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Around the House with Julia
Help – my kitchen sink is clogged!

By Julia Strzesieski

This hand-held snake can clear most household clogs

One of the most common problems around the house is a clogged kitchen sink. Most people think the clog will be in the “trap” – that little shiny chrome piece directly below your sink drain. But the trap does not trap foreign matter from going down your drain, but instead is a water lock that traps sewer gas from escaping through your sink. So don’t expect to find your problem in the trap. Before you call in the professionals, consider these options to see if you can clear the blockage yourself.

Chemical drain cleaners
The numerous chemical drain cleaners on the market create the impression that you simply pour a little magic potion down the drain and all your problems will disappear. This isn’t to say that these products aren’t useful under certain circumstances, but they should be avoided unless you are absolutely certain how to use them.

Some chemical drain cleaners contain high levels of sulfuric acid. These products pose a hazard to you, your property and the environment. Just having acid in the home is extremely dangerous, especially if you have children. Almost any plumbing professional can tell you a horror story about either being burned or causing at least some damage to a client’s property from using a sulfuric acid product. If you have poured a strong chemical drain cleaner down a drain, don’t ever attempt to plunge it afterward. To do so may put you at risk of getting burned by the acid in the product.

Taking the plunge
The plunger, also known as the “plumber’s helper,” is renowned as an effective way to unclog drains, but the chances of this working in your sink are minimal at best.

The vents and overflows in your fixtures will render the force of the plunger ineffective.

Must I call a professional?
Not necessarily. You don’t need expensive hi-tech snakes to clear most household clogs. For most small drains, a small, inexpensive hand-held snake can unclog a myriad of drain problems if you:
• know how to get the snake into the drain, and
• have the persistence to carry on even in the face of apparent abject failure.
And then, of course, you have to know how to reassemble what you have taken apart to insert the snake to begin with. In many cases, this can be more difficult and frustrating than clearing the drain.
If you don’t like the sound of any of this, save yourself the agony, mess and risk of damaging your system ... call a plumber.

Preventive measures
First, use your common sense. Make sure there is a strainer in the drain at all times. Never pour grease or anything heavier than water itself down your drain.

If you have a garbage disposal, allow the water to run for a period of time after the disposal has done its thing, so you can be sure the waste has moved into the main sewer line. Also, anything extra fibrous like pineapple tops, artichoke leaves, and the like should be avoided. Just because your disposal can eat it doesn’t mean your pipes can digest it.

If you realize your drains are getting slow and you’ve tried everything short of nuking them, it is time to get down and dirty, or call a pro to get dirty for you. Once your drain is completely stopped your options become much more limited.

Green drain openers: There are also several more earth-friendly drain openers on the market that use bacterial enzymes or microbes to unclog drains. Two of the popular brands are Drainbo and Super Digest-It. Before using a caustic chemical, these are a natural alternative to try first. In addition, these products can be used regularly to maintain a clear drain. 

See you around the house!

Julia Strzesieski is the marketing coordinator at Cole Hardware and can be reached at


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