What To Do Next When Drain Cleaner Doesn't Fix A Slow Drain

For most people, the first response to a slow drain is to buy some chemical drain cleaner and run it through the pipes. If this takes care of the problem, that's great… but what do you do when it doesn't? A slow drain is usually the first sign of a clog; because the clog is still only partially obstructing the drain, water is still flowing through it. But with time, this partial clog will pick up more and more debris until your drain is completely blocked.

Plunge the Drain

Plungers aren't just for clogged toilets – they can also be used to pull clogs out of bathtub or even sink drains. This includes the partial clogs that can cause slow drainage; however, the slower the drain, the more likely a plunger might be helpful.

It's important that you create a complete seal over the drain when plunging, which might require removing a pop-up drain stopper. This will help the plunger create a vacuum seal, pulling on any loose clogs in the drain and hopefully dislodging them. If you're working on a kitchen sink, be sure to close off any openings in other basins; for bathroom sinks and tubs, close off the overflow drain.

If plunging a drain gets it working properly again, it's a good idea to run hot water down the drain for a little while to help move the dislodged clog along. If the clog was large (the drain was very slow or stopped entirely), you should run vinegar through the drain, followed by carefully and slowing pouring in boiling water.

Snakes, Augers and Manual Unclogging

If your plunger won't pull out your clog, the next thing is to try to fish it out manually. If you can see material buildup when you look down a drain, you may even be able to fish it out with tweezers or another short utensil. Don't reach your fingers down into a kitchen drain with a garbage disposal; no matter how careful you think you're being, this is very dangerous.

Using a snake or drain auger – the terms are synonymous – is the way to reach deeper blockages. Snakes are used to push clogs through plumbing systems and break them up. First, you insert the cable end of a snake into the drain, turning the handle clockwise as you go. At some point, you should feel the snake reach the blockage.

Alternate clockwise and counterclockwise turning to move the snake forward and backward, grinding away at the clog. Hopefully, it will break up, and you can wash away the rest of it with hot water or vinegar.

If The Clog Remains

If, after trying all this, you still have a slow drain, it's a good idea to call in a plumber. If you couldn't reach the clog with a snake, it may mean that you have a blockage deeper within your pipes or even in your sewer line. Wherever the problem is, a plumber will be able to locate and remove it, restoring your drains to their proper drainage speed.