December 18, 2022
Water Quality in Sacramento, CA

5 Ways Plumbers Can Clear Your Blocked Drains

Clogged and slow-moving drains can cause a host of problems in your Sacramento, California home. From filling your sinks, tubs, and shower pans with harmful pathogens to pervading your living environment with foul odors, blocked drains are certainly no fun. Fortunately, there are several ways in which plumbing professionals can clear drain blockages fast. Following are five professional drain cleaning methods that just might save the day.

1. High-Pressure Water Jetting

Absent of drain covers, open drains can let just about anything into your plumbing system. In uncovered drains that are large enough, toothbrushes, toys, and other hard, non-degradable items can get lodged. Even when drains are covered, large masses of soft materials that are meant to quickly break down can accumulate and cause problems. Hair, soap scum, grease, body oils, and even buildups of mucus can all impede the flow of water over time.

Before treating them, plumbers carefully assess clogged drains to get a better idea of what their underlying causes may be. There are multiple ways to clear blocked drains and some work better in certain instances than others. Hydro-jetting, or high-pressure water jetting, is a non-invasive technique that plumbers use when blockages extend down into the connected pipes. It’s safe, environmentally friendly, and capable of removing just about everything, including:

  • Mineral deposits
  • Clumps of hair
  • Buildups of “flushable wipes”

During hydro-jetting, a hosepipe is inserted into the blocked drain. This is connected to a powerful nozzle that forces water into the drain at pressures as high as 35,000 PSI. With hydro-jetting, it’s possible for plumbers to penetrate clogs in long drainpipes. In fact, this technique can even be used to remove blockages in older clay pipes in building exteriors that have been infiltrated by weeds and relatively small tree roots.

However, hydro-jetting isn’t recommended for blockages in pipes that are getting along in age. If your pipes are nearing the end of their lifespan and you have a blockage that needs to be cleared, your plumber may recommend a drain cleaning method that uses a lot less pressure and force.

2. Air Burst Drain Cleaning

Hydro-jetting works fast. Air burst drain cleaning provides comparable results and can resolve many of the same clogs that hydro-jetting can without undermining the integrity of older pipes. With air burst or pipe burst drain cleaning, carbon dioxide or another accelerated gas is used to dislodge and break down tough clogs. Air burst drain cleaning works well on soap scum, hair, mineral deposits, food, and other organic materials. However, it’s not the best choice for clearing drains at the property exterior that are blocked by tough tree roots or other invasive growths.

3. Drain Snaking

Drain snakes are simple yet effective tools for clearing drains that have been blocked by buildups of hair, soap scum, and relatively pliable organic materials. If you’re often standing in several inches of water when you take a shower, this is a sign of poor drain maintenance. Slow-moving drains are an indication that buildups on the sidewalls of pipes have greatly reduced the speed at which water is able to flow. A drain snake can instantly strip these buildups of matter away.

Drain snakes are long, flexible tools that have a one-quarter-inch diameter. On one end, they have a sharp corkscrew that gets inserted into blocked drains. On the other, they have a simple hand crank. Some models even have electrical cranks. When a drain snake’s crank is turned, the length of the snake makes its way through the blocked pipe and cores out or scrapes away softer build-ups. When drain snakes encounter hard, immovable, and non-malleable items, alternative drain cleaning methods must be used.

It’s important to note that when drain cleaning is neglected for too long, it’s often a job that must be handled by a professional. There’s also the fact that you can never be too sure about what you’re attempting to push through, clear, or break up. For instance, if your drain is blocked by a hard, plastic toy or toothbrush, snaking it will only compound your problem. Attempting to clear massive or stubborn buildups in drains with a snake can force serious blockages deeper into your plumbing system. Thus, although you might have a drain snake of your own, it’s always best to call a plumber instead. Plumbers can tell when drain snaking is the right technique to use.

4. Camera Inspections

Plumbers aren’t psychic. Although there are tell-tale signs that can let plumbers know what type of blockage a homeowner is experiencing, these professionals also have diagnostic tools that eliminate all guesswork. Camera line inspections are one way in which plumbers can reliably choose the perfect drain cleaning method for each situation.

Gravity lies behind the functioning of sewer pipes. These pipes are installed at an incline so that wastewater and the organic debris it carries flow downhill. Everything that leaves your drains travels through your pipes and eventually winds up in your septic tank or at the water treatment facility in your area. One of the biggest jobs of camera inspections is simply determining whether or not this system is working as it should. Camera inspections give plumbers an “inside look” that allows them to spot things like broken pipes, invasive tree roots, mud, and other stoppages.

During these inspections, tiny yet highly advanced cameras are fed through the pipes until the source of a blockage is encountered. Although a camera inspection won’t clear your drain, it will tell you exactly where a blockage lies, what it’s made of, and the least invasive way to get rid of it.

5. Drain Cleaning Solutions

It isn’t common for plumbers to recommend or use chemical drain cleaning products, but they are available and there are times when they serve as worthwhile solutions. Most drain cleaners are either corrosive or highly acidic. They’re designed to eat through buildups of organic debris. Unfortunately, when they’re used incorrectly or in the wrong instances, they can also eat their way through plumbing features.

Enzymatic drain cleaning solutions are less problematic in this respect. Rather than acids or other corrosive materials, they use enzymes to gradually break minor blockages down and prevent them from recurring. However, whereas drain snaking, hydro-jetting, and other like measures work almost instantly, enzymatic drain cleaners can take days.

There are certainly other reasons to avoid purchasing and using store-bought drain cleaners rather than letting a plumber tackle the problem for you. Stubborn clogs will keep these corrosive substances trapped in one section of your pipes indefinitely and may need to be baled out. Worse still, these products can also cause serious injuries to the eyes, skin, and airways. Even simply breathing their fumes in is a bad idea. Only a licensed plumber can determine if and when drain cleaning solutions are a good choice. More importantly, only a licensed plumber can select the right products for your system and apply them in a completely safe and effective way.

For more than 30 years, Gallagher's Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning has been proudly serving residents of Sacramento, California and the greater Northern Valley. We offer heater and air conditioner installation, maintenance, and repair services. We also provide duct cleaning, indoor air quality, and plumbing services. If you’ve got blocked drains, slow-moving drains, or pervasive drain odors, we’ve got solutions. Give us a call today!

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