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Plumbing Problems: Troubleshooting a Slow Drain


So you’ve been watching one of your drains get progressively worse over the past two weeks and you did nothing. We don’t blame you, who has the time to mess with a drain that is technically working? But now it’s gotten really bad and barely drains. Whether you use this sink to wash the dishes or brush your teeth, a slow drain is a big inconvenience. As Maryland plumbing repair specialists, we often get calls about slow drains, and here are a few troubleshooting steps you can take to resolve this issue.

Clean the Drain Stopper

First of all, find some thick rubber gloves to wear—sink cleaning is never pretty! If you have a utility apron, put it on as well in case things start splashing around. Now go ahead and pull out the drain stopper if your sink has one. Drain stoppers tend to catch debris around the rim, as well as form a thick layer of black gunk. If not cleaned frequently enough, the drain stopper cap can get so dirty, it will block the drain. After you clean it, put it back and check if it solved the problem.

Check the Sink Overflow

Sink overflow is a small opening somewhere close to the rim of your sink. One of its purposes is to divert some of the water if the sink gets overfilled. So if you left water running on high in a slow-draining sink, it would probably soon reach the overflow, which will give water an outlet and prevent, or at least delay, a big spill. Another purpose of a sink overflow is to supply air to the drain when the sink is full. Check to make sure the overflow opening in your sink is not blocked. If it is, your sink will be in a sort of vacuum that will make it drain slower.

Clean the Drain

Now, this is one of the messiest parts of the process. If you don’t want to deal with it, call your Maryland plumber at this point and let him or her do the dirty work. Depending on whether it’s a kitchen sink or a bathroom sink, there may be different things clogging it up. In a bathroom sink and shower, hair is a big problem, especially if it’s long. Sometimes things like earrings, Q-tips, bobby pins and other small items find their way into the sink and contribute to the blockage. In a kitchen sink, you may be dealing with food particles or layers of grease and soap scum covering the inside of the pipes.

Be Careful With Chemicals

Be careful using toxic drain cleaners such as Drano. They may harm your plumbing and your septic tank, especially in an older home. Instead, try this solution: pour ½ cup of baking soda down the drain followed by ½ cup of vinegar. You don’t have to measure precisely, but the idea is to create a fizzing action that helps dislodge debris. Sometimes, this is enough to get your sink draining fine again. If hair is the culprit, you would need a drain snake with a velcro-like surface to help catch the hair and get it out. Keep in mind, this in not a very pleasant procedure.

Try Plunging

If none of the above worked, try plunging. Be sure to cover the sink overflow first for the plunging to be effective. Be gentle, as you don’t want to damage the piping. If you don’t know the first thing about plunging, it may be best to skip to the next step and call a plumber.

Call a Plumber

You did everything you could; now it’s time to call a professional. If the clog is too far down, it may be necessary to open up pipes and manually extract it. And if all the drains in your house are slow, the issue may be not with an individual pipe, but rather with your main sewer line. This is what your Maryland plumber is for—to get to the bottom of the problem and solve it once and for all.

Give us a call or contact us online today if you are having issues with slow drains!

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