Why You Probably Shouldn't Clear a Drain Yourself

March 29, 2019

There is nothing more frustrating than a blocked kitchen drain or toilet late on a Saturday night. Suddenly you are faced with the dilemma of either attempting to fix the problem yourself or calling in a professional plumber and paying the extra cost of a weekend service call.

Most homeowners opt for the first option and attempt to fix the problem themselves. Homeowners assume that they can save money by doing a DIY drain cleaning job, but you could easily end up with a more serious and expensive problem on your hands. You really should think twice before attempting to unblock your own drains.

DIY Drain Cleaning Just Doesn’t Cut It

Over time all sorts of household waste, including food, hair, bits of paper towel, cotton wool and various other strange items that should not be there, finds its way from your kitchen sink into your drain, and eventually, the drain becomes completely blocked. Most homeowners underestimate how serious a blocked drain can be and make the mistake of thinking that unclogging the drain will be a quick and easy DIY job.

Adding to this misconception is the fact that most retailers and hardware stores sell home drain cleaning products that appear to be perfect for eliminating blockages, but this is not necessarily the case. Depending on the severity of the blockage, these off the shelf drain cleaners may not be sufficient to get the job done. And then of courses there are all the usual home remedies passed on from older generations, including using anything from boiling water to a cup of vinegar or a cup of baking soda to clear the blockage, but if a chemical drain cleaner isn’t going to solve the problem, vinegar and baking soda most certainly won’t work any better. If it really was that simple to rid your drain of a blockage, no one would ever again need the services of a plumber to clear a clogged drain.

Plumbing Snakes and Drain Rods Can Add To Your Problems

Many DIY enthusiasts own a plumbing snake or a set of domestic drain rods and these are popular tools for unblocking clogged drains, but using one of these tools can be disastrous, especially in older houses with galvanised pipes. The plumbing snake can easily scrape the sides of the pipes and create small cracks. Eventually, these scrapes and scratches will cause the pipes to burst and create a whole new set of problems for the homeowner.

Domestic drain rods are unfortunately not as robust as professional ones and often come apart while you are unclogging the drain, resulting in a rod or two remaining stuck in your pipes. You will then have to call a professional plumber to unblock the drain and use a specialist tool and drain camera to get the rods out again. In extreme cases, the pipes may have to be dug up to remove the rods. This is a far more expensive exercise than calling the plumber out on a Saturday night to unclog your drain.

Chemical Drain Cleaners Can Be Dangerous

Homeowners who don’t have a plumbing snake or drain rods will usually reach for the most powerful chemical drain cleaner on the shelf when they are confronted by a clogged drain. But this can be dangerous as many chemical drain cleaners are extremely powerful and can corrode more than just the waste blocking the drain. If not used correctly, household drain cleaners can destroy the pipelining and damage the structural integrity of your pipes, causing irreparable damage to your property.

In other cases, drain cleaners only provide a temporary solution to a bigger problem. If the drain cleaner does not totally eradicate the blockage, the drain will quickly become blocked again and you will be back where you started. Drain cleaners are also potentially dangerous and, if not handled correctly, can cause respiratory irritations, chemical burns, and serious health problems.

Drains Are Breeding Grounds For Bacteria

A drain clogged with toilet paper can cause a sewage backup, and this is the last thing you want in your home. Not only does it create an unpleasant smell, but it is also a health hazard. Many types of bacteria are found in bathroom basins, toilets and sink drains and these can pose serious health risks if you try to unclog a drain without the proper drain cleaning products and appropriate safety equipment, including goggles, PVC gloves, and a mask. The bacteria found in drains can cause E. coli and salmonella and putrefying matter produces methane, carbon monoxide and ammonia, which can be particularly overpowering and even dangerous in confined spaces.

Underestimating The Extent Of The Problem

When faced with a sink that is draining slowly or an unpleasant smell that is coming from your pipes most homeowners assume that they have a blocked drain and that it can quickly be sorted out with a good dose of chemical drain cleaner. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. There are many reasons why drains become blocked or smell bad and without the correct plumbing advice and equipment, like water jet cutting and smoke testing, it can be difficult and time-consuming to determine the exact nature of the problem or locate the blockage.

In older houses, the source of the problem could be a build-up of grime and solid waste in your pipes or it could be a combination of problems, including pipes that are too narrow or have too many bends. But regardless of what is causing the drains to become clogged, it is usually not a good idea to try and solve the problem yourself. Rather call in a professional plumber to deal with your clogged drains, even if it is on a Saturday night and it costs a bit extra. The money that you spend on a professional plumber is potentially far less than what you could end up spending if your home DIY drain cleaning attempt goes horribly wrong and you damage the entire plumbing system of your house.

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