Expert tips for clearing out drains and traps

August 9, 2015

Drains and the water traps built into some of them help keep disease and odours out of your home. Here are a few tips on how to keep those drains and traps clean and clear.

  • The traps that come fitted with sinks, toilets and floor wastes seal off unpleasant smells with a small amount of water. If this water freezes in the cold or evaporates while you're away (and not running water into the trap), then the smells below might waft up and into your home. Luckily, putting a little bit of salt in the trap can help keep this water from freezing in cold weather. And you can pour a little vegetable oil down the trap to prevent the water in floor wastes from evaporating while you're away.
  • No matter what the job, whenever you're doing any construction work around your house you should take a look at your house's drainage diagram. You can get a copy of this diagram from your water agency or authority. The drainage diagram shows you where all of your house's sewer drainage lines, branches and fixtures are, so that you can work around them. Getting a copy of this diagram is especially important when you're planting trees or shrubs.
  • Tree roots are a common cause of drain blockage. These roots can get into even the most securely sealed pipes. A drain snake can work as a temporary help for these sorts of blockages, but re-laying pipes – a job for a licensed tradesperson – is the only long term solution. You might also just have to remove the trees that are rooting through your pipes.
  • Grease, food scraps, and other solid waste are often behind blocked sink drains. To clear out these blockages, use a mixture of salt, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar. But make sure that you don't use caustic soda, because it can make the blockage worse and might burn your skin.
  • When you're dealing with a clogged drain, you could also pour a cupful of washing soda down the drain, and follow it with boiling water. You can also repeat this process, if necessary.
  • After you've put chemical cleaner into drain pipes, don't use a plunger. The suction of the plunger could splash the chemical-infused water onto your skin and eyes and severely injure or burn you. You could even be blinded.
  • You can use a plunger to clear out most blockages in waste pipes. The plunger works by pushing and pulling the blockage apart, but it works best when the plunger's cup is covered with water and any overflow inlet is sealed. To help seal any overflow inlet you can simply hold a wet cloth over it. While plunging be sure to keep the plunger's handle perpendicular to the base of the toilet or sink. If you want to make your plunger even more effective, you can smear petroleum jelly around the cup's edge to create a seal where the cup and surface of what you're plunging meet.
  • You can also use a garden hose to break up blockages (especially in larger pipes). Push the garden hose as far into the pipe as possible. Then pack rags around the opening of the pipe you're trying to unclog. Hold those rags in place as a helper turns the water on full force and then off. Repeat several times until the spray from the garden hose starts to break up the blockage. To make sure the blockage is cleared out, you should then flush the drain for at least 15 seconds  with water.

Keep these drain clearing and trap maintaining tips in mind, and you're sure to help your home stay fresh and clean.

Expert tips for clearing out drains and traps
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