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How Drain Clogs Happen and How They’re Fixed

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How Drain Clogs Happen and How They’re Fixed

Clogged drains and pipes are frustrating, but all too common problems. Whether it’s grease and food debris stopping up your kitchen sink, or hair backing up your bathtub, no one likes a clogged drain. In addition to the aforementioned food, grease, and hair, there are a few other causes for clogged pipes as well. For example: in rare cases, mineral buildup can be an issue that stops your pipes from draining. This can especially happen in galvanized iron pipes, because of the rough texture that makes it easier for minerals to cling to. Another reason for clogged pipes may be the ever invasive tree root. The nutrient-rich wastewater in your pipes, makes them especially prone to tree root infiltration. The roots will feed on water, and once they penetrate the pipe will keep growing until they have cut off drainage entirely. Offset, sagging, or dilapidated pipes can also catch debris, and buildup that will eventually keep your pipes from draining properly.

Below are some detailed methods of dealing with clogs and stoppages.


When a drain gets clogged, there are a few knee-jerk reactions you may immediately jump to. Firstly, you might think to use a plunger. Using a plunger might work in some situations, but it can also push the clog further down into the pipe making for an even bigger, harder to reach problem in the future. You may also think to use a store bought chemically based drain cleaner. This is highly advised against because of both the potential negative environmental impacts, and the effect it can have on your pipes. These cleaners can actually contribute to the corrosion of pipes causing more issues further down the line.


A kinetic water ram (also known as an air cannon) is an option for tough or stubborn clogs. Kinetic water rams use compressed air to power through clogs at a rough 4,700 feet per second and with up to 160 lbs of pressure. In most cases, this is enough to completely and instantly break up any blockage your pipes might be experiencing at a single fixture. Although it may seem like instinct to use as much pressure as possible, this is not always the best course of action. Pushing too much pressure into old or weak pipes may cause fittings and fixtures to come undone or break. While most single point blockages can be cleared with only 20 to 40 lbs of pressure, for harder to clear stoppages, you may need to look into other options.


If the above options don’t work, and depending on the size and severity of the problem, it might be time to bring in an auger (more commonly known as a snake). A plumber’s snake works the opposite way that a plunger does. Rather than dislodging the blockage with negative pressure it is actually pushed into the blockage, allowing it to work further into where the obstruction is

taking place. The snake is then used to push the clog out of the drain pipe, leaving a clear path for water to drain. Some snakes also have a drill attachment, which help it to be forced further down into the clog, and therefore make it easier to clear.


For blockages in the main sewer line, which are usually more than 30 feet away from the localized blockage in the house, a mainline cable machine is needed. These can be rented from your local big box, hardware store, but it is recommended that you hire a professional due to the extreme force, and skill required to operate such a piece of equipment.


Another option for tougher harder to reach clogs is a hydro jetter. A hydro jetter is a pump and hose system that uses high-vpowered water jets to clear residential and commercial drain pipes. Most high-pressure water jetters will operate with up to 4,000 PSI of pressure, and will push about 2-25 gallons of water per minute through any given pipe. Harts Services has 3 different-sized hydro jetters we use depending on the scope of the blockage ranging from 5.5 GPM/3000 psi to 18gpm/4000psi. The smaller jetter is used for pipes that are about 1 ½ to 2 inches in diameter, while the larger jetters works best for pipes between 4 and 6 inches.


No matter what kind of clog you’re dealing with, if you are thinking of using anything beyond a common residential plunger, it is always advised that you bring in a professional. Any and all of the tools mentioned above, when in untrained hands could lead to further damages or personal injury. Here at Harts Services we pride ourselves in having the know how, and tenacity to make sure your pipe problems get fixed right away. Please do not hesitate to call our office for a free quote on any and all of your Tacoma drain cleaning needs.