Slow or Stopped Drains

Five Ways to Fix a Slow Sink Drain

Overflowing bathroom sink

Adam Gault/Getty Images

A slow, sluggish sink drain is a very common plumbing problem. The bathroom sinkis the one most frequently afflicted with this particular problem, and several things can contribute to a slow sink drain. Often the pop-up that is used to stop up the sink can collect a lot of hair and debris because the sink is used on a daily basis. Also, soap and other products that are washed down the drain can slowly collect in the drain pipes. The build-up that naturally collects over time reduces the size of the drain, effectively slowing the progress of draining water. This drainage issue happens naturally over time and usually cannot be avoided. The only solution is to clean the drain periodically to keep it flowing.

There are several ways to address a drainage problem, as outlined here.

Clear Out Debris With a Zip-It Tool

Zip-it tool

Amazon

The first step to getting the sink drain flowing again is to clear out any hair and debris that has collected there. One quite easy way to do this is to use the Zip-it tool, an inexpensive tool that works wonders in just minutes. The Zip-it tool can be put into the drain to catch hair and debris, which can then be pulled out. The Zip-it can be used in a sink drain with or without a pop-up because it is thin enough to fit in the drain even with a pop-up in place.

Remove the Pop-up

Pop-up bathtub drain

Jack Hollingsworth/Getty Images

The shape of the sink pop-up is such that it often collects debris and build-up. If you do not have a Zip-it tool, or if the tool was not able to clear out all debris, another option is to remove the pop-up and clean it out. Most pop-ups are held in place with a nut attached to the drain just under the sink. To remove the pop-up reach behind the drain pipe under the sink to find the pop-up nut. Once the nut is removed, the pop-up can be pulled out of the sink drain, cleaned, and then reinstalled.

Clear the Sink Overflow
Sink with overflow drain circled

 Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

One purpose of the overflow opening is to divert water into the drain if it accidentally rises too high in the sink, of course. But another important purpose is to allow air into the drain when the sink is filled with water. The air that comes into the drain through the overflow helps water in the sink to drain faster. The sink overflow is another place where debris and build-up can collect over time. If a sink is draining slowly and cleaning the drain does not seem to solve the problem, it is a good idea to clean the overflow as well.

Use Homemade Drain Cleaner
Foaming drain cleaner in a sink

Image Source/Getty Images

A mild homemade drain cleaner can be used to clean the drain pipes after the larger debris has been pulled out. The reaction caused by combining two common and inexpensive household products can help to break down the mucky build-up on the inside of the drain pipes. Getting even a little of the build-up out of the drain can help get it flowing freely again. By using homemade drain cleaner, you avoid using harsh chemicals and save money as well.

Use a Plunger
Plunger

 Floortje/Getty Images

A plunger can be used on a slow sink drain; it does not have to be reserved for a complete drain stoppage. A little plunging can help to loosen and dislodge hair and debris that is collected in the pipe. To be sure that the plunger is effective, cover the sink overflow with a rag or some duct tape before plunging. Covering the overflow helps create a seal, which is needed to clear any blocked pipe.

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GAC PLUMBING COMPANY

707-538-8000

Clearing a Drain

How to Clear a Drain

There are a number of plumbing repairs that require immediate attention. Among these is a clogged drain. Everyone knows the inconvenience and mess that accompany a sluggish drain. Even so, many people wait until the drain stops completely before they take corrective action. Sometimes a clog can be cleared with a simple homemade remedy.

There are two different type of treatments that should be used:

  1. Standard Clog

If you have a moderately clogged drain, try this homemade drain cleaner from gaccompany.com: Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain followed by 1/2 cup of vinegar. Be careful. The two ingredients interact with foaming and fumes, so replace the drain cover loosely. Let the concoction set for about three hours before running warm water.

2. Grease Clog

If you know the slow drain is from grease, try this treatment: Pour in 1/2 cup of salt and 1/2 cup of baking soda followed by a teakettle of boiling water. Allow to sit overnight.

Routine Maintenance can save time and money if you follow the following tips:

You can keep your drains clog-free and odorless by using the following homemade noncorrosive drain cleaner weekly. Combine 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup table salt, and 1/4 cup cream of tartar. Stir ingredients together thoroughly and pour into a clean, covered jar. Pour 1/4 cup of mixture into drain, and immediately add 1 cup boiling water. Wait 10 seconds, then flush with cold water. Flushing weekly with a generous amount of boiling water also works well.

Good Luck

https://gaccompany.com/ClearingDrains.pdf

GAC Plumbing Company
707-538-8000

Septic Tank Information Asked by our Customers

How does a conventional septic system work?

Conventional septic systems are the most common type of septic system (the others are innovative/alternative (I/A) systems and cesspools). A conventional system includes a septic tank, distribution box, and soil absorption system (SAS). The septic tank separates the solid and liquid wastes and the SAS provides additional treatment before distributing the wastewater to the ground.

Why are failing septic systems harmful?

Inadequately treated wastewater can transfer diseases such as dysentery, hepatitis, and typhoid fever to animals and humans. Failing systems also leak excessive nutrients and bacteria to rivers, lakes, and the ocean, destroying plant and animal habitat, closing beaches, and hurting the fishing industry and causing breakouts of agile in lakes and ponds.

How do I know if my system is having problems?

Some clues:

  • Muddy soil or pools of wastewater around your septic tank or soil absorption system.
  • Sewage smells around your system or inside your house.
  • Backups when you do laundry, take showers, or flush the toilet.

Call GAC Company (707) 538-8000 if you notice any of these symptoms.

Do I really save money by maintaining my system?

Yes. Pumping your system costs between $150 and $650, and an inspection could cost $200-$800. Replacing a system could cost up to $45,000.

What are the most important things to do to take care of my system?

Pump your system at least every 3 years (annually if you have a garbage disposal). Conserve water. Don’t dump non-biodegradable s or trash down your toilet or sink. See our list of do’s and dont’s .

How often should I pump?

Every 2 to 5  years, and annually if you have a garbage disposal.

Will additives help my system?

There isn’t one on the market that can make a failing system pass inspection. To ensure the additives will not harm your system we recommend using natural preventive maintenance.

What are the regulations governing the disposal of paint and paint wastes into a septic system?

Only sanitary sewage is allowed to be discharged to septic systems. Paint and paint wastes should not be put into any septic system because they can adversely affect their operation and may cause groundwater contamination.

How Do I as a System Owner Properly Care for my Septic System? (Do’s & Don’ts)

Conventional septic systems can function very well with minimal care. In fact, most septic tanks will only require an inspection and pumping out by a professional every three to five years if they are used properly. This does not pertain to I/A systems, which need more frequent oversight.

DO …

Do have the system inspected and pumped every 3 to 5 years. If the tank fills up with an excess of solids, the wastewater will not have enough time to settle in the tank. These excess solids will then pass on to the leach field, where they will clog the drain lines and soil.

Do know the location of the septic system and drain field, and keep a record of all inspections, pumpings, repairs, contract or engineering work for future references. Keep a sketch of it handy for service visits.

Do grow grass or small plants (not trees or shrubs) above the septic system to hold the drain field in place. Water conservation through creative landscaping is a great way to control excess runoff.

Do install water-conserving devices in faucets, showerheads and toilets to reduce the volume of water running into the septic system. Repair dripping faucets and leaking toilets, run washing machines and dishwashers only when full, and avoid long showers.

Do divert roof drains and surface water from driveways and hillsides away from the septic system. Keep sump pumps and house footing drains away from the system as well.

Do use only additives that have been allowed for usage in California.   Additives that are allowed for use in California  have been determined not to produce a harmful effect to the individual system or its components or to the environment at large.

Do take leftover hazardous chemicals to your approved hazardous waste collection center for disposal. Use bleach, disinfectants, and drain and toilet bowl cleaners sparingly and in accordance with product labels.

DON’T …

Do not use your toilet or sink as a trash can by dumping non-biodegradables (cigarette butts, diapers, feminine products, etc.) or grease down your sink or toilet. Non-biodegradables can clog the pipes, while grease can thicken and clog the pipes. Store cooking oils, fats, and grease in a can for disposal in the garbage.

Do not put paint thinner, polyurethane, anti-freeze, pesticides, some dyes, disinfectants, water softeners, and other strong chemicals into the system. These can cause major upsets in the septic tank by killing the biological part of your septic system and polluting the groundwater. Small amounts of standard household cleaners, drain cleansers, detergents, etc. will be diluted in the tank and should cause no damage to the system.

Do not use a garbage grinder or disposal, which feeds into the septic tank. If you do have one in the house, severely limit its use. Adding food wastes or other solids reduces your system’s capacity and increases the need to pump the septic tank. If you use a grinder, the system must be pumped more often.

Do not plant trees within 30 feet of your system or park/drive over any part of the system. Tree roots will clog your pipes, and heavy vehicles may cause your drainfield to collapse.

Do not allow anyone to repair or pump your system without first checking that they are licensed system professionals.

Do not perform excessive laundry loads with your washing machine. Doing load after load does not allow your septic tank time to adequately treat wastes and overwhelms the entire system with excess wastewater. You could therefore be flooding your drain field without allowing sufficient recovery time. You should consult your tank professional to determine the gallon capacity and number of loads per day that can safely go into the system.

Do not use chemical solvents to clean the plumbing or septic system. “Miracle” chemicals will kill microorganisms that consume harmful wastes. These products can also cause groundwater contamination.

Bathroom Maintenance Tips

Home Plumbing Tips and Maintenance

These helpful tips should help keep the plumbing in your bathroom running efficiently:

Bathroom

  • Once a week run hot water down the drain to help keep it free-flowing.
  • Use Baking Soda & Vinager to bathroom drain lines once each month to keep soap scum from building up and causing clogs.
  • Repair leaky faucets to avoid further damage to the fixtures and faucets.
  • Tubs and showers should be fitted with strainers that catch hair and soap chips. Clean the strainers regularly.
  • To remove unsightly mineral deposits on your shower head, put one cup of vinegar in a plastic bag and place it over the shower head. Hold it in place with a twist tie and let stand overnight. In the morning, remove the bag and wipe off the mineral deposits with a damp cloth.
  • Do not use your toilet as a wastebasket. Do not flush facial tissue, cotton balls, make-up pads, sanitary products or diapers as they do not dissolve and can clog the lines. Keep a trash container in each bathroom and toss these items away.

Showerhead Maintenance

Showerheads develop uneven spray when the holes become clogged with mineral deposits from the water. To clean:

Shower Head

  • Unscrew swivel ball nut – you will need adjustable wrench or channel-type pliers. (Hint: to protect the finish from scratches, first wrap the jaws of the tool with masking tape.)
  • Unscrew collar nut from showerhead.
  • Gently clean the outlet and inlet holes of the showerhead using a thin wire.
  • Flush the head with clean water.
  • You may want to soak the showerhead in vinegar overnight to remove mineral deposits. Reassemble the showerhead.

Testing a Toilet for Leaks

Check the water level in the tank to be sure that the water is not overflowing by way of the overflow pipe (the pipe in the middle of the tank with a small piece of tubing connected to it).

Toilet

  • If water is running into the overflow pipe, adjust the fill valve until the water stops approximately one inch below the top of the overflow tube (there may be a water level mark stamped on the side of the tank).
  • Test the flush valve mechanism by putting a few drops of food coloring into the tank.
  • Check the bowl after 15 minutes, if the water in the toilet bowl has changed color, the ball or flapper is leaking and needs to be replaced.

Cleaning an Aerator

Low water pressure from the faucet or water leaks from the handle are usually caused by lime buildup and sediment blocking the small openings inside the aerator. Clean the aerator using the following steps:

Aerator

  • By hand, carefully unscrew the aerator from the faucet turning counterclockwise. If it will not unscrew, wrap the jaws of your pliers with masking tape and loosen the aerator with the pliers. Continue by hand.
  • Take aerator or spray head apart.
  • Use a small brush dipped in vinegar to remove sediment.
  • Reassemble the aerator and screw back on to the faucet.