The logo of adu contractors, indicating they specialize in damage repair services related to water, fire, mold, and storms.
How To Unclog a Drain Pipe: A Detailed Step-by-step Guide

How To Unclog a Drain Pipe: A Detailed Step-by-step Guide

Dealing with a clogged sink or bathtub drain can be frustrating. It’s annoying when water drains slowly and can be even worse when the drain is completely blocked. Sometimes, people just put up with it for a while, thinking it’s a minor issue. However, ignoring a clogged drain can lead to more significant problems like burst pipes, which can be expensive.

Many think clearing a clogged drain is as easy as pouring some liquid plumber down it. But the truth is, those strong chemicals can damage your pipes, making the problem worse. The good news is that you can avoid all these headaches with expert advice from All Dry USA plumbers and the right tools. This step-by-step guide shows you how to unclog your drain pipe properly and efficiently. Keep reading to find out how to tackle this common household issue.

Dispelling Common Solutions to Unclog a Drain Pipe

It’s essential to know what to use and what not to use when it comes to unclogging drains, even with the abundance of advice available. Using the wrong products could potentially damage your drains, so it’s equally important to know which products to avoid as it is to know which ones are effective.

Strong Chemical Products

Avoid using strong chemical products like Liquid Plumr or Drano to unclog drains. While they might clear the clog, these chemicals can damage pipes, especially with repeated use. They are unsuitable for regular use and pose a risk of expensive repairs, especially in older homes with more fragile pipes.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Baking soda and vinegar are commonly suggested for unclogging drains, but they can be ineffective, especially in more severe cases. The reaction between these substances doesn’t help much in clearing clogs. Although they don’t harm pipes, they are just a short-term fix to solve the problem of a clogged drain.

What to Use to Remove Minor Clogs

Not all clogs are the same. Simple solutions work for some, but not all. Here are a few of the options for removing minor clogs:

  • Boiling Water and Dish Soap: For minor clogs, boiling water combined with dish soap can be effective. Boiling water dissolves organic matter and melts grease, while dish soap lifts grease from pipes. For better results, fill the sink with this mixture and let it drain all at once to increase pressure.
  • Plunger: A plunger is useful for various clogs, from kitchen sinks to bathtubs. Fill the sink or tub with water to aid the plunger’s effectiveness. Sealing nearby drains can also increase pressure and efficiency.
  • Plumber’s Snake: If a plunger fails, use a plumber’s snake or a DIY version made from a wire hanger. Insert the snake into the drain, twist it, and pull it out to break up the clog. Repeat as necessary.
  • Wet/Dry Vacuum: A wet/dry vacuum set to the “wet” mode can suck out clogs. Insert the nozzle into the drain if needed. Do not use a regular vacuum, as it can get damaged.

How to Clear a Severely Clogged Drain

A person using a wrench to unclog a drain pipe.

Sometimes, simple solutions don’t work, and you have a severely clogged drain pipe. However, with the proper equipment and the appropriate advice, there are several ways to fix serious clogs around the house.

Clearing a P-Trap

The P-trap is a curved pipe typically found under sinks. It prevents sewer gas from entering your house but can get clogged. Here’s how to clear it:

  1. Place a Bucket: Put a bucket under the P-trap to catch debris and water.
  2. Remove the P-trap: Use pliers to loosen the nuts connecting the P-trap to the wall and sink. If the nuts are too tight or too loose, consider replacing the P-trap.
  3. Clean Inside: Clean the P-trap’s interior with a nylon brush or straightened wire coat hanger. Ensure no debris is trapped between the drain washer and pipe, which could cause leaks.
  4. Check for Further Clogs: If the P-trap is clear, but the clog persists, it might be in the wall pipe. Use a small plumber’s snake to clear it, rotating it while moving it in and out.
  5. Reassemble: Put the P-trap back together. Tighten the coupling nuts by hand without over-tightening.

Clearing an Under-Floor Drain System

Unclogging larger drain lines is more complex and may require renting equipment and buying plumbing parts. It’s a physically demanding task that includes cleanup. Here’s the process:

  1. Locate the Clog: To pinpoint the clog’s location, determine which fixtures are affected. For example, if the kitchen sink and laundry are clogged, the blockage is in a shared pipe.
  2. Clear Floor Drain Trap: Remove the backflow preventer from the floor drain. Use a chisel on the retaining ring’s notches, turning it clockwise to unscrew.
  3. Remove Debris: Use a wet/dry vacuum for loose debris and a coat hanger or plumber’s snake for solid materials.
  4. Open Cleanout Plug: Unscrew the cleanout plug on the side of the floor drain. Use a pipe wrench or slip-joint pliers for assistance.
  5. Use Drain-Cleaning Machine: If the drain isn’t clear, rent a drain-cleaning machine. It helps puncture and retrieve the obstruction and cut through it.

Clearing a Toilet Clog

Toilet clogs often occur at the top of the P-trap. A plumber’s snake can be effective if a plunger doesn’t work. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Insert Plumber’s Snake: Place the snake into the toilet bowl, ensuring the auger end (with a bent tip) faces upward.
  2. Crank and Retrieve: Turn the handle to dispense the entire cable. Then, while cranking, pull it up to retrieve it. Repeat this process twice more to ensure the clog is cleared.
  3. Flush Toilet: Finally, flush the toilet to clear out the drainpipe.

Clearing a Bathtub Clog

Clearing a bathtub drain clog is similar to clearing a sink clog. If you notice the water draining slowly, addressing the clog is important before it completely stops the drain. Here’s the process:

  1. Use a Plunger: Start with a plunger. If this doesn’t clear the clog, proceed to the next step.
  2. Remove Overflow Plate: The clog might be further down if the plunger doesn’t work. Remove the overflow plate at the end of the tub.
  3. Use Plumber’s Snake: Feed the snake’s cable down the pipe. You may encounter resistance, but continue cranking until the cable passes through the P-trap.
  4. Retrieve Cable: Slowly pull the cable back out to clear the clog.
  5. Replace Overflow Plate and Flush: After replacing the overflow plate, run several gallons of hot water down the drain to flush out any residual debris.

When to Call a Professional

A man, equipped with tools, diligently works to unclog a drain pipe in a bathroom toilet.
Some people are willing to take on plumbing projects themselves, but there are specific jobs that should only be done by a professional. Operating a drain-cleaning machine isn’t for everyone, but a capable homeowner can do it. When more serious repairs are needed, trying to remedy the situation yourself could do more harm than good.

If your main sewer is clogged and you’ve tried everything outlined above, it’s time to call a professional plumber. They can utilize more heavy-duty equipment, like an industrial auger or a high-pressure hose. And, of course, if the damage is done, they can also replace pipe sections.


Whatever drain problem you have, there are plenty of solutions. Proper research beforehand is essential to avoid exacerbating the issue. Knowledge is power. After all, knowing how to prevent and treat plumbing issues is crucial to being a homeowner.

Don’t be afraid to call a professional if it’s a small clog. While utilizing something like a plumber’s snake might be easy for some, there’s no shame in calling a professional to ensure it’s done right.

To learn more about unclogging drain pipes in a helpful, efficient way, call repair and restoration pros at All Dry USA today.


Before You Go

We know that you'll love our service!

Schedule an inspection with All Dry USA today.


Schedule Inspection