Unclogging Showers

If a shower stall drains sluggishly, try filling the base with an inch of water and plunging. If the clogged shower drain does not respond to plunging, remove the strainer and attempt to clear the blockage with the two methods shown here. Begin by prying up the strainer with a screwdriver. (Some strainers may have a center screw. Remove it, then pry up.)

1. Run an auger. Push an auger down the drain and through the trap. Push and pull to remove a soap clog. If the auger hits a blockage, pull out the auger. The blockage may come with it. If it doesn’t, push the auger to try to force the clog into a larger pipe.

2. Push in a hose. If all else fails, try forcing out the blockage with a hose. Stick it in as far as it will easily go and pack rags tightly around the hose at the drain opening. Hold everything in place and have a helper turn the water fully on and off a few times.

Unclogging Tubs

1. Plunge. Try plunging first. If your tub has a pop-up stopper, remove it before plunging. Wiggle it to free the linkage assembly—the mechanism that connects the trap lever with the stopper mechanism. Before plunging, plug the overflow and run an inch or so of water in the tub to help the plunger seal.

2. Auger through the strainer. If plunging doesn’t work, thread in an auger. The tub will have a stopper or a trip-lever assembly like the one above. Pry up or unscrew the strainer to insert the auger. This method will reach only to the tee fitting. If the clog is farther down, you’ll have to go through the overflow tube.

3. Auger through the overflow. Remove the pop-up or trip-lever assembly by unscrewing the overflow plate and pulling out the parts. Feed the auger down through the overflow tube and into the trap and beyond. If the auger goes in a long way and the stoppage remains, find a cleanout point on the main drain and auger there.

Cleaning Drum Traps

1. Open the drum trap. Many older bathrooms have a removable metal cap on the floor, usually near the tub. This covers a drum trap. Before opening it, bail out the tub and remove standing water with rags or a large sponge.

2. Auger through the drum trap. Removing the cap may be difficult If a wrench does not do the trick, use a hammer and cold chisel or screwdriver. Damage the trap cap if necessary (it can be replaced easily), but don’t hurt the threads on the trap. Open the trap slowly, watching for water to well up around the threads. If the trap is full, work the auger away from the tub toward the main drain. If the trap is only partially full (as shown), the obstruction is between the tub and the trap, so auger back and forth. Drum traps are no longer to code and should be replaced with a P-trap.

Unclogging Toilets

When a toilet clogs, do not continue to flush it. Additional flushing will not push objects through and may flood the bathroom floor. Instead bail out the toilet until the bowl is about half full. More water than this can lead to a sloshy mess while plunging, but too little water will prevent the plunger from making a tight seal around the bowl’s outlet. Add water to the toilet if necessary. Most toilet clogs occur because the toilet trap is blocked. If plunging and using a toilet auger do not clear things up, the waste-vent stack may be blocked.

Caution! Never attempt to unclog a toilet with a chemical drain cleaner. Chances are, it won't do the job, and you'll be forced to plunge or auger through a strong solution that could burn your skin or eyes.

How to stop a toilet overflow. If the toilet begins to overflow, act fast. Remove everything atop the tank, and take off the lid. Pull the float up, and push down on the flapper at the tank bottom. The flush will stop.

1. Plunge. An ordinary plunger can clear a toilet, but the molded-cup type shown here generates stronger suction. Work up and down vigorously for about a dozen strokes, then quickly yank away the plunger. If the water disappears with a glug, it’s likely the plunging has succeeded. But don’t flush yet. First pour in more water, until the bowl empties several times. If plunging doesn’t work, the toilet will have to be augered.

2. Use a closet auger. A closet auger makes short work of most toilet stoppages. This specialized tool has a long handle with a plastic cover at the bend to protect your toilet from scratches. To operate the auger, pull the spring all the way up into the handle so the spring barely protrudes from the plastic protective cover. Insert the bit into the bowl outlet and crank. If you meet resistance, pull back slightly, wiggle the handle, and try again. A closet auger can grab and pull many blockages, but not solid objects such as toys. If you hear something other than the auger rattling around, remove the toilet to get at the item.

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