Its clogged!
March 20, 2013 1:55 AM   Subscribe

We have a washer/dryer combo within the kitchen of our basement suite in Vancouver, BC. When the sink is full of sitting water (i.e. plugged) the washer vomits water out of its drainage tube and onto the floor.

Now something is clogged, as neither the sink nor the washer is able to drain anything. Bleach and draino have been applied to little effect while the other two drains on our floor (bathrooms) work as normal. Plunging the sink brings up detritus that looks like, but cannot be positively identified as, wet lint.

Anyone know how to fix this short of calling a plumber? I know that I can't give you plumbing schematics to the house which I would KILL to have right now, so any advice is welcome.
posted by Slackermagee to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
Have you tried these 'zip' drain unblockers? (example). They're cheap, and available at your local hardware store. They could hook out lint, maybe.

You could also possibly try getting a ShopVac, which can vacuum liquids. I have the portable one, which was about $30 from a local big box hardware store. They also have larger and more expensive ones.

Anyway you shove the nozzle into the drain, make sure it is snug, block off any overflows, vacuum out the water/crap, empty the drum, vacuum again until it is dry. Then rinse and repeat until you see no crap coming out of the drain. At that point, if it is still blocked, could try more drain cleaner.

So you have to buy the ShopVac - but it's cheaper than the plumber.
posted by carter at 2:08 AM on March 20, 2013

(Oops, I meant the Shop Vac from Lowes - I have fixed the link above.)
posted by carter at 2:11 AM on March 20, 2013

I assume you mean that your washer drain is somehow connected to the drain beneath your sink (as this is normal). There could be a complicated problem with your drain, but yes, try to get the liquid out of it first and then see if you can unscrew the P-trap directly beneath the sink drain (because it looks like a P tipped over, round side down). This would be a likely location for a clog. If you can capture any loose water with a pan or something, that would be good, of course. If that's clear your clog may be farther down the drain, perhaps at the corner where there is likely a sort of curved intersection with your air vent. This could then account for both the washer and sink not draining properly. Finally, the question arises where the water from the washer is coming from when it splashes everywhere. Do you have a loop drain from the washer, or an air vent on top of your sink (looks like a faucet base with no handle)? This might be clogged, or (sounds like it) come loose.

There are plenty of under-sink drain diagrams out there, so look for one that matches what you have and try to describe where the problem seems to be.
posted by dhartung at 2:24 AM on March 20, 2013

I suggest you use a plumber's snake
to seek out and remove the clog.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 2:24 AM on March 20, 2013

I'd bail as much water out of the sink as possible (dump it in the toilet), then disassemble the trap under the sink , let the water drain into a bucket, and mop up the mess. If the blockage is in the trap, it will be obvious and easily removable. Reassemble the trap. If the blockage is further downstream, you'll need to try the bleach and/or drano again, which will be more effective for not being diluted in a sinkful of water, or resort to snaking it out.

Also, if this sink is handling both washer drainage and kitchen stuff then the clog could be a mixture of lint and grease, which would be softened by a healthy dose of boiling water.
posted by jon1270 at 2:26 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Bleach/drano isn't effective against lint. When it happened to us it required the snake. Look into some kind up coarse upstream filter to catch the lint before it goes down the drain. Something like a metal sock.
posted by Dmenet at 11:00 AM on March 20, 2013

Washer drain hoses just dump into a open pipe (they are shaped like an inverted J). Your problem is that it is using the sink for venting the air (that is displaced by the water). You may not have a vent at all, or it may be clogged.
posted by 445supermag at 12:29 PM on March 20, 2013

You can try sticking a garden hose down your washer drain and turning it on full blast. This technique requires someone to watch the drain and yell if the drain overflows. Be careful not to shove too much in the way of mechanical equipment down your drains lest you need to hire a plumber to remove more than the initial blockage.
posted by endotoxin at 1:58 PM on March 20, 2013

Definitely sounds like the owners cheeped out and got a contractor who "got it done" but who doesn't actually know anything about the physics of plumbing, as per 445supermag's diagnosis.

Par for course for a certain subset of basement-suite rentiers around here (I am of the same ethnic phenotype as the subset I'm accusing, and the accusation is based on my experiences). This is almost definitely not your fault and something that your landlord should take care of. If my suspicion is correct, they'll contact the contractor that they used, who'll probably have received a bunch of the same complaints, and have trial-and-errored a way to "fix" their naive plumbing mistake(s).

If you own... you'll need to snake the thing, and remember to leave the sink free while you do laundry. Eventually, you'll likely need to snake it out again. Asking a plumber to fix the problem (by installing a vent to prevent vacuum pressure and/or a sump(?) with a mesh filter that will catch the lint, which you'll have to remove every so often) will cost, and cost lots depending on how poorly the system is set up, but depending on how long you're going to stay, may cost less than having your system snaked a few times.

Entrepreneurship and hard work and bootstrapping is great, but sometimes, a bit of formal education and reasonable standards-compliance-inspection really is the better way to go.
posted by porpoise at 8:08 PM on March 20, 2013

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