Many newer homes have an end cap on the outside wall of the kitchen and you can run your garden hose down there. If you have an older home you can still use this method you'll just have to remove the strainer from the drain you are trying to unclog inside the house.
Either way, run your garden hose down the drain and then stuff it with wet rags to fill up the drain. Then have someone else turn on the water full blast and let it run for just a couple of seconds and then quickly turn the water off. Do this three or four times then remove the rags and hose to see if your clog has cleared.
If the hose trick doesn't work you can try an adapter that you can get at your local hardware store or home center. A firm rubber adapter attaches to the end of your garden hose. As the water fills up the rubber part of the adapter expands to blast the clog away. Again pack down the drain and have someone turn on the water.
With a homemade plumbers snake you may actually save yourself the cost of a plumber coming out to your home.
It's important to keep in mind that if after a few attempts you still can't get the clog loose, turn the job over to a professional plumber. If you exert too much force on your pipes you can ruin the system.
Here are some more tips we found for you when it comes to clearing your drain!
If you stock up on the right tools now, before the clog shows up, you will stand a better chance of sending it on its way before it gets too big.
In a previous Quick Tip we talked about using the plunger when the water stops flowing in the kitchen sink. Plungers can also be used on tubs and toilets as well. For clogs that are located deeper into the plumbing you can use a "snake", a long flexible steel cable that is wound on a spool with a hand crank. You can get these in various lengths but a 25-foot model should work well for most household clogs. There is also a "closet auger" which is like a snake but is built specifically for toilets. The closet auger has no spool but a rigid shaft bent at the correct angles to go through a toilet trap.
Unclogging the sink.
Most sink clogs can be cleared with a plunger. Fill the sink with some water and go to work. If it is a double sink you need to keep the stopper in the opposite side so the pressure doesn't just come out the other sink, but gets directed right to the clog. If you can't find the stopper just put some wet rags in the drain of the other sink. And for extra suction on the plunger, coat the rim with petroleum jelly. However, the petroleum jelly can get messy.
If it's a bath sink, the wet rag trick will work for the overflow sink as well.
If a plunger doesn't work then it's time to bring in the plumber's snake. Go under the sink and take the trap off with a pipe wrench. You will want to have a pail or bucket under the trap when you do this as water is going to come out. It won't hurt to have a few old towels around either! Two large nuts should be holding a "U" shaped pipe at the bottom. If your pipes are plastic (really PVC) you may be able to take these nuts off by hand. Check the "U" shaped trap to make sure the clog isn't right in there, it might be! If it is, your problem is solved! However chances are, the clog is deeper into the drain system. In that case, take the horizontal arm coming from the wall and remove it. You may have to loosen another nut to do this. Now take your drain snake and push it into the opening until you feel resistance.
Pull out another foot and a half of cable. Tighten the locking screw down and start to push it into the opening while turning the crank handle to the right (clockwise). You may have to repeat this; a foot and a half at a time until you feel your snake break through. When you do, put the trap back together and run hot water down the drain. If it backs up it means that parts of the original clog may have become lodged again further down the drain, but this can usually be pushed out with a plunger. Try running some water into the sink, plugging the overflow if needed, and plunging to clear the loose secondary clog.
For Clogs in the Tub!
Bathtubs usually start running slower and slower before backing up. If yours has a screen over the drain remove the screw holding it on and take it off. Use a bent piece of coat hanger or other wire to fish out any hair and other debris that may be slowing or stopping the drain. You may be surprised at just how much hair ends up stuck in the drain!
If you have a pop up drain, move the lever to raise it and try pulling it right out. If that doesn't help, run a bit of water in the tub and start with the old reliable plunger. You need to stuff a wet cloth into the opening at the bottom of the overflow plate or the plunger's force will just come out there. If the plunger didn't work it's time to try the snake, but this time try to feed it in through the overflow plate. Two screws usually hold this in place, and when you pull it out, the mechanism to open and close the drain will come out with it.
Feed about 3 feet of cable down through the opening, turning the crank to the right as you go. This will feel tight because you are working the cable through the 's' shaped trap under the floor. Once you have worked through that, pull the cable back out, turning to the left if needed, and try running water down the drain.
As with the sink, broken pieces of the clog can re-clog loosely further down the drain, so you may need to plug the overflow and go back to the plunger to finish. Reassemble the overflow and drain screen and you are through.
Taking care of the toilet!
Toilets usually clog in the fixtures built in trap, so a closet auger only has about 3 feet of cable. Sometimes a plunger will work, if not, place the auger in the toilet with the upturned tip going into the drain and push down as you crank to the right. After you feel the cable snake through the trap and you have pushed all the cable through, crank to the left and pull it back out. Try flushing the toilet. If it is still slow you may need to repeat. You can turn the tool to work the cable more to the right or more to the left to try to work out all of a big clog.
What if All the Drains Are Stopped?
If everything in the house backs up, your main drain going out of the house, or the drain between the house and the sewer (or septic tank) is possibly clogged. If you have a septic tank, you may have to call in the pros to clean it out. If it is the main drain in the house, there is usually a clean-out at the farthest end of the drain, a plug that lets you feed an auger in without going through any traps. You find this in the basement or crawlspace. You will probably need to rent a power auger for this project. Electric augers are big with a lot of cable. If auguring the maindrain in the house doesn't help, then auguring the drain from the house to the outside would be next. There is usually a clean-out just below the point where the main drain leaves the house. Remove the cap and start auguring again. When using a power auger you won't be cranking, so you won't feel resistance when you get to the clog. You will hear the motor start to slow, and that is when you need to reverse the motor and back out, going back and forth till you cut through the clog. This is a messy, smelly job, and you may want to call a licensed pro for this. If you have a septic tank, you can't tell if the drain is clogged or if you need the tank pumped out, but the smart bet is the tank will need cleaning first. If you have a drain going out to a municipal sewer, you may want to check with neighbors to see if anyone else is having trouble, it could be in the city's drains at the street.
REMEMBER: Use gloves and goggles to avoid contact with bacteria and chemical drain cleaners. Cleaners can be harsh to the skin and damage eyes. Don't use a chemical drain cleaner before trying mechanical methods first.