4 Ways to Unclog Your Toilet, Sink, or Bathtub

There a lot of right ways to remove clogs in your plumbing — but there are a lot of wrong ways, too. Getting it right will save you headaches and money. While many plumbing problems require a professional, a common clog can often be fixed by yourself. So let’s dive into four ways to unclog your toilet, sink, or bathtub.

Sink Plunger

How to use a plunger the right way? It starts with having the right plunger.

As industry professionals, we’ll often walk into a homeowner’s bathroom and find this next to the toilet: the sink plunger. It’s a common mistake. Sink plungers may be small and dainty and match the decor of the bathroom, but here’s the truth: they are not designed to unclog a toilet. This plunger is designed for sinks — as well as bathtubs, showers, and floor drains. If it has a flat surface, this plunger can plunge it.

A good seal is key to using a plunger correctly. The flat end of a sink plunger? it won’t create a good seal in your toilet, and will make it unnecessarily difficult to remove normal clogs.

Here’s how you use it:

  1. Position the plunger over the clogged drain to create a good seal.
  2. Pump it up and down — this will force water up and down the system. Do this until the clog is removed.
  3. If you have a two-compartment sink, and both drains are clogged? Try this method: plug one drain with a stopper, then apply the steps 1 and 2 to the other drain.
  4. Once you think the blockage is gone, run water down the sink to make sure the job is finished.

Toilet Plunger

Let’s check out the toilet plunger. This is the plunger you should place next to your toilet. A quality toilet plunger, like the the plungers by Korky, has a strong handle and a flexible rubber head. Notice that beehive shape? It’s designed to work on almost every toilet, from traditional to elongated toilet bowl shapes.

Again, it’s all about the seal. A toilet plunger is designed to create a perfect seal in your toilet, making the task of removing a clog much, much easier.

Here’s how you use it:

  1. Insert the plunger into the toilet at an angle, to make sure you get a good seal.
  2. Pump it up and down — this will force water up and down the system. Do this until the clog is removed.
  3. Once you think the blockage is gone, flush the toilet a few times to make sure it’s all the way out.

Drain Bladder

Let’s look at a whole different kind of unclogging tool: the drain bladder. Drain bladders use running water to clear out clogs.

Here’s how you use it:

  1. Connect the drain bladder to a hose, which you can run from a standard hose bib or from an adapter to a sink faucet.
  2. Insert it into the drain, near to the clog.
  3. Run the water. This will make the drain bladder inflate, creating a seal in the drain line.
  4. After the drain bladder fully inflates, it will pulsate water out the other end, pushing out the clog.

While drain bladders are great for partial clogs, they are often ineffectual against major clogs — and could cause you a major headache in the process. Why? Because if the water you’ve just pumped into a clogged pipe can’t go forward, it only has one direction to go: right back at you. It’s not uncommon to pull a drain bladder out of a clogged pipe, only to have a huge column of water rushing out with it. In short, use drain bladders for partial clogs, so all that water has somewhere to go.

One more thing: this won’t work for clearing roots. You’ll need a much stronger tool for that, like a drain snake. But we’ll cover that in a different blog.

AirSnake

If you’re an industry professional, let’s take a look at a tool that all our service techs have in their vans: the AirSnake by Milwaukee.

It may look like science fiction, but the concept behind the AirSnake is simple: it’s an air compressor, powered by a battery. A full kit comes with various nozzles, designed to fit any common drain size — sinks, bathtubs, even toilets.

Here’s how you use it:

  1. Choose the nozzle that matches the drain you want to unclog. Tilt the nozzle at a slight angle, so you can angle the AirSnake into drain without damaging any bathroom fixtures.
  2. If you’re unclogging a sink or tub, run some water into the drain to fill the pipe. This water will serve as tidal wave that removes the clog.
  3. Charge the AirSnake with air pressure. Remember to start small: 10-15 PSI is a good benchmark for drain clogs.
  4. Secure the AirSnake in place over the drain. If unclogging a sink or tub, use a cloth to plug the overflow. Otherwise, the air will shoot out through it.  .
  5. Once you’re ready, pull the trigger. Air will shoot into the drain, forcing water into the clog to remove it.
  6. When you’re done, run hot water into the drain until you’re confident clog is removed.

Summary

You’ve now learn four useful ways to unclog your toilet, sink, or bathtub. If you’re a homeowner, plungers are effective and affordable options to clearing clogs. However, be sure to use the right plungers for the right jobs! This will save you a ton of money removing clogs that you haven’t been able to otherwise. And while the drain bladder is also a cheap, affordable option, just be careful — these can make messes if you’re not using it correctly.

Finally, if you’re an industry professional, we couldn’t recommend the AirSnake more. This is a fantastic tool. Our techs use them all the time.

Thanks for reading, don’t be embarrassed to have the right tools in your bathroom.

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