If your drain is completely stopped up and water is not moving through it at all, do not use a drain cleaner. It will not help the problem, and some types will actually harden if they cannot get through, making the clog worse. Drain cleaner can damage pipes, and it might splash you when you plunge or auger the drain.
If your drain is sluggish, use only non-acid drain cleaners (sodium hydroxide and copper sulphide are safe). Pour them in when the drain is sluggish, not when it is completely stopped. Regular use of a drain cleaner can keep the pipes clear of hair, soap, grease, and so on.
To maintain a smooth flowing drain, run very hot water down it for a minute or two, once a week. This will clear small amounts of grease and soap and it prevents build-up.
When a sink clogs up, first figure out where the blockage might be. It could be anywhere along the three main sections of a household drain system:
1. In the fixture drain,
2. In the drain stack that serves multiple fixtures, or
3. In the main sewer line that carries waste out of the house.
Usually the problem will be close to a fixture, because the drainpipe and trap near a fixture are narrower than the stack and main sewer lines they tie into. To verify that the clog is near the fixture, check other drains in your home. If more than one won't clear, then something is stuck in a drain stack. If none of the drains work, then the problem is farther down the line, probably in the main sewer line.
Plunging sinks with more than one drain
When plunging a double sink, it's best to have a helper block up one of the drain holes by pressing a wet rag firmly into it, while you plunge the other drain hole.
Clean the strainer
Clearing a sink may involve nothing more than removing the strainer or stopper from the drain opening. Push the stopper up, and pull away any soap, hair, food matter, or other debris that may clog the opening or be dangling down into the drain.
Plunge the sink
A good old-fashioned plunger uses water pressure to blast out obstructions and suction to bring stuff up. The plunger's rubber cup must seal tightly around the drain opening. Water in the sink helps create a seal; rubbing petroleum jelly on the plunger rim also helps. Stuff a rag into any openings, such as an overflow outlet. Push and pull rapidly with the plunger.
Auger the sink
If plunging doesn't work, fit an auger down the drain. Cranking the auger handle rotates a stiff spring that bores through a stubborn blockage. Augering may push blockage through, or it may snag something so you can pull it up and out.
Janice Anderssen is Women24's Decor and DIY expert. Ask her a question here or visit www.homedzine.co.za for more tips.