At 230 this afternoon I get a call from home; my wife is beside herself having just discovered standing water in our laundry room. The best part: the water was from a load of dirty cloth diapers. “Where did all this water come from? It was only half a load.” I ask her to unplug any appliances near the spill, shut off the water to the washer, soak up what she could, and that I’d clean the rest up when I got home… little did I know that I would also be unclogging a washer drain when I got there.
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All the way home I was thinking of how the washing machine could have broken. Did the water line rupture? No, that would have left water continuing to flood the room. Did the basin get a hole punched in it? No, my wife stopped the machine in mid-cycle and there was still water left in it. Did the discharge hose get disconnected or dislodge from the drain? This was my best guess and I began planning in my mind how I’d pull the machine away from the wall and see that the hose needed tightening or that the rubber grommet had cracked.
As I was emptying the contents of the washer (my beloved wife had filled it with all the potty-soaked towels), water began to splash on the floor behind the machine. Looking behind the washing machine I was surprised to see that the drain appeared to be overflowing. I ran into the kitchen and noticed that the dishwasher was running and that the kitchen sink was backing up. After some further tests involving further flooding of the laundry room I determined that the plumbing drain serving the kitchen and laundry was clogged.
How to use Two socks and a plunger to unclog a Drain
Unclogging toilets, shower drains, and sink fixtures is fairly easy, even if you don’t have all the supplies on hand to do it like a professional. Sink plungers are also nice to have on hand for the smaller jobs or ones where you need s shorter handle to properly do the job.
- Let the water run until the drain has a good amount of water above it and then I put the plunger over it.
- Pushing the plunger all the way down pushes all the air out that was trapped under the toilet plunger.
- Then, pull straight up about as hard as possible. If this isn’t enough to break up the clog, try again and use the suction of the plunger on the column of water to rock the clog back and forth.
- It’s fairly easy to tell when the clog breaks free because the force required to work the plunger gets very light.
How do unclog a plumbing blockage that is likely under my foundation?
All openings to the drain have to be closed off by whatever means necessary. For open pipe I prefer to use rubber end caps with wormdrive hose clamps. Another option is to roll up rags or other pieces of cloth and force them halfway into the opening. When doing this, take care to leave a larger diameter section of cloth outside of the pipe to prevent it from getting sucked into the pipe by the plunging action.
For my purposes I used two plastic caps and two socks to close off the laundry drain (sock), the air conditioning condensate line (sock), the under-sink pipe fed the 2nd drain of our old kitchen sink (cap), and the clean-out in the utility room (cap). The drain vent that goes through the roof was left open; water weighs a lot, so even if water pushes up the stack eventually the weight of it will help move the clog. The water in the sink was already two inches deep so I didn’t have to intentionally fill it. After pushing all the bubbles out of the plunger, I pulled lightly to make sure I had a good seal and then pulled up forcibly until the suction broke. The water in the sink began to spiral down the drain: success!
To make sure the clog was cleared I ran the sink water for several minutes and then washed several loads of laundry. Thankfully, I had about 20 towels needing to be washed thoroughly. I also removed the socks and reconnected the laundry and air conditioning drains. Several hours later and no leaks.
When working a sink or shower or toilet I’m fairly certain that the clog is organic matter. Also, I’m certain that my house is up to code and that it uses a trunk and branch network where smaller pipes feed larger pipes like the veins and arteries in your body; if I can push the clog down the line it will break up or cease to be a clog in the larger diameter pipe further down the line.
However, these assumptions break down when you have an inorganic clog (like children’s underwear) or your home is plumbed drain pipes all of the same diameter (like a home-run network). If this is your situation, pushing the clog further down the drain may serve no other purpose than to prevent other parts of the home from functioning correctly.
Find more of our home owner and landlord tips:
How to clean Hard Water Stains
How to Dry an Area Rug
5 Tips for Replacing Electrical Outlets
Cleaning a Filthy Bathtub Pt. 1