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When Slow Drains Aren’t Caused By Clogs

When we see standing water in the kitchen sink, we often think the sink drain is clogged or someone put orange peels or coffee grounds down the garbage disposal. Drains are often sluggish because of an obstruction, such as hair, sludge buildup, or tree roots, but that is not always the case. Sometimes the problem lies in clearing the plumbing vents, which must be accessed by climbing onto the top of the roof. Before immediately thinking you need to go onto the roof to fix your problem, see why there are other reasons a drain is running slowly first.

Troubleshooting a Clog

Before getting out your ladder, there are a few things you can do to determine if a clogged line is the cause of the slow drain or if other plumbing problems are causing the issue.

Kitchen Sink
There are some do-it-yourself techniques to try with a kitchen sink drain. If you have a garbage disposal, a cup of white vinegar and hot water may help, or ice cubes can help clean the impeller in the grinding chamber. Boiling water and baking soda can help clear gunk as well. Using a kitchen sink plunger (not the same kind of plunger you use for your toilet) can also help. When doing so, make sure the water level is enough to cover the sink drain and make very quick up and down motions with the plunger to try and break loose the debris or sink clog that may be causing issues down the drain pipe.

Another DIY solution is to take an old wire coat hanger and use it as a makeshift plumbers snake down the drain line. When using the coat hanger method when unclogging a kitchen sink, sometimes dish soap helps lubricate the coat hanger down the drain pipe. Once you’re down in there deep, or you’ve hit the source of the clog, do what you can to scrap, grind, and loosen up the clog to push it further into the drain line or extract it from the drain.

If there is still a clogged kitchen sink after all of these attempts, see below for more serious solutions.

Bathroom Sink
If there’s standing water in your bathroom sink, many of the same tricks for your kitchen sink will also work for your bathroom sink! However, bathroom sinks also see more soap scum, hair, and sludge than kitchen sinks. Because of this, there could be a build-up of this sludge and sediment on your bathroom sinks drain stopper. It’s recommended to have your drain stopper cleaned every once in a while to ensure the water drains properly. Depending on how your faucet is set up, some homeowners can simply unscrew/pop out their drain stopper to clean it; others require more work.

We advise against drain cleaners that are chemical drain cleaners such as drano, as those can damage parts, be corrosive to your skin, and also prevent us from performing professional drain cleaning with a plumber’s snake (aka auger) for 24 hours. However, natural drain cleaners are available from Amazon or local retailers like Home Depot or Lowes that a DIY homeowner can use to clear the clogged drain. You could even attempt to unclog a drain using natural household ingredients such as vinegar and baking soda to unclog a drain without drano.

Much like your bathroom sink drain, your bath or shower drain will see reduced water flow in the drain when there is a buildup in the plumbing system from soap scum, hair, and other things that make it down the drain opening. For bathtubs and bathroom sinks, it’s recommended to have a sink stopper that can allow draining but prevent the hair from going down the PVC pipes.

There’s No Clog, Now What?

If you’ve determined it’s not a clogged sink but still have a slow-draining sink when you run water, it is most likely a plumbing vent issue.

Plumbing vents are located on the top of people’s homes. If the vent gets blocked by something such as leaves, a nest, or even an animal carcass, air can’t flow into the drains properly. The rushing water creates a vacuum that can slow down the draining process or stop it altogether.

Complicating matters even more, the vacuum can be so strong that it pulls water out of toilet bowls and P-traps, allowing toxic sewer gasses to seep into your home. The good news is that this can be prevented by routinely cleaning the plumbing vents. If the vents have a clog and are too far to reach, a plumber can access it from the roof and use a drain snake to clear it.

Climbing on Top of the Roof

You’ll need a ladder extending 3 feet above the roofline to clear the clog from your plumbing vents. You want to brace the ladder, so it doesn’t slide away, and you’ll need a rope for safety, a screwdriver, and a garden hose with an adjustable nozzle.

If your plumbing vent is sealed with a cap, you’ll need the screwdriver to unscrew it. Once the cap is removed, use the garden hose to clear the vent. Before you begin, though, inspect the vent for leaves, debris, and other obstructions, which have a tendency to collect in vents.

You can immediately improve air circulation by removing any leaves and debris that have been collected in the vent. Once you’ve done that, set the nozzle so it’s on a high or “jet” and shoot the water down the line.

If it’s been a long time since the vent was cleaned and there’s a large blockage, or if a bird or an animal climbed down the vent and died, the water could flow back up. If that happens, you’ll need a 10 to 20-foot plumbing snake to clear out the vent.

Keeping Drains Cleared in Your Home

A surefire way to prevent continued clogs and build-ups in your home’s plumbing system is to ensure a proper maintenance plan to keep your drain lines cleared in your home. 

Depending on what kind of plumbing system you have, and if you are on a septic system, homeowners use a variety of DIY methods that assist in keeping their kitchen sinks, bathroom sinks, and other drain lines clog-free. 

Keeping drains cleaned also helps prevent bad odors from emitting into your home, unpleasant standing water/clogged drain build-up, and overall damage to your plumbing system.

For more information on the importance of keeping your drains cleared and some best practices, trust the knowledgeable professionals at A-1 Sewer & Septic Services to guide you

Need a Professional Plumber? Call A-1 Sewer & Septic!

If you are uncomfortable climbing on your roof to clean out the plumbing vents, or if you would simply prefer to have a professional take care of the clog, contact a Kansas City plumber from A-1 Sewer & Septic Service Inc. to get the job done right! We specialize in clogged drain line cleaning, clogged drains with septic tanks, backed-up sewer systems, and more. 

Call 913-631-5201 or contact us here to schedule a service call and have your drains professionally unclogged and properly cleaned out.