How to Deal with a Stubborn Clog

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap  —  May 1, 2012 — 8 Comments

File this under things I never thought would actually work. Nicholas is not typically the “ideas” person in our house. I’m the one dreaming up schemes and projects, and he’s the one making sure dinner gets on the table every night. It takes a lot for me to talk him into trying new things or delving into projects. But nothing motivates that man like the thought of saving money.

Almost two weeks ago our sink got clogged up. We tried plunging it ourselves to no avail, so we called in our brother in law, who gave plunging another go before tackling it with a twenty-foot pipe snake. No luck. We started asking around for plumber recommendations, but people kept giving us do-it-yourself tips, and Nick hated the idea of hiring an expensive plumber so badly that he kept trying them, all the while washing dishes in the bathtub every night.

We tried everything, from baking soda and vinegar to boiling water to renting a power auger, which is what you see pictured below. We couldn’t get the dang thing in more than a foot or so thanks to what we can only hypothesize is a sharp curve in the pipe so it was a total bust. There went about fifty bucks down the drain, though not literally because nothing was going down our actual drain.

After that I pretty much told Nick he needed to suck it up and call a plumber, but then a guy that he works with got in his ear and gave him the stupidest idea I’d ever heard of. He said to feed a garden hose into the pipe going directly into the wall, stuff a wet rag around the hose and then turn it on full blast. I thought this was a recipe for disaster, and I wanted nothing to do with it. I was picturing the stream of water from the hose hitting the clog and backing up all over our kitchen before we could turn the water off.

Although I was registered in opposition to this plan, I agreed to help by standing outside and turning the hose on and off. Nick had prepped the are with plenty of towels and a big pot to catch any water. Even though I was pretty grouchy about it I couldn’t help but be a little charmed by the hopeful enthusiasm I could hear in his voice. He had me turn the water on full blast and let it run for a few minutes, then turn it off, then repeat three or four times. I wasn’t inside to see what was happening, but Nick said that when I first turned the water on a good bit would back up through the rag, but he was easily able to catch it in the pot. As the water kept running the amount of water flowing backwards would dwindle. He’d have me turn it off, wait a few minutes for the pressure to subside, then give it another try. With each attempt the water would flow more freely into the pipe. After four times I told him my back was aching and I was done standing outside by the hose, so he put the pipes back together and do you know what??? IT WORKED. OMG I cannot believe it actually worked. Nick turned the tap on and water actually ran DOWN THE DRAIN. We ran the dishwasher and it didn’t back up into the sink. It was amazing.

So it turns out that sometimes husbands are right. Who would have thought? I was definitely eating crow last night, but I was so happy to have a functional kitchen sink again that I didn’t mind. Moral of the story: sometimes it’s worth taking a risk on a last ditch effort. Has something that sounded like a terrible idea ever worked for you?

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap

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8 responses to How to Deal with a Stubborn Clog

  1. Wow. I have never heard of this. I would be similarly terrified of this plan. Hopefully the drain stays open.

    So do you think it was a single large clog that finally got flushed out, or was it just a bunch of small gunk and buildup that had choked things off a little too much?

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap May 2, 2012 at 8:36 am

      That, Reuben, will remain one of the great mysteries of home ownership. I have no idea what was going on in there, I’m just glad that it’s over!

  2. Yeah! Pressure, Pressure, Pressure! and a good bit of patience! Hope that it stays unclogged.

  3. Men do have good ideas sometimes, who knew? Actually mine is pretty handy. This is a great idea. I sure wouldn’t have thought of it. Jim and I plumbed our whole house ourselves, and yes, the marriage survived. We had a major breakdown and wet crawlspace about 2 years after the original job, but fixed it ourselves and all is well on the homefront now. Oh, I think the vinegar-baking soda thing is prevention, not cure. You might try it later.

  4. Hey, Charlotte. Read your article on your clogged pipe and it reminded me of a super simple little tool that works just like the wet rag around the hose, except better and it’s designed for just such applications. It’s called a drain cleaning bladder. It works for pipes from 1-6″, you can find it at most hardware stores for $5-10 and it’s reusable. The best part is how simple it is to use, just connect it to the hose, stick it in the pipe and turn the water on. The rubber bladder expands to fit the pipe, preventing backflow, and a small hole at the end shoots out pressurized water to bust the clog!

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