Before I call the plumber . . .
June 27, 2016 3:53 AM   Subscribe

Sink has been draining slowly for about a week, and last night it stopped altogether. I'm willing to call the plumber if it comes to that, but what else can I try that I haven't?

Upstairs bathroom sink stopped draining water. I have a 15-ft snake that I put about 12 feet of it down the drain, and nothing. I plunged and a lot of black water came up with floaty bits, relatively odorless considering its color. I did Liquid Plumber twice, and there seems to be a very slow drain now, as in a puddle of water in the sink drained overnight. I'm pretty sure that the toilet, sink and shower all connect to a common outlet pipe at some point before the septic tank. Shower and toilet drain normally. Before I call a plumber and spend minimum hundreds of dollars, is there anything else I can try? It seems odd that the snake found nothing, and went down the line pretty easily. if the snake can fit through, why isn't the water draining more than a drip at a time? (sorry for the non-plumber lingo)
posted by archimago to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A plunger that fits over the sink drain (while covering the overflow to make it airtight) is probably the last thing I'd try but I'm not confident it'll help you avoid a plumber.

It could be that the stoppage is further down than your snake can reach.
posted by Karaage at 4:03 AM on June 27, 2016

Do you have a way to snake the main clean out for the building? Or you might try running a longer snake down the air vent for the sink, if you can get to it. The vent would be on the roof. I say that because that is a straight run down the pipe, as opposed to trying to get past all the turns in a trap.
posted by jtexman1 at 4:43 AM on June 27, 2016

Try pouring some boiling water down there.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:47 AM on June 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

You could unscrew the trap under the sink (don’t forget to catch the water in the trap!) and snake from there.
posted by pharm at 4:47 AM on June 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

Yeah, have you tried emptying the trap?

If that doesn't fix it (but usually it does, and will also be the first thing your plumber tries), then try plunger again. Sometimes you have to go at it for several minutes, very repetitively, until whatever the blockage is finally gets loosened and comes up.
posted by fraula at 4:52 AM on June 27, 2016

I'd unscrew the trap and focus on that bend and up. The parts that operate the stopper can get really gunky. The snake would probably just go through the space the stopper occupied.
posted by advicepig at 4:53 AM on June 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Since you have a septic tank you might try this: drain the sink as much as possible. When drained use liquid detergent for an automatic dishwasher--a generous amount. Let sit for 3-5 minutes Then flush with boiling water--not hot water but boiling. Repeat several times. if that does not work then onto mechanical/professional solutions
posted by rmhsinc at 4:56 AM on June 27, 2016

On the off chance that all of your snaking has been done from below the trap and the trap itself is clear — have you disassembled the sink stopper assembly? I've usually found that's where the problem is in bathroom sinks — they develop an impenetrable wad of hair, soap and toothpaste.
posted by beagle at 5:04 AM on June 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

When you read 'Hot Boiling Water' you should really be thinking, 'The biggest spaghetti pot I have and the second biggest, filled with water that is boiling as hard as possible.'
The more, the hotter, the better. And seriously, sometimes it takes two, three pots.

As pipes in bathrooms (and the rest of the house) go, they *generally* all branch off a bigger pipe - especially for a second story bath, the pipes (generally/normally) all go to one bigger pipe, then go down. So you have to get the goopy blockage of soap and fat to the part where the pipe gets bigger. The crazy boiling hot water melts stuff at least enough so it gets to this point, then *floop!* it's gone. The snake pulls the hair plug back out or, sometimes, pushes it along to that point. But the boiling hot water (lots of it) will do the same thing, is cleaner and easier.
posted by From Bklyn at 5:11 AM on June 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

Is it possible your snake went up the vent? I can't imagine 12 ft from the sink and you are not seeing other drainage issues in the bathroom. I believe everything is vented and there will be a branch at some point that leads up instead of down - if the snake went here, it might miss the blockage.

Liquid plumber (septic safe if you can find it) a few more times, remove the trap and snake from there.

Once your done add some yeast and suger to your septic - that should alleviate any damage from the caustics...
posted by NoDef at 5:37 AM on June 27, 2016

Just unscrew the trap under the sink and clean it out. Unless your house has never, ever been updated, it's just plastic pieces that do not need tools to undo or redo. Wear rubber gloves, though, as the stuff collecting in there can make you very, very sick. The pieces have a gasket that will guide them back together straight. You can't possibly mess it up unless you use tools and crack the PVC, so don't use tools at any time in the process..
posted by TinWhistle at 6:13 AM on June 27, 2016

Do not dump caustics down a sink that isn't draining at all. You could end up filling your home with dangerous fumes.

If you have just had a damp spring and you have a nice yard with a few trees on it, it could be roots in your pipes. This is common for houses 20 years or older. Rotor Rooter will clear out the clog and then you can treat the problem with caustics at the beginning of every spring. Rotor Rooter may end up being cheaper than a plumber.
posted by myselfasme at 6:20 AM on June 27, 2016

Thanks everyone. I don't think it's roots because everything else in the house is draining fine.

I'm going to try the boiling water first and then go from there.
posted by archimago at 6:43 AM on June 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Pour some through the overflow drain. The last time this happened to me, I disassembled the trap and the stopper mechanism, and it was completely gooped up, with a lot of that goop blocking the overflow as well.
posted by OmieWise at 9:34 AM on June 27, 2016

I have had some luck doing a baking soda and vinegar volcano to float hair and gunk up high enough to skim it out of the drain. Same situation where the snake went through ok. I think with the more fibrous issues they can get pushed side by the snake and then remat afterwards? At least that was my only explanation. If the hot water doesn't work, it's something to try at least.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:54 AM on June 27, 2016

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