You know the uh-oh signs of a clogged drain—water moves through the sink, shower or tub drain at a snail's pace, or just sits there in a sad, little pools. Even worse, foul odors emerge from down under, a warning that hair, soap and heavens-knows-what are coating pipes and forming clogs.
You can pour caustic chemicals down the tubes, which will corrode plumbing over time; invest about $50 in a mechanical drain snake; or pay a plumber $50 to $450 (gasp!) to bust up the clog. But before you resort to those extreme methods, try these clog-busting hacks with items that already live in your pantry or junk drawer.
1. Yes, Wire Hangers!
Untwist and straighten a wire hanger, then grab a needle-nose pliers, and bend the straight tip into a little hook.
Remove the drain stopper or cover, and push the hanger into the drain. When you reach the clog, twist and pull the hanger, which will dislodge the gunk.
2. The Vinegar Solution
Vinegar is made from acetic acid. Add a little olive oil, and it's great on a garden salad; mix distilled white vinegar with baking soda, and it fizzles into a drain cleaner that eats away soft clogs.
Bring a tea kettle full of water to a boil, and pour all but a cup down the clogged drain. Add 1/3 cup of baking soda to the drain, and let sit for 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of vinegar to the cup of leftover boiling water, and pour down the drain. The vinegar/baking soda mixture will fizz and break up the clot. After 20 minutes, flush the drain with another pot of boiling water.
3. The Salt Solution
It's the same theory as the vinegar solution, except you substitute ½ cup of salt. Mix the salt with a ½ cup of baking soda, and pour down the drain. Let it sit for 20 minutes, then pour boiling water down the drain. Presto, the clog has vanished.
4. Add a little zip
You know those plastic zip ties you've got laying around? With a little doctoring, you can turn them into great clog grabbers.
Attach two or three zip ties end-to-end. With a wire cutter, snip tiny, diagonal slits in both sides, then gently bend the tips with a pliers to create barbs, which will grab the gunk. Feed the ties into the drain, twist and pump to hook the clog, then reel it in. (Try not to gag when you see all the hair and scum it brings up.)
5. Suck it up
Wet vacs have a hefty suck that can vacuum up loose clogs. If your wet vac has a drain attachment—Shop Vac has a $10 gizmo called a Drain Hero—all the better. Follow directions, and wait for the clog to dislodge. If you don't have a Hero, just fit the nozzle over or into the drain, turn on the machine, and clog-be-gone.
The best way to handle a clog, is to prevent one from forming. You can install a mesh screen over your shower drain, which will prevent hair from invading your plumbing. And after each use of shower or sink task, run a few seconds of hot water, which will prevent scummy buildup from forming.