Help unclog our sink
March 18, 2007 7:31 AM   Subscribe

I need some plumbing help. The drain from our kitchen sink is clogged, and we're trying to fix it DIY-style.

BACKGROUND: A bunch of crap made it past our garbage disposal on Friday night and blocked up the pipe. I managed to track down the clog, and it's past all of the accessible pipes under the sink and in the pipe that heads straight down into the floor and then bends into the wall. I've tried Draino (helped a *LITTLE*) and another Enzyme-based pipe cleanser (helped more, but still no real dice). I've also tried plunging, which doesn't work because one of the pipes under the sink is a length of PVC tube. The end of that tube is cut very roughly and fits into a rubber elbow tube clamped with a hose clamp but without any caulk or sealant. The rough end has a deep score from the edge along the long dimension of the pipe that runs about 2 inches, which provides a nice exit point for air and water and to relieve pressure that could be breaking up the clog.

SO: Will getting a new, well-cut length of PVC to replace the old one, in hopes that that will enable plunging and enzymatic cleansing? Or should we just call the landlord and get a plumber?
posted by The Michael The to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Or should I buy a drain snake and attack it head on?
posted by The Michael The at 7:35 AM on March 18, 2007


One of the reasons I now rent my home is to make such maintenance turn into Someone Else's Problem with the wave of a telephone. You've taken reasonable steps to fix the problem, failed, and now it's time to give the problem to the person you pay to be responsible for it: the landlord.
posted by majick at 7:49 AM on March 18, 2007


Yes, if you are renting, have the landlord call a plumber. However, please do warn the plumber (leave a note if you will be out) that you have put draino into the pipes, because you don't want the plumber to get an unexpected surprise in his or her face while working under the sink.
posted by Forktine at 7:55 AM on March 18, 2007


Your description of the PVC pipe with an air gap in it is a little strange. There should not be any open areas. It's fairly simple to fix PVC pipes yourself, and the ones under a sink can typically be separated by unscrewing a collar.

This might enable you to get more direct access to the rear section of pipe where you think the clog is. Additionally, you get more direct access to jab something like a coat-hanger in there to stir up the clog.

If you need to replace a section of PVC, you can probably pick up the right pieces and tools for under $20 at a hardware store. The coolest tool is a piece of rough wire with one handle on each end. With it, you can saw right through a section of PVC that's located in a tight spot where you'd otherwise use a cumbersome hacksaw. Very cool. Then, just slip some collars on to the ends and install a new center span. Use the PVC melting glue sparingly and follow the directions exactly.
posted by odinsdream at 8:02 AM on March 18, 2007


Someone recommends this drain-blaster thing on Kevin Kelly, and mentions some others that work on the same principle. One of those is at Home Depot, for $30. That's lots cheaper than a plumber's house call.

The landlord might appreciate your letting him take care of it, though. I would avoid using a snake if you can - they're messy, and can damage plumbing if you apply too much force.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:04 AM on March 18, 2007


After asking a question like this about 4 weeks ago, I bought a snake from the hardware store (which didn't work for me, but might for you) for under 20.00. I'm assuming that the gap in your line is similar to mine, in that it allows for overflow water to escape someplace rather than bursting your pipes.

To facilitate my plumbing, I pulling out the tube connected to the escape hole and crimped it. It was all that was really required to create the kind of pressure I needed to pop the clog.

A minor clog hit me the other night as well, and this time I just put my hand over the end that sticks up over my sink. A little water escaped when I plunged, but I beat the clog before any major water got out.
posted by thanotopsis at 8:24 AM on March 18, 2007


Can you use duct tape to seal off that pvc pipe do the plunger will work? I find that persistence with a plunger can be useful. I've also used the low-toxicity version of a box of baking soda, followed by a bottle of vinegar. The foaming action can blast clogs, just like your grade-school volcano.
posted by theora55 at 8:26 AM on March 18, 2007


This might enable you to get more direct access to the rear section of pipe where you think the clog is. Additionally, you get more direct access to jab something like a coat-hanger in there to stir up the clog.

Yeah, I've taken it off at that joint, and that's how I tracked down the clog.

. . . I'm assuming that the gap in your line is similar to mine, in that it allows for overflow water to escape someplace rather than bursting your pipes.

To facilitate my plumbing, I pulling out the tube connected to the escape hole and crimped it. It was all that was really required to create the kind of pressure I needed to pop the clog.


The thing is, it's not actually an escape hole, it's just a gash masquerading as an escape hole, put there by the budget maintenance co. our landlord uses.

I tried plugging that with duct tape, as per theora55's suggestion, but all that did for plunging was make an actual leak elsewhere in the under-sink portion spurt water that much harder. I think we're going to try a couple more treatments of the enzyme cleanser (it suggests three treatments on consecutive days; it already is draining much better but not well), and then if that doesn't work, call the landlord.

The landlord might appreciate your letting him take care of it, though. He's not the kind of guy that really wants to deal with tenant problems, unfortunately.

Thanks for all the suggestions, everybody.
posted by The Michael The at 9:07 AM on March 18, 2007


Boiling water can sometimes help. Lots of it. I've used 2 5 gallon stock pots full.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 2:15 PM on March 18, 2007


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