Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Unclog Your Drain in Three Minutes (with No Drain-O or Chemicals)

Long hair was not part of my childhood. I have four brothers, and we spent much of our young lives with buzz cuts. It was cheaper for my mom to cut our hair, and we spent so much time in the pool that it was just easier not to have hair when you're in and out of the pool all day.

Fast forward to today. As a dad of two girls with long hair, there are so many things that I didn't experience growing up. Gobs of hair wrapped around the vacuum cleaner beater bar, hair bands and clips on every surface and under every chair and couch cushion, hair getting stuck to my beard (not that I had a beard as a kid...). Okay, so many of the things that I didn't experience growing up have to do with hair. More specifically, long hair.

And with long hair comes drain clogs. But before you grab that bottle of harsh chemicals to try to speed up your drain, here is a quick three-minute fix to unclog some of the slowest drains.


Most drains have a bar that runs through the hole at the bottom of the drain stopper; this is called a pivot rod. This allows the stopper to go up and down when you pull the rod at the back of the faucet. Pull the rod up, the drain stopper goes down and the water stays in the sink.

Once a couple of hairs collect on that pivot rod, they want to invite all of their friends to the party, and the next thing you know you have a monster hanging out in your bathroom sink. Many people think that the sink must be clogged somewhere out of reach, but most slow running or stopped up drains are much more accessible—right there at the pivot rod.

Here is a great way to check and see if the problem is in the top six inches of your drain. And it only takes about three minutes. You'll need a long screwdriver, and, in some instances, a pair of channel lock pliers.


1. Pull up on the drain stopper. If the drain stopper comes out, it is not properly installed and that makes the next step a lot easier (and you might want to properly install the drain stopper after clearing the drain). If there is tension on the stopper (meaning you can't pull it out of the drain), it is properly installed.

2. Place a bucket or bowl under the trap (the U-shaped piece). Locate the nut where the pivot rod connects to the sink. This is the part that connects the rod at the back of the sink to the drain stopper. Unthread the nut and pull the rod out about 1inch. For newer plastic nuts, you should be able to unthread this by hand. For older, brass fittings, or fittings that are corroded, you will need some channel lock pliers. 


3. The drain should now lift up out of the sink. If you want to see something gross, shine a flashlight down the sink. Or, take a long, skinny screwdriver and gently insert it into the sink about six inches. Angling the screwdriver so the tip is against the drain pipe, pull the screwdriver up. Nine times out of ten this will result in something that belongs in a horror movie. Use a flashlight to check to make sure that the hairy monster did not leave a friend in the drain. Your sink should now run freely.  **NOTE: DO NOT WASH OFF YOUR HANDS AT THIS POINT, AND DON'T RUN WATER DOWN THE SINK TO SEE IF IT IS CLEAR. You need to put the pivot rod back in, or the water will run out the hole in the drain pipe (this is why you put a bucket or bowl down there, because I often forget, rinse my hands off, and hear the water pouring into the cabinet).

4. Put the stopper back in the drain, making sure that the hole at the bottom is facing the direction where the pivot rod can go through it. Wiggle the pivot rod into place, and move the rod up and down to make sure the drain stopper is in place and secure. Tighten the nut, and run your faucet. If you got a clump of hair out you should notice a huge difference.

5. Celebrate the fact that you just saved yourself harsh chemicals down your drain and/or a call to a plumber.


If you did this and got something amazingly gross out of your sink, I would love to see what you got (or would I?). Leave a picture in the comments below, and let's celebrate our victorious sink unclogging together!

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