Plumbing Problems

So, someone e-mailed me asking if other people have problems with slow or clogged drains in the tub or sink. The short answer is yes.

The longer answer is some do and some don’t. The plumbing in this building might be described as having “character.” The tub drains often include a sharp angle that makes them impossible to snake, and the line is prone to build-up—especially, I believe, near the junction with the sink drain. Some people don’t have any problems with their drains; my family does. I’ve often wondered what combination of unit plumbing, family size, and soap choices make the difference.

For information about what my family and I do personally to address the problem, or to add your own suggestions, see the comments.

For actual professional advice, contact the management company:

And if anyone has any insight as to whether the type of soap makes a difference—say, bar vs. liquid—I’d love to hear it.

5 thoughts on “Plumbing Problems”

  1. There are three options of which I’m aware for addressing the drain problem:

    Enzyme treatments such a Zep Drain Defense which are put down the drain at regular intervals. They generally recommend once a month; we lean toward once a week. We’ve never figured out how much difference they make but they certainly don’t hurt.

    Caustic drain openers such as Liquid Plumber, Draino, or Hair & Grease. Sometimes these work wonderfully. Other times they take multiple tries to get anywhere. Occasionally the first application knocks loose the upper sludge and piles it on top of the lower sludge to completely block the line.

    Contacting the management and asking Ron to come by with his gizmo that uses air pressure to clear a drain. This is by far the most effective method and assures a free-running drain for months. There are, unfortunately, a couple of drawbacks. Right now is a difficult time for everyone, not least of all our maintenance staff, and it’s not always easy to schedule a visit. There’s also the question of whether one wants extra people entering one’s unit (or whether they want to be entering). And finally, there is a very faint chance that even this tool won’t be able to remove a truly solid clog without risking damage to the pipes, but Ron is very experienced using it and we’ve never had any problem.

  2. I have problems with our chronically slow draining shower/tub, which regularly gets fully clogged (standing water of 3-4 inches after a shower). There are only two of us here, but we both have lots of long hair and that’s usually the culprit. Not sure which soaps help or hinder. Usually I am able to deal with the clogs on my own with a caustic agent and sometimes it’s exactly as you described and doesn’t work or makes things worse. Recently I had rotor rooter out and they fixed it with a snake and compressor. (I didn’t realize requesting this from Ron was an option and I’m glad to have learned this because it was expensive. )

    They recommended an enzyme based preventative treatment used monthly but I think weekly is probably the right move, so I’ll be starting that shortly.

    Also, I recently started using the “tub shroom” in that drain which seems to be much better at catching hair than our regular metal drain cover was (fine hairs would escape through). This product is under $14 and I believe can be ordered online. They also make them for sinks. I wish I had started using it years ago! It’s plastic, you place it in the drain, and after a shower remove it, remove any hairs that it’s caught, and replace it. Simple and effective.

  3. We have a tub shroom, and it seems to help.

    I have also had good luck gently plunging our tub when it starts draining poorly. Apparently it is possible to burst a trap or pipe or a plunger, so it’s important to go slowly, but it works better than anything else I’ve done.

    The internet claims that Draino can damage pipes, so I try to avoid it.

  4. It’s been my experience the issue is hair. I raised a family with two daughters and the drains would always get clogged. I tried everything from snakes, cleaning out the trap, liquid-plumr, plunger, etc.

    What I’ve found that works wonders on hair is either Drano or Liquid-Plumr that has two liquids (a dual 12 oz product). The two liquids combine when you poor the product down the drain and foam up. This works wonders. I recently visited my sister who needed help after an operation and found her sink draining poorly. I used this and the thing opened up like new.

    My daughters are grown now and am divorced. I’ve found that I never have to use LiquidPlumr now. 🙁 I do keep a bottle of the stuff on hand though, just in case.

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