Snaking the Drain

Just a quick update on some maintenance work. The drain from our kitchen and washer was getting slower and slower. I thought running hot water down it for a while would help, and it did for about 10 minutes, after which it got much worse! I guess it dislodged some of the stuff, which then got stuck further down, making the blockage worse. I thought I’d take the shop vac to the drain to see what I could get, but nothing was coming out.

A bit of history – this is a house built in the 50’s, and the pipe is cast iron. I had snaked this drain about 4 years ago and pulled out one or two wet wipes. I have no idea how they got down there. That time I remember how difficult it was to use the snake tool, which is a 50 foot 1/2 inch drain auger. The little tool it came with to twist the auger was such a pain to use. This is why I wanted to avoid using the auger, and actually contemplated renting a powered auger.

There’s a small access cap on the concrete floor which I removed to do the vacuuming. I had to plug the other drains so  that the vacuum would work against the blockage. After a number of times of filling with water and vacuuming, I realized I wasn’t going anywhere and pulled out the auger. This time I ditched the tool and did everything by hand.

After working the auger in as far as it would go (around 30 feet),  I added water down the drain until it was about to overflow, then pulled the auger out, and immediately took the shop vac to the drain. It was super satisfying because I could hear and feel all of the gunk being sucked out of the drain! The sludge was basically greasy organic matter mixed with sand and whatever other stuff came from our washer. The water was pitch-black with an oily surface. Yum!

I followed this by filling the basement sink with warm water and letting it all go at once, and there was no backup!

In the end, it was rewarding because of the amount of crap I pulled out of the drain, and how well the water flowed at the end of it all. So… hurray for the shop-vac! I was warned by the neighbor that augers could cause damage to clay pipes, and I’m pretty sure at some point the cast iron pipe interfaced with clay, so next time I’ll try to be more gentle.

Hope this helps someone!


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