Stubborn Clog Removal

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ShopTalk

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This thread is for discussions on how to remove stubborn drain clogs that have not responded to typical consumer grade chemical and mechanical solutions such as plungers, hand operated snakes 8 to 10 feet in length, and common brand name chemical drain openers, e.g. Drano, Green Gobbler, etc, and where the drain vent, hole, and p-trap are clear and the clog is someplace farther in, and of unknown composition.

One product I have not tried is Santeen Drain Opener. It's sulfuric acid based, which doesn't dissolve copper or brass ( supposedly ). I'm in Calgary Canada and haven't been able to locate any in-store. Only online ( example here ).

One unconventional thing a friend suggested is to try pure concentrated lemon juice. At that point nothing else had worked, so I shop vacked out the water and poured four 1 liter bottles down the drain ( all the while thinking I'm a total idiot for trying it ). But to my surprise, by the next day the water had started to move. It wasn't a full drain flow, but it was enough to get it working — temporarily.

Now a year later I'm back to square one. The drain pipe is 1.5 inch brass. It is soldered to a tight bend p-trap that is very difficult to work a snake past. However with persistence, I managed to do it with my 10' handheld snake — but the clog seems to be past that length.

Commercial jobbers won't give me any idea how much the finished job will cost. One freelance guy I found on Kijiji explained how commercial contractors are largely a racket ( here anyway ), often charging for an estimate, then not telling you anything you don't already know, and not doing the job, and even if they do agree to do it, they give no guarantee of a lasting fix.

After explaining my situation, he said that the job would likely cost hundreds ( maybe thousands ) of dollars because they'd probably end-up having to locate where the clog is, and then cut a hole in my ceiling to access a straight portion of the pipe near it, and then cut out a portion of the pipe to get a machine auger into it and auger it out.

The problem with that is being certain where the actual clog is, because after the p-trap, the pipe goes through a floor joist off in a direction where there is no obvious indication which downpipe it connects to on its way to the main drain ( my apologies for the non-technical terms ). For all I know the clog could even be in that vertical pipe ( wherever it is ).

Anyway, I'm not thrilled about doing exploratory surgery on my house to solve this problem. Perhaps a pro with a long orthoscopic camera might be able to get in there — but again that p-trap is so tight that getting the video cable around it is unlikely — same goes for a narrow high-pressure hose.

My house is a 60s era 4 level split by Nu West. If anyone happens to have plumbing plans for them, please let me know ! In the meantime, any suggestions or references to a local service that won't scam me would be most welcome. If I can find some of that Santeen chemical opener mentioned above, I'll post the results here. I'll also update this thread as things progress and post whatever other solutions I try.
 

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Are you trying to snake the bathtub drain thru the overflow or the stopper?
 

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Are you trying to snake the bathtub drain thru the overflow or the stopper?
Thanks for your response !

I removed the overflow and went straight down through that, and worked it past the p-trap all the way to the length of the snake. I'd like to avoid trying that again because I fear the snake will break in there, and then I'll for sure be screwed.

So I just tried some extra strength Green Gobbler, and it dissolved something, because upon plunging and wet vacuuming, some dark flaky stuff came out, but it remained plugged. Having had luck with the lemon juice I tried some heavy duty Zep citrus degreaser as a follow-up, and a slow flow is happening now. I used about 3 litres ( non-diluted ).

My concern is that something like a hard plastic lid went down there unnoticed, but there's no way to tell for sure without more sophisticated tools and possibly exploratory surgery. I have yet to try the sulfuric acid type dissolver. I'm for sure getting enough liquid in there to go past the p-trap and down to where the clog is.

This is a second floor bathtub. I had a similar problem with a sink drain a few years back that somehow self-resolved. I'm hoping I get similarly lucky with this — if I help it along.


ZepCitrus-01a.jpg
 
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Jeff H Young

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The problem with talking to most homeowners on stuff like this over the phone is they either lie and minimize how bad the clog is because they want us to quote a cheapo price , or they are totaly clueless on the problem , same thing with a leak or drip most are unable to tell you anything other than water is on floor or in cabinet. At a certain point I kinow I wouldnt quote a cost and guarrantee on whats described.
Taking your comments as fact (which Im not convinced of) You say its clear for 10 foot at least so lets forget about soap scum and hair in those 10 ft if its clear for 10 feet plus it takes awhile to plug up, those hand crank snakes are not great , go for a power snake maybe longer But Im just a little suprised you belive nothing else connects to the tub drain for over 10 feet even this may or may not be true certainly 20 or 25 ft should get it .
Some guys including Terry I think were belivers in a chemical or enzyme Might have been called Bioclean something like that regular treatments Ive never tried it.
Youll have to get busy and put more into the issue or pay , a good profesional outfit going to charge way too much for your liking and a cheap guy with minmal equiptment uninsured , no licsence might or might not do a good job ( the fancy guy with radio and tv ads might not either for that matter ) But under a 100 bucks is probebly not happening, a camera probebly starts at triple that my guess.
BTW , Reach 4 mentioned it but didnt specify try going down overflow its usually the only good way to go or heck the vent pipe is good cut a cleanout in the vent up at waist level
 

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The problem with talking to most homeowners on stuff like this over the phone is they either lie and minimize how bad the clog is because they want us to quote a cheapo price , or they are totaly clueless on the problem , same thing with a leak or drip most are unable to tell you anything other than water is on floor or in cabinet. At a certain point I kinow I wouldnt quote a cost and guarrantee on whats described.
Taking your comments as fact (which Im not convinced of) You say its clear for 10 foot at least so lets forget about soap scum and hair in those 10 ft if its clear for 10 feet plus it takes awhile to plug up, those hand crank snakes are not great , go for a power snake maybe longer But Im just a little suprised you belive nothing else connects to the tub drain for over 10 feet even this may or may not be true certainly 20 or 25 ft should get it .
Some guys including Terry I think were belivers in a chemical or enzyme Might have been called Bioclean something like that regular treatments Ive never tried it.
Youll have to get busy and put more into the issue or pay , a good profesional outfit going to charge way too much for your liking and a cheap guy with minmal equiptment uninsured , no licsence might or might not do a good job ( the fancy guy with radio and tv ads might not either for that matter ) But under a 100 bucks is probebly not happening, a camera probebly starts at triple that my guess.
BTW , Reach 4 mentioned it but didnt specify try going down overflow its usually the only good way to go or heck the vent pipe is good cut a cleanout in the vent up at waist level
Feedback appreciated.

I get what you're saying about the estimates. I'm a pretty good DIY guy, plus I used to do PC tech work, and the cost of repairs can be unexpectedly large. My point was that there was only one independent guy who was willing to give me the straight goods beforehand.

The rest either tried to sell me on some sort of inspection first, which would tell me nothing I don't already know, and then expect me to fork over $50 - $150 just for that. Appliance repair services are equally as bad ( here anyway ).

Not to forget the tech repair guys either ( which is how I got into doing it myself ) — so that I wouldn't be a scam artist like so many other "Geek" type services. My service included a free estimate within a specified service radius and no-charge if I couldn't fix it. I know that sounds radical, but I never disappointed or ripped-off a single customer.

Progress report — after another application of the ZEP ( above ) followed by a pressure rise with the garden hose, flow has about doubled again from the first breakthrough. I am in the process of the third treatment, and will report-in later.
 
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CLOG SAGA UPDATE:

Following-up on the ZEP Citrus Based Degreaser success, I decided to try the ZEP Industrial Purple Degreaser with the "Corrosive" hand warning label ( image below ). This stuff is so powerful that if you get any on your clothes, they recommend that you throw them away. I poured a third of the bottle directly into the drain followed by about a gallon of boiling water to push it past the p-trap. I repeated this three times at half hour intervals, and left the last application overnight. This has resulted in a further improvement in flow, but not 100%.

TIP: During this process I realized that the heating of the drainpipe would allow me to identify which pipe coming through the floor into the basement was the one with the clog. After identifying it, I noticed that it had its own path into the system beneath the concrete floor, and that it has a similar ( but smaller ) access port to the main drain, where the downpipe interfaces with the subsurface drain, which I assume meets-up with the main drain a short distance away. At some point I may try opening this access port to see if there is anything that can be cleared from that end ( IF ANYONE HAS EXPERIENCE WITH THIS TYPE OF THING PLEASE COMMENT ) !

Because of my initial success with the citrus based degreaser ( above ), I bought another bottle of that as well. Here in Canada they are 3.78 Litres ( 1 US Gal ) each, and after two more applications ( 1/3 bottle followed by 1 Gal boiling water ), flow has continued to improve.

NOTE: Another thing I started using to prevent further clogs is a stainless steel catch ( image below ). The one pictured allows faster drainage than the wire mesh type, while catching most stuff ( including hair ) which gets caught via the circular motion of the draining water instead of going straight through the holes.

Zep-02a.jpg
DrainCatch-01a.jpg


My next plan is to reassemble the overflow and continue periodic treatments with these two products, as well as see if any other progress can be made by accessing the port in the basement ( mentioned above ). Winter is coming now, so I had to pack away the outdoor garden hose, which if I didn't mention it already, I tried spraying directly into the drain through a nozzle that sealed off the drain from any backflow ( I had removed the overflow vent pipe and plugged it with a threaded pipe cap ).

That process resulted in pressurizing the downpipe — but not entirely dislodging the blockage. Upon releasing the hose from over the drain hole, the water would push back up and out like a fountain, and in some cases carried with it some sludge, which I wet vacced out before it went back down inside. My hope is that when the overflow is back in place, that the flow will improve yet again because it will allow air to get in, thereby reducing the vacuum effect of the draining water.

Total cost so far is about $180 ( CDN ) for the various chemicals tried ( all straight down the drain ), with the commercial drain openers underperforming ( Drano, Green Gobbler, etc ) — although in theory they have all probably contributed to some degree. In the future, I wouldn't waste any money on them. I'd go straight for ZEP method right from the start.

I will report back in on any further progress. So far, I've had two other drains spontaneously resolve their clogs. Well — not totally spontaneously. With some encouragement from a snake and a plunger I got them going a little, but not great, and then suddenly about four months later there was a blurping burping sound and they just started working again :) ( so fingers crossed ).
 
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Update on the clog saga.

The Zep treatment got it going but further applications didn't noticeably improve the situation. However it never got worse either, and about a month ago I decided to start dropping a a couple of ounces of toilet bowl cleaner e.g. toilet duck, in the drain before running any water, and again just before all the water drains out — to take it down and leave it behind to work between times.

Since then, there has been a slow but steady improvement in flow.

I have yet to try coming up at it from the basement level through the access port where the down pipe attaches to the horizontal drain that runs under the concrete floor. I'm planning on doing that before fall if the clog persists. Presently the flow is at about 35% of what it was when I first moved in. Much better than 0% !
 
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Reach4

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TIP: During this process I realized that the heating of the drainpipe would allow me to identify which pipe coming through the floor into the basement was the one with the clog. After identifying it, I noticed that it had its own path into the system beneath the concrete floor, and that it has a similar ( but smaller ) access port to the main drain, where the downpipe interfaces with the subsurface drain, which I assume meets-up with the main drain a short distance away. At some point I may try opening this access port to see if there is anything that can be cleared from that end
You should use that cleaning port to clear with a snake. A professional drain cleaning person can get that clear quickly, and it may turn out to be cheaper than buying a bunch of chemicals for a long time.

I would consider the https://www.homedepot.ca/product/husky-1-4-in-x-25-ft-power-drum-auger/1001536780 for your own use.

The place where the pipe transitions from vertical to horizontal beneath the basement floor is one likely spot for a clog. You can estimate how far down the clog is by seeing how much water can be put into the drain before there is a backup. That method is easier with an almost-closed clog, but you may get an idea even with reduced flow.
 

Jeff H Young

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20 monthes and 200 dollars you are paitient , Id cut the stack in the basement or the trap arm whatever. rent a snake from home depot . but slow drain better than no drain
 

ShopTalk

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20 monthes and 200 dollars you are paitient , Id cut the stack in the basement or the trap arm whatever. rent a snake from home depot . but slow drain better than no drain

I barely managed to get a fairly light gauge snake about 10 feet in. One plumber who gave me the honest dope on how it would likely need to be handled is as you suggest — cut the trap arm and go in from there. The only problem with that, is that to gain access, they'd need to do exploratory surgery on my kitchen ceiling — or the bathroom floor under the tub. Neither option is particularly appealing.

One of my toilets had a similar problem, and I used a similar strategy to get it going, and eventually, one day it just cleared the remaining clog itself. That was ten years ago. I keep hoping for a repeat of that situation. In the meantime, the $200 is peanuts compared to what it would cost to repair all the damage to my kitchen or bathroom — and I'm just an old retired guy who is barely getting by.
 
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