Dealing with difficult drains

A tough household drain clog can become a major problem for any Chicago home. Whether it’s a clogged bathtub drain in a downtown high rise, or a stopped-up sink in a Lincoln Park apartment, drain clogs can disrupt the removal of waste water and render household appliance unusable.

Drain clogs naturally occur from the buildup of organic material like grease and hair that accumulates inside of pipes. As a clog compounds over time, it acts as a sealant cutting off all movement inside the pipe.

There are several different over-the-counter products that eliminate clogs. Liquid drain openers like Drano work to some degree, but often require multiple applications. Crystalline drain openers that contain lye are the most effective, but the fumes can be unpleasant and even dangerous in close spaces. For the environmentally friendly, there are green products available that use enzyme technology to reduce buildup in drainpipes. Some people even make their own drain openers using a mixture of vinegar, baking soda and water.

A plumber’s snake can be used for clogs that resist liquid drain openers. The plumber’s snake is a flexible, coiled metal wire that can be inserted deep into a drain. It’s attached to a crank that drills the wire into the clog like a corkscrew. As it’s removed, it dislodges the clog from the pipe, ultimately clearing the drain.

For tough clogs that resist other methods of removal, it’s best to hire a professional. Plumbers are trained to deal with stubborn and messy problems that can overwhelm most homeowners. They have additional tools for removing clogs and can provide additional knowledge on prevention and maintenance. In Illinois, plumbers must be licensed by the state. The license requires plumbers to pass an exam, complete an apprenticeship and take continuing education courses. For reviews on highly rated plumbers in the Chicago area, visit Angie's List.

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