Unclogging Bathtub And Shower Drains

TOOLS: Screwdriver, flange plunger, hand auger

The drains in sinks and shower stalls work hard, and not just to drain away soap, grease and oil, hair, and the occasional hairpin or ring. We use these fixtures to wash the dog and the leaves of our plants. A shower is the perfect place to scrub mini blinds. When the weather is too cold to hose things down outside, we use the shower stall to clean dirty boots. It’s no wonder the drain clogs. Plunge the drain vigorously with a flange plunger to unclog it. For stubborn clogs, try a hand-driven auger. Try both options before calling a plumber or a drain cleaning specialist to do the job.

PLASTIC TO THE RESCUE - If you don’t have a plunger, try out a plastic drain tool, which has barbs at one end. Slip it in the pipe; the barbs grab the clog and pull it out.


1 REMOVE THE POP-UP DRAIN ASSEMBLY. Flip the drain lever up and pull out the drain plunger. Remove the screws from the overflow cover plate with a screwdriver, then lift out the linkage. If you're going to set tools and parts in the tub, protect it from scratches by using an old towel.

2 AUGER THE DRAIN. Insert the end of the hand auger into the overflow drain. Turn the handle clockwise, feeding out the cable until you meet resistance. Slowly withdraw the auger to dislodge or remove the blockage. Repeat until the tub drains normally. Insert the linkage back into the overflow drain and install the cover. Flip the lever up and insert the stopper.

Don’t use a power-driven auger in a bathtub drain; the assembly is too fragile and can be easily damaged.


1 USE A PLUNGER. Remove the screws from and lift off the shower strainer. Fill the shower pan to a depth of 1 inch. Plunge forcefully about a dozen times. Remove the plunger and see if the water drains freely. If not, repeat.

2 AUGER THE DRAIN. Tougher clogs require a tougher approach. Feed a hand auger into the drain until it meets resistance. Turn the auger handle clockwise and slowly withdraw the auger. Repeat until the shower drains normally. If the blockage refuses to clear, call a plumber or a drain service.


Unclogging A Toilet

TOOLS: Flange plunger, closet auger, bucket, rags

Toilets have built-in traps. Objects stuck in the trap cause slow draining or clogged toilets and usually can be dislodged by plunging.

DON’T USE A COAT HANGER TO UNCLOG A TOILET—you will scratch the bowl. If the bowl is scratched, try removing the black marks with a heavy-duty powder-type cleanser containing bleach.

NEVER USE CHEMICAL DRAIN CLEANERS IN A TOILET. If there is no water in the bowl, pour some water into it. Water helps seal the plunger flange, creating a vacuum and allowing you to apply pressure to dislodge the blockage. © Plunge forcefully about a dozen times. Remove the plunger to allow the toilet to drain. If it doesn’t drain, or drains slowly, repeat plunging.

IT’S AUGER TIME. You may need an auger to remove stubborn objects, such as small toys. Never use a hand auger on a toilet. The force of the auger when turning the crank may shatter the porcelain bowl. A closet auger is designed specifically to be used on toilets. It has a long handle with a crank, and the bend in the handle is covered with a protective sleeve to prevent scratching the porcelain. © Turn the crank clockwise and push. The auger can shove the blockage forward into the drain system. If the auger catches on the object, continue turning the crank as you pull out the cable until you can retrieve the object.

REMOVE THE TOILET. When plunging or augering doesn’t work, your only option will be to remove the toilet and try to fish out the object from the other end.

KEEP IT PRETTY - Some augers, like the one shown here, have a protective rubber sleeve. Those that don't will leave noticeable scratches. Protect the surface by lining it with a towel.

HOW TO TAME A CLOG - This recipe for a clog buster really works. Add 3 tablespoons of dishwashing soap to the bowl. The soap will lubricate the interior of the drain and help to loosen the clog when you plunge. Wait a few minutes for the soap to do its work, then plunge vigorously.

AUGER MAINTENANCE - When you're done with the auger, rinse it in warm water. Then spray on an aerosol lubricant to keep rust from forming on the tool.

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