drain cleaner.
Once you've ensured you don't have anything around the drain that can't get dirty, it is time to put on some gloves and get down to business. Follow the directions that came with the snake to feed the line down the drain until you reach the clog. Be patient-- it may take a couple tries to get the clog caught and pulled back up, and the processes will naturally be slower with one of these smaller, hand cranked units. Once you've pulled the clog up out of the drain, it is just a matter of cleaning up the debris and running some hot water through the drain to clear any remaining bits.
Plungers can be used on things other than toilets. and this certainly includes any drain in your bathroom. It is important to skip the plunger if you've already tried drain cleaner-- the plunging action could spatter the chemicals onto your skin. Of course, if you stick with vinegar and baking soda, this isn't a problem.
You want to leave as little water as possible around the drain, but you want to leave enough to keep air out of the plunger. Air will compress when you push down, but water cannot. This means that pushing water down the drain will be infinitely more effective than air. Finally, use the familiar up and down movement to pull the clog up and out of the drain.
The key here is to know when it is time to give up and call that plumber. While most clogs can be busted by an ambitious do-it-yourselfer, you can cause more harm than good by going after something embedded deep in your pipes. Try the easy fixes, and then call a local drain cleaning service if they don't work.