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#1
Old 11-03-2005, 06:36 PM
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Bathtub Clog: Drano or Snake?

We've got a clog in our 2nd floor bathtub. The water isn't moving at all. This happens every couple of years due to buildup of hair, dirt, etc. I normally use Drano to unclog it. It works great.

So today my wife went to pick up some Drano and bumped into a plumber who began talking to her. He warned her that we shouldn't use Drano. He said that since the house is over 40 years old, the pipes can't withstand the acid from Drano, and they will eventually leak. He said that we would need to use a snake.

He offered to come and do it for $50, if it's an easy job. He'll let us know if it's more complicated.

Is he correct, or should I just go ahead and use the Drano?
#2
Old 11-03-2005, 06:56 PM
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Location: Philadelphia
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Drano can cause real problems. My plumber buddy tells me it can seiously corrode older pipes and solder. I guess it would also cause havoc on pvc pipes. The best way to unclog a tub, if you have access, is a garden hose (I run one up the side of the house and in the bathroom window). Stick the house in the drain, seal around it as best you can with a rag, and have your assistant turn on the water. It works great. Vigorous plunging can also do a pretty good job. Snakes, IMHO can be a pain in the ass, they always seem to be getting snagged on something, but I'd use a snake before Drano!
#3
Old 11-03-2005, 07:01 PM
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I always heard about plumbers "snaking" your pipes and assumed it was complicated and required special equipment. One day I was in Home Depot and saw a 6 foot snake for $7 and longer ones for a little more. I bought one and have used it three times successfully since then. They are actually kind of fun and satisfying to use if not a little gross.
#4
Old 11-03-2005, 07:01 PM
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Re-reading the OP I would definitely not pay a plumber $50 to snake my drain. A snake costs @ $25, and will last a lifetime (though don't use it in the toilet, it'll scratch the porcelain. Toilet snakes have a plastic cover to avoid this). I'd try the hose, plunger, than buy a snake.
That plumber probably lurks the Drano aisle all day.
#5
Old 11-03-2005, 07:07 PM
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I did use mine on the toilet twice and there isn't a scratch to be found. The snake doesn't come out of the L shaped tube until it is down the pipe where you can't see. YMMV.
#6
Old 11-03-2005, 07:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shagnasty
I did use mine on the toilet twice and there isn't a scratch to be found. The snake doesn't come out of the L shaped tube until it is down the pipe where you can't see. YMMV.
That's because you have a toilet snake. That L-shaped tube is the plasic cover I was referring to. Regular snakes don't have that.
#7
Old 11-03-2005, 10:24 PM
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Former drain cleaner here.

One of the best ways to unclog a tub is to unscrew the overflow/stopper handle that's located close to the top of the tub (two screws).

When you pull it out usually a long rod with a stopper dangling at the bottom is attached. Sometimes there's globs of hair caught right there and all you have to do is clean it off.

If not, then fill the tub up three or four inches and shove a sopping wet rag into the overflow hole that had the stopper thing in it and Plunge the tub until your arms are numb. The rag helps to stop the air you're plunging into the drain from escaping. As you do this check the drain for gobs of hair and dig it out.

The only risk is that if it's an old house with lead piping there's a (small) chance your pipes won't handle that well.

Older houses (at least here in Phila.) have what are called drum traps on bathtubs and there's no way you can snake the drain without doing it from the drum trap, which is located (usually in a closet) behind the tub. The lid unscrews like a jelly jar.

$50.00 dollars is cheap for a drain cleaning. We charged $85.00 four years ago.

For those who like to use your own snakes.... I've had alot of fun getting those unstuck from peoples drains.
#8
Old 11-04-2005, 01:40 AM
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Draino is for pussies! Why not jump up and join the game? Pitch in and pull for the big win!

Red Devil Lye!

Comes with bonus instructions how to make your own soap right on the side of the container.
#9
Old 11-04-2005, 11:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Black Train Song
Older houses (at least here in Phila.) have what are called drum traps on bathtubs and there's no way you can snake the drain without doing it from the drum trap, which is located (usually in a closet) behind the tub. The lid unscrews like a jelly jar.
I'm pretty sure that's what we have. Thanks everyone.
#10
Old 11-04-2005, 12:19 PM
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I work in rental property management, and I belong to the Anti-Drano Marching Brigade. DO NOT USE IT! It doesn't work very well, can damage your pipes and your skin, and what can do you when your plumbing has a pool of corrosive liquid in it? Plumbers change much more if they have to unclog a fixture with Drano in it.

A snake is relatively cheap, safe to use, and will last a lifetime.
#11
Old 11-04-2005, 01:03 PM
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If this is a regular thing, here's what I'd do...

Use the damn drano.

Then, I'd work toward keeping the pipes clean in the future. They make hair traps for bathtubs, get oen of those and you'll practically elminiate your hair problem.

Every so often, run some hot bleach through the pipes (unless you have a septic tank, b/c that would be bad for it). They also make enzymatic cleaners for your pipes like RID-X which clean the buildup out of your pipes. Keeping the pipes clean will remove the need to use DRANO in the future.
#12
Old 11-04-2005, 04:37 PM
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What about a good old-fashioned plunger?

I've had success with these in the past. Sometimes all it takes is to push the offending material through a bottleneck and everything is flowing again.

Last edited by TubaDiva; 11-15-2005 at 09:44 PM.
#13
Old 11-05-2005, 05:15 AM
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One of the curses of long, curly hair was constant bathtub clogs. I bought one of those little screens that sit over the drain, but it would never stay in place. Eventually, I had a hell of a clog that I had tried repeatedly to free using Drano and plunging.

What it took was *a lot* of plunging. Seriously, I think I worked on it for a good 30 minutes, just constantly going at it until I heard the indescribable but immediately recognizable sound of the clog clearing, and then kept at it for 5 minutes more. Followed with probably an hour of flushing the cleared drain with hot water to make sure everything had cleared the pipes. That was probably overdoing it, but after having lived with a slow drain for a couple of months, I was going to make damn sure it was gone.

My kitchen sink also had a bad habit of backing up, even though I was pretty diligent about not washing stuff down the drain. I think somebody dropped something like a butter knife or something down the drain at some point, making it more prone to clogging. Eventually I got pretty damn good at using my hand as a plunger (don't know how to describe this, really... I would just lay my hand flat over the drain, and move the center of my hand up and down without lifting the sides of my hand off the surface of the sink). To this day, there hasn't been a sink drain I couldn't clear with my hand.
#14
Old 11-05-2005, 08:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TellMeI'mNotCrazy
One of the curses of long, curly hair was constant bathtub clogs. I bought one of those little screens that sit over the drain, but it would never stay in place. Eventually, I had a hell of a clog that I had tried repeatedly to free using Drano and plunging.
DO NOT under ANY circumstances use Drano and then plunge. Adding lye to water increases the temperature to above boiling and makes it extremely corrosive. You don't want that lye-water mixture to back up into your sink.

Try putting washing soda and hot water down a clogged drain. Often that is enough to clear it. Then plunge if needed.
#15
Old 11-05-2005, 08:44 AM
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Sorry - I meant to clarify that they were separate efforts. Absolutely correct, though, that plunging after Drano is a Very Bad IdeaTM
#16
Old 11-05-2005, 04:40 PM
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WARNING: Never use a plunger on a tub drain!
The seal is right under the drain, and may blow out before the clog moves.
If it does, it will leak into the subfloor and create massive, often hidden, damage.
Or it may flood the ceiling of the floor below every time you shower.
#17
Old 11-05-2005, 11:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pocelene
WARNING: Never use a plunger on a tub drain!
The seal is right under the drain, and may blow out before the clog moves.
If it does, it will leak into the subfloor and create massive, often hidden, damage.
Or it may flood the ceiling of the floor below every time you shower.
Working on any second floor plumbing fixture is tricky but seals on tub drains are no different than seals on any other drains.

The only time I've seen problems were with lead pipes because they're so fragile. But to tell you the truth you'll have more luck plunging a lead line than trying to remove a cover from a "drum trap" because lead is soft and if you use a wrench, instead of turning off the lid many times you'll actually twist the lead pipes until they leak.

About "drano": It does tend to loosen dirt and grime from the walls of pipes but after the pipe's already clogged it ends up only piling on more scum to the clog. For anyone who wants to help youwith your problem it makes it a little hard if their skin falls off every time they go near your tub.
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