Whether you are a tenant, a landlord, or a homeowner, if your kitchen sink is clogged, you have big trouble on your hands. How will you successfully make dinner tonight without your sink? Luckily, you may not have to send for take-out, or drop $250 on an emergency plumber.
Many people don’t know this, but one of the most common reasons for a kitchen sink to clog is the accumulation of grease. While grease is very resistant to typical chemical flushes and snaking clear, it can be fixed without a plumber. Read on and learn how you can diagnose and get rid of a clogged drain in your kitchen or anywhere else the easy way.
1. Don’t be afraid of snakes!
A snake can be your best friend! A plumber’s snake is a very simple device, which includes a coil of metal wire with a mechanism for feeding it down a drain to knock debris out of the way. Every home should have a light-duty 25′ snake around. They last forever, and only cost about a tenth of a single plumber’s visit. Talk about a hot deal!
Pouring toxic chemicals down your drains is often completely unnecessary. The chemicals are extremely hard on your plumbing, not to mention the ecosystem. These chemicals will also cost you more money over time. Snakes are easy to store and use, and will unclog most simple drain issues.
2. Identify the problem.
The problem with kitchen sinks, is you don’t know whether they are clogged by grease or not. Your snake will give you a good idea. Simply run the snake according to the instructions. If you meet no resistance from an obvious clog, and the snaking procedure doesn’t free the drain, then you quite likely have a grease clog.
The snake head is only about 3/8″ wide, and when it hits a grease clog, it meets no resistance. Although it does punch a hole in the clog, the hole closes after you pull the snake out, so it doesn’t free the drain. Grease clogs are tricky that way.
3. Hot water to the rescue.
Now that you have used the snake to eliminate the possibility of your problem being a jam-up of regular goo, you can try dealing with your first grease clog. Grease is fairly easy to remove. If you heat it up, it will melt, and flow on down the line until it hits the wider City sewer line. The way to melt a grease trap is with hot water, but there are a few tricks to learn.
First, bail out as much cold water as you can from the sink if there is any standing water, then release the plug at the bottom of the trap into a bucket to get as much cold water out of your way as possible. Boil a kettle of water, and pour the boiling water down the drain. Be careful not to burn yourself! You may find this unplugs the drain, or the water might just back up into the sink.
The water between the sink and the grease plug may be cold, and the clog may be some distance away. If you pull the plug and nothing happens for a minute, take a plunger and give it a little helping hand. Be careful, again; this water is hot! If the clog point is far away, and the water in the line doesn’t get warm enough, you might need to snake it again just to get it started. Boiling water and plunging should get your sink running again.
4. Use higher quantities of hot water.
If you just pour some hot water down the drain, it will just burn a small hole in the clog, which will close up again all too soon. To get rid of this clog for good, you’ll need to fill your sink with very hot water with the stopper in. If you have a double sinks, fill them both. Then take a pair of tongs or a long spoon so you don’t burn yourself, and pull the stopper out.
By sending a whole sink-load of hot water at a time, you will create a powerful surge of hot water that will coat both sides of the down pipe, and wash all your troubles away for good. Depending how bad your clog was, and how far away, the best thing to do is send 2-3 full sink-loads. You will likely notice the first one drain fairly slowly, as the water melts the grease plug. The second load should rumble down pretty fast. Chase it with another just to make sure.
5. Coordinating your sinks.
One thing you need to be aware of, is which other sinks in your house may be connected. For instance, if you are on the first floor, is there a sink in the basement? Always start with the lowest clogged sink in the house so you start as close to the grease clog as possible. Once you get the main clog out of the way, it is a great idea to go upstairs and run the full sink hot water treatment in each other kitchen sink you may have.
Another thing to consider is that if you are plunging the upstairs sinks, you will need to put stoppers in all the basement sinks to keep them from backing up if the clog is further on down the line. The last thing you need is a mess of hot greasy water all over your basement floor, or worse yet, scalding your tenants. Treat the whole house together as one system, and start as low as you can.
6. Plumber works too.
To get a grease clog out of your plumbing system takes between half an hour and one hour, depending on how many sinks you have, and how many floors you are dealing with. It takes a bit of fiddling, as you get to know how all your sinks connect, and eliminate the possible grease plug locations, finally get the block clear, and then add a few sink-loads for good measure.
If that sounds like too much work, you can always call the plumber, but the set fee for unclogging a sink is pretty steep, and they won’t do anything that you couldn’t do. There is no secret plumbers’ tool for grease. They’ll just use hot water, and take your money.
7. Simple maintenance tricks: prevention.
That was quite a job! Bailing and plunging out sinks of scalding hot water isn’t exactly fun, so here’s how to make sure you don’t have to do this again. Maintenance is accomplished by starting at the top of your system and flushing two sink loads of hot water every month, or every 6 months, depending how much grease you make.
Professional kitchens use special grease traps and have them emptied on a regular basis. You may never have any trouble, or you may have a lot. Bacon is a big culprit. It tastes so good; but it makes so much grease. Keep a small tub for grease by the sink, and try to keep it out of your drains. You can also buy special natural enzymes that eat grease, and pour them into your system from time to time. They are natural, but they are expensive.
Using hot water to clear grease-clogged kitchen drains is the inexpensive, eco-friendly way to go. You’ll save hundreds of dollars on plumbers and hours of trips to the hardware store and fooling around. You’ll save your local ecology a dose of very toxic chemicals. They only drawback is you won’t have a good excuse to take everyone out for dinner. Maybe it’s time to take all the money you saved on plumbers and toxic chemicals and go celebrate anyways!