How to clear out a blocked water main (with photos, dumb luck and exaggerated hopes)

Nobody wants a blocked water main.  Every now and again, homeowners will suffer from plumbing issues.  We all hope that the issues are simple and small, such as a clogged sink or a stopped-up toilet, but sometimes, it’s just a bit more complex with that.  It doesn’t mean that you have to run to the nearest plumber and beg for help.  Most household drainage issues can be tackled by the brave at heart.
Today was supposed to be a day of laundry and kitchen scrubbing, and we had gotten underway with a full head of steam.  Until, that was, we realized that the soothing rush of a nearby waterfall was a virtual impossibility considering we were both indoors and sans waterfall.  The first load of laundry was draining for the spin cycle and rushing out from underneath the washing machine.  Jay was quick to act and shut off the machine, and I rushed in with towels to sop the mess up off of the hardwood floors.  We assumed, and with good reason, that the 23 year old washer/dryer combo had finally gone to the great appliance graveyard in the sky.  That was, until, I opened the shower curtain to ring out the sodden towels.  
What an unholy mess that was.  I won’t go into graphic detail, but suffice to say, having your sewage drain back up into your shower?  Less than ideal.  To test the theory once and for all, I ran the bathroom sink.  In less than a minute, it was burbling up from the shower drain.  Here’s how we fixed it.
First, go and get yourself some industrial strength drain cleaner.  I’m not talking about Draino- no matter how “professional strength” they claim to be.  I’m talking about the stuff that’s basically condensed sulfuric acid.
Don’t mess around with this stuff.  It will burn you.
Read the directions through and actually do as you’re told.  It’s chemistry class in your bathroom, so gloves and protective eye gear are a must.  It is an acid, so it can have a tendency to be a bit volatile when being poured into the drain, so wear long sleeves and use care.  Then cover the drain with a lid to prevent acid burps.  Also, don’t inhale, or this will happen…
… giving your nearest and dearest time to reward you for your stupidity.
It’s adorable on him, bur probably not so much on you.
Now it’s time to play the waiting game.  Follow the directions and wait for the appropriate length of time.  Then give things a checking on- has the backed up water drained down at all?  If you run water, does it continue to burble forth into lower drains, such as your tub?  If not, congratulations!  You get to scrub everything clean!   If you’re still swamped, it’s time to snake the drains.
Go and find a drain snake.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy- the kind with the hand crank will do nicely, but if it’s also the kind that you can attach to your electric drill, all the better.  Hook it up and snake it down the recommended drain.  Push it until you find the clog, and then crank away.  It will break up the blockage by scrambling everything around.  Then you pull the snake free and clean it off, repeating the process until the drain is clear.  Think of it like fishing.  But with a less pleasant prize on the end of your pole.  It’s a simple enough process, although probably best left to those with strong stomachs.  
Now, normally the above instruction is how it’s done.  But in this house, nothing is ever quite what it seems, so Jay donned the gear and poured the acid into the drain nearest (or so we assumed) to the clog.  
Jay is armored and ready for battle.
We waited well past the specified time, but the water still burbled.  The garage proved to be snakeless, so Jay went back out to purchase a drain snake.  When he came back, the drain had magically cleared itself.  Mind you, it had been almost four hours from when the drainer acid went in to the triumphant return from the store with a snake, and all of a sudden, the drain is clear??  Um.. yeah… I just don’t trust it.  But the water ran, and we cleaned the shower.  We checked the washer connections and began the load again, watching it like a hawk.  Nothing happened.
Jay feels as though he’s purchased the snake for nothing, and I feel like this house is Lucy, holding the football steady and promising again and again that this time, she won’t pull it away.  The great news is that at the end of the night, we didn’t have to snake the drain.  The better news is that when this house decides to pull its next prank, we will be ready with the new snake.  We had considered returning it, but are both convinced that the moment it goes back, the house will laugh its evil laughter and all hell will break loose.  :p
So, at the end of the day, laundry has just officially been started, and we’re wary of running the sink at the same time.  Yanno… just in case.  I guess that means we are leaving the dishes for tomorrow?
About Pea Kay

Pea Kay, otherwise known as Tonks, The Unhinged Knitter, moonlights at night as an infamous Cupcake Warrior. To learn more about what she does, visit the core pages of!

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