Dealing with Clogged Drains: DIY Solutions

There is nothing more frustrating than a clogged drain. Not only does it render your sink or shower unusable, but it can also cause unpleasant odors and even flooding.

The good news is that you don’t have to call a plumber every time this happens. With a few basic tools and some elbow grease, you can handle most clogs yourself.

In this blog post, we will discuss some DIY solutions for dealing with clogged drains.

Tools and Skills Needed for Dealing with Clogged Drains

When dealing with clogged drains, having the right tools on hand can make the process much easier. Here are some basic tools you may need:

  1. Plunger: This is the first tool you should reach for when dealing with a clog. A good-quality plunger can dislodge most clogs when used properly.
  2. Plumber’s snake or hand auger: If the plunger doesn’t work, a plumber’s snake or hand auger can reach deeper into the drain to break up the clog.
  3. Bucket: This comes in handy to catch any water or debris that comes out of the drain.

As for skill level, basic plumbing tasks such as unclogging drains can be handled by most homeowners with a little patience and a willingness to get their hands dirty. However, if the clog is severe or if you’re uncomfortable doing the work yourself, it’s best to call a professional plumber. Remember, it’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to home repairs.

Related: Preventative Maintenance Tips for Shower Drains

Method #1: Using a Plunger

Often underestimated, the plunger stands as one of the most basic yet efficient tools for unclogging drains. Its operation is simple, and no homeowner should overlook its potential. Here’s a more comprehensive guide on how to utilize a plunger to its optimal effect:

  1. Preparation: Before proceeding, ensure the sink or tub is filled with enough water to fully submerge the base of the plunger. The water aids in the creation of suction, an essential element in the plunging process.
  2. Placement: Position the plunger over the drain. Make sure it fully covers the drain opening to create an effective seal. This seal is crucial in maintaining the vacuum effect that will dislodge the clog.
  3. Plunging Motion: Start the process by applying forceful downward pressure, followed by an equally vigorous upward pull. This ‘push-pull’ motion should be repeated several times to maximize the chances of dislodging the clog.
  4. Persistence: If the water doesn’t begin to drain after the first few attempts, don’t give up. Plunging often requires repeated effort, so keep at it until you see results.
  5. Care and Clean-up: Once the clog is cleared, rinse the drain with hot water to break down any residual blockage. Finally, clean your plunger before storing it away to maintain hygiene.

Here are a few tips for the novice homeowner:

  • Quality Matters: Invest in a high-quality plunger. The better the quality, the more effective the seal.
  • Safety First: Always wear rubber gloves for hygiene and an apron to protect your clothes from splashes.
  • Patience is Key: Plunging is often a matter of persistence. It may take multiple attempts to dislodge stubborn clogs.
  • Know When to Call a Professional: If repeated plunging doesn’t work, it may be time to call in a professional plumber. There’s no shame in seeking expert help when your DIY efforts are not enough.
Method 1 Using a Plunger

Method #2: Utilizing Baking Soda and Vinegar

The humble pantry staples, baking soda and vinegar, when combined, can serve as a potent solution for clogged drains. Here’s a step-by-step guide to using this effervescent duo effectively:

  1. Measure: Start off by measuring a cup of baking soda. This common kitchen ingredient, known for its abrasive properties, serves as the first line of attack against the clog.
  2. Pour: Carefully pour the baking soda down the drain, ensuring it goes down as far as possible.
  3. Follow-Up: Next, measure and pour a cup of vinegar into the drain. Being an acid, the vinegar reacts with the baking soda, creating a bubbling effect that helps dislodge the blockage.
  4. Wait: Allow this fizzy mixture to work its magic for about 30 minutes. This waiting period is crucial for the reaction to break down the clog effectively.
  5. Flush: Finally, pour boiling water down the drain to flush away the disintegrated materials and clear the drain completely.

Here are some handy tips for those new to this method:

  • Always use equal quantities of baking soda and vinegar for an effective reaction.
  • Wear protective gloves and eye protection to prevent any splashes from irritating your skin or eyes.
  • Never rush the waiting period. Giving the mixture enough time to work is key to successfully clearing the drain.
  • Always use boiling water for the final flush. The heat helps in further breaking down any residual material.
  • If this method fails after a couple of attempts, consider seeking professional help. Stubborn clogs might require more advanced tools or techniques.

Related: Easy Newbie Home Maintenance (Will Save Money)

Method #3: Employing a Drain Snake

When it comes to tackling more stubborn clogs, a drain snake proves to be a worthy tool. Also known as a plumber’s snake or hand auger, this tool comprises a flexible, coiled wire that can reach deep into the plumbing to break up blockages. Here’s how to effectively use a drain snake:

  1. Insertion: Begin by gently pushing the wire end of the drain snake into the clogged pipe. The flexible design allows it to navigate through curves and turns in the plumbing system.
  2. Twisting Action: As you push the snake further down the drain, start turning it in a clockwise direction. This twirling motion helps the snake to latch onto the clog or break it up.
  3. Extraction: Once you feel resistance, it means you’ve reached the clog. Continue to twist the snake, and then slowly pull it out. The clog should either break up or get entangled in the snake, enabling you to pull it out.
  4. Clean-up: After successfully removing the clog, clean the drain snake thoroughly before storing it to prevent bacteria buildup.

Here are some invaluable pointers for first-timers:

  • Gentle Approach: Always use a gentle touch when inserting and twisting the snake to avoid damaging your pipes.
  • Protective Wear: Wear gloves to protect your hands from the grime and potential bacteria on the snake after use.
  • Patience Pays: Be patient; it might take a few tries before you successfully dislodge or capture the clog.
  • Clean-up Matters: Always clean the snake after use to maintain the tool’s longevity and hygiene. It’s also advisable to run hot water down the drain for a final clean.
  • Know your Limits: If the clog persists after using a drain snake, it’s wise to call a professional. Some blockages may be beyond the reach of typical household tools and can require professional equipment or expertise.

Locating the Clean Out Port: A Guide for First-Time Homeowners

For successful drain snaking, locating the clean-out port is a crucial first step. As a first-time homeowner, you might be unfamiliar with this term. The clean-out port, typically a white or black circular cap located on a pipe, provides easy access into the plumbing system for drain cleaning and unclogging purposes. Here’s how to find it:

  1. Search Outdoors: The clean-out port is usually located outside the house. Begin by checking around the exterior of your house, particularly in line with your bathrooms or kitchen.
  2. Look Low: The ports are often positioned close to the ground, so make sure you’re searching at the right height.
  3. Check the Basement: If you have a basement, the clean-out might be there. Look around the main drain line that leads out of your house.
  4. Inspect Inside: If you can’t find the clean-out port outside, check under sinks or behind toilets inside your home. They might be hidden in cabinets or utility closets.

Remember, it’s not uncommon for older houses to have their clean-out ports buried or hidden. If you can’t locate it, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional plumber. They possess the necessary skills and knowledge to locate and access the clean-out port safely, ensuring your plumbing system remains intact and undamaged.

Precautions for Using a Drain Snake in Pipes or PVC Pipes

While a drain snake can be a highly effective tool for clearing clogs, it’s crucial to use it with care, especially in fragile or PVC pipes, to avoid damage. Consider the following precautions:

  1. Gentle Use: Avoid excessive force when inserting, twisting, or pulling the snake to prevent scratching or cracking the pipe, especially if it’s made of PVC.
  2. Correct Size: Use a drain snake that’s the appropriate size for your pipe. A snake that’s too large can damage the pipe, while one that’s too small might not effectively clear the clog.
  3. Protective Wear: Always use protective gloves and eyewear when operating a drain snake to protect against any splashes or debris.
  4. Regular Inspection: Regularly inspect your pipes for any signs of wear and tear. If the pipes are already weakened or damaged, using a drain snake could potentially exacerbate the issue.
  5. Professional Help: If you’re unsure about the state of your pipes or how to use a drain snake safely, it’s always advisable to enlist the help of a professional plumber. They have the necessary tools and knowledge to tackle clogs without causing further damage.

Note: Please take note that I consistently emphasize the importance of contacting a professional plumber if necessary. This emphasis is intentional and should not be disregarded.

Method #4 Using Hot Water

Hot water can sometimes be an effective and easy solution for dislodging minor clogs in your drains. This method works particularly well with fatty or greasy blockages that can melt and disperse with heat. For a novice, here’s how to go about this:

  1. Boil a Pot of Water: Fire up your stove and get a pot of water boiling.
  2. Pour Carefully: Once the water is boiling, carefully pour it directly down the drain. Make sure to do this slowly to avoid any potential splashes and burns.
  3. Repeat if Necessary: If the water doesn’t flow freely after the first try, you may need to repeat the process a few times.

Remember to use a sizeable pot — the more hot water you can pour in a single go, the better your chances of clearing the clog.

However, this method has its limitations. While it can be effective for smaller, less stubborn blockages, it might not suffice for more significant or tougher clogs. These might be composed of materials that are not easily dissolved or dislodged by hot water.

If you find that the hot water method is not working after several attempts, it might be time to try a more advanced technique or consider bringing in a professional plumber to handle the issue.

Personally, I have a cautionary tale to share. Several years ago, I encountered a stubborn sink clog and resorted to using a chemical drain cleaner. Unfortunately, this decision proved to be quite problematic. The PVC pipe beneath the sink, where the clog was located, underwent significant swelling and emitted an alarming amount of heat due to the chemical’s reaction. Ultimately, I had no choice but to remove and replace the affected section of PVC pipe, specifically the p-trap. Needless to say, this experience served as a valuable lesson learned.

Additional Tips

Remember that prevention is better than cure. Regular maintenance of your drainage system can help avoid these issues. Some simple tips include:

  1. Avoid disposing of grease or coffee grounds down the drain.
  2. Install strainers to catch hair or small objects that might cause blockages.
  3. Regularly clean your drains with hot water or a vinegar and baking soda solution.

Also, consider investing in simple plumbing tools such as a plunger and drain snake – they can prove invaluable in dealing with minor clogs. Finally, never underestimate the potential damage that can be caused by chemical drain cleaners. Use them sparingly and with extreme caution, if at all.

By staying vigilant and acting proactively, you can keep your drains running smoothly and avoid the majority of clog-related issues.

Renting Tools A Practical Alternative

Renting Tools: A Practical Alternative

If you’re hesitant about purchasing tools that you may only use occasionally, consider the option of renting them from a local rental shop.

This can be a cost-effective and practical alternative for homeowners dealing with occasional plumbing issues.

Variety of Tools Available for Rent

Many shops offer a variety of plumbing tools for rent, including drain snakes, pipe wrenches, and even more advanced equipment like inspection cameras.

This allows you to access the right tools for the job without making a significant investment. Remember to inquire about the rental terms and conditions, and ensure that you understand how to safely and effectively use the rented tools.

Don’t hesitate to ask for a demonstration or guidance if needed. By opting to rent, you can tackle your plumbing issues efficiently and economically, without cluttering your garage with rarely used tools.


Clogged drains are a common household issue, but they don’t have to be a major headache. With the DIY solutions discussed above, you can tackle most clogs yourself and save the cost of a plumber. Remember to use caution and to protect yourself when working with drains, and always dispose of debris properly. By following these tips, you can keep your drains running smoothly and prevent future clogs from occurring.

J.S. Diyhouseskills

I’m J.S., I created and am the content manager at I do the research and write the articles that appear on this website. I’ve learned many household skills during my life and think it’s important to at least know the basics so that you can save yourself time and money… READ FULL BIO >