My brooklyn tub won't drain and now brown water is coming up!
April 20, 2013 10:05 AM   Subscribe

I live on the top floor of an old apartment building and my shower stopped draining the other day. After trying drano, I upgraded to Pequa last night and its not working. Or it seems like its working, and then it stops. Before, some brownish water came up before it went down. But now that I've poured the last of the Pequa down the drain some really dark rusty water has come up. Is this a good sign? And if I let it sit for an hour or two and flush with warm water I'll be saved? Or do I have to deal with my inept landlord? (Which I'm trying to avoid)
posted by Unred to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You've tried chemical cleaners... have you tried seeing if there is a physical clog in the drain? A Zip-It Drain Cleaning Tool (around $2-4 at any hardware store) is a pretty easy way to fish out a big hunk of hair and the like.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:08 AM on April 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I've put a coat hanger a long way down and wiggled it around and came up with nothing.
posted by Unred at 10:15 AM on April 20, 2013

I would try a plunger, get some pressure behind the blockage.
posted by Static Vagabond at 10:17 AM on April 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

A gallon of white vinegar followed by as much boiling water as you can make. . .my kitchen drain did this and after calling a plumber and trying every legal chemical cleaner, this did the trick (thanks to an earlier AskMe).
posted by Danf at 10:19 AM on April 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

If the plunger and the vinegar/boiling water don't work, the next step is maybe a drain auger. There may be a lot of really old buildup down there that needs to be physically cleaned out. That said, if you get to this point, this is exactly the kind of thing that ought to be your landlord's problem and not yours.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:21 AM on April 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

After leaving this alone, how much water makes stuff come back up? You can sort of figure out where in the pipe this clog is, by how much water it will hold until it backs up. . .
posted by Danf at 10:29 AM on April 20, 2013

Be very careful plunging after using Drano and Pequa. That is nasty stuff that can cause burns.
posted by Knappster at 10:35 AM on April 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yes, seconding Knappster, and be careful using vinegar after drano, too. The chemicals can interact and the mixture can erupt/spatter randomly out the drain, causing chemical burns if it touches you. I've had bad drains and shitty landlords, but I'd call the landlord now, really. You've tried two methods and it's getting worse- could be a big block further down the line that needs a real plumber.
posted by holyrood at 10:58 AM on April 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Talk to your downstairs neighbors. If they are having the same problem then you probably can't do anything from your end. Document what is happening with video or photos for your landlord. If it is happening with more than just you, there is a better chance the landlord will take care of it.

See if a plumber can come out and give you a free assessment. Let them know your current issue with getting the landlord to do anything if need be. Then you could see what is going on, and take the quote or info to your landlord, so there is also proof that something needs to be fixed. They could also tell you if a simple fix might work, thus cutting out your landlord.

Be careful with chemicals.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:02 PM on April 20, 2013

Response by poster: Well I've now augered it, pulled out a small amount of hair and its not fixed. Did it again and nothing came out so I'm going to get a drink and then tell my landlord. Thanks for all the help!
posted by Unred at 12:37 PM on April 20, 2013

keep augering...the fact that there was hair at all=clog. if it's not long enough, attach it (really well so it doesn't get lost) to that coat will eventually pull up something emotionally scarring and the size of a puppy. resist the urge to take pictures. when they come up on yr phone or computer it's like reliving an abusive event at the hands of your long-haired and balding previous tenant.
posted by sexyrobot at 1:28 PM on April 20, 2013 [8 favorites]

(oh...did you unscrew the drain cover? that will let you get in there easier...)
posted by sexyrobot at 1:30 PM on April 20, 2013

I've had this happen in a couple of different NYC apartments, so it's somewhat common. Every time it was because a significant clog of soap + hair had developed. If chemicals and that auger haven't worked, you or your landlord/super will need to go after it with a plumbing snake. (Don't pour more Drano after it. Drano eats at the metal lining of the pipes.)

Snakes are longer and can be twisted through the bends in the pipes. These days you can get them at any hardware store for $10-$30. The cheap kinds are manual and a HUGE pain in the ass, so splurge if you can. If you're on speaking terms with your neighbors or landlord, ask them if they have one already.

If you go this route, take out the stopper at the bottom of the tub and unscrew the overflow cover for access. Feed the snake in through either of these openings (whichever seems best given your tub's shape) and just keep cranking it. You'll hear a lot of scratching, that's normal. You won't always feel the snake hit the clog, so reel the snake back in when it seems necessary. Run the water to test for the clog's presence.

If you actually hit the clog, there's a good chance you'll drag it back up with the snake. Plug your nose because it is going to be big and it is going to STINK. The smell is seriously vomit-inducing. Cover your hands in plastic bags/disposable gloves/ziploc bags/etc. and think happy thoughts because you'll have to pry the clog off the snake and toss it away. (Seal it in a plastic bag first.) After that wash your hands, wash the snake tool, re-attach the stopper/overflow, and run hot water for a few minutes. Then REVEL IN VICTORY.

Or you can wait for the landlord to handle it/call a plumber. But if you want it fixed now, don't trust the landlord to address it, or don't want to take a sick day from work just to wait for a plumber, this is how you can do it.
posted by greenland at 8:22 PM on April 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

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