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Drain Cleaning Requires the Right Tools for the Situation (Part 1)

Often times, when folks talk about clearing a drain or a toilet that is having issues they use terminology that is sort of general. Many folks refer to all forms of clearing clogs as "snaking the drain". In actuality, there are many different types of stoppages in and around your home, and different tools or configurations that are best for each situation. Here's a bit about the tools of the trade, and why it's usually better to begin with a company that approaches drains with expertise instead of messing with the issues yourself.

The Clog

Let's say you wake up and sometime in your morning routine, you notice that the toilet is backed up, and you hadn't even used it that day. Now, it could be a simple clog left by someone else or even you from the day before. Whoops, right. So, first you grab the plunger and try that. This is a good thing, but if it doesn't work and get the toilet draining again, what do you do?

The problem at this point is that you could have a very simple issue or a very complicated one. The stoppage that isn't allowing your toilet to drain could be occurring in a number of places and could be caused by a number of culprits.

Toilet Augers and Drain Snakes

The first step in handling the clog is sometimes done by homeowners themselves, but you begin to use tools that you may not already own. This first step is the toilet auger or snaking phase. A toilet auger can be a couple of different lengths, but ultimately, it's only meant to clear the toilet lines and maybe a very short distance into the main drain line. The base of your toilet is a P-trap (like under your kitchen sink) before it drops in the sewer. Passing through the P-trap can be very tricky.

For other drains, like the tub or kitchen sink, there are snakes that help to hook and pull out (for instance hair in the tub drain), or break up clogs. Though you can attempt using an auger or a snake on your own, someone who knows how to use these and has a higher grade of tool is less likely to damage your drains or fixtures. Also, they will likely know right away if what they are doing is solving the drainage issue.

Check For A Main Line Backup

A separate tip for knowing if there is a clog in your MAIN line, would be to check if the LOWEST drain in your house is having issues as well. The tub or shower on the lowest floor will likely be the first to have a backup, and this will affect the entire home's drainage. Main drain issues are at least less scary (in that they aren’t so mysterious), but you will want to take care of this ASAP, before sewage begins to come back into your tubs, showers, or (Yuck!) sinks.

Cabling the Lines

If your issues go beyond the fixture and you realize that the clog is further down the line, now we get into the area where "cabling" becomes the answer. Plumbers have a couple of different sized cabling machines. These come with blades at the end and help to cut up the material or objects that are blocking your lines. They have the length to go from your homes clean-out or, if necessary, from a toilet drain after the toilet is pulled off.

This is where a professional really is the best answer. You are dealing with powerful machinery and even the professionals may get these stuck if they are not careful. The good news is, that cabling the line will clear most issues from the fixture into the main drain line, and then anywhere in the main drain line out to the sewer or septic tank. It is very important to know that cabling needs to stop before it gets to a septic tank to avoid damage at your tank’s inlet.

Cabling the line also gives the drain technician (or plumber) the flexibility to use some different sized bits (or blades) on the end of the cable, depending on the type of clog and size of the pipe and the material it is made from.

What is the MOST COMPLETE way to clear a line? What is the best way to SEE what other problems may exist? Read on in our next post: "Drain Cleaning Requires The Right Tools in the Right Situation (Part 2)."

This is Part 1 of 2 for covering the tools and methods of drain cleaning. Next post will go into Sewer Camera Inspections, Sewer Repairs, and Hydro Jetting! If you'd like more information or if you live in South King County or Pierce County and we can help you directly, please call Aardvark Rooter today!


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