Troubleshooting a Slow-Moving Drain

Even after taking  preventative measures to keep your drain clear, you may one day find yourself wading in several inches of grimy, backed-up water in the shower. Before you call a plumber to clear out your slow-moving drain, there are a few techniques you can try to clean it out yourself first.

Option 1: The baking soda + vinegar method

The reaction created by mixing baking soda and vinegar inside your drain will remove most residue from tub and sink drains. These ingredients are much less harmful to your drain than chemical drain cleaners.

Remove the sink stopper if your sink has one. Scoop ½ cup of baking soda into your drain, using a spoon or your finger to make sure it goes down inside the drain as much as the clog will allow. Pour ½ cup of white vinegar over the baking soda. The mixture will start fizzing. Allow it to foam and bubble its way through your drain for 15-30 minutes, depending on the severity of your clog. Meanwhile, boil a kettle full of water. Pour the boiling water down the drain to flush out the debris loosened by the baking soda and vinegar reaction.

If you have long hair or your drains are particularly prone to clogging, make a habit of performing this process once a month to help keep your pipes free from future clogs.

Option 2: Use a drain stick

If your drain is primarily clogged with hair, the baking soda and vinegar method may not be effective. You’ll have to actually remove the blockage before you can flush the drain.

Before you recoil in horror at the thought of sticking your hand down the drain, don’t fret—there’s a tool you can use. A drain stick is a flexible piece of plastic with “teeth” that will catch on blockage such as hair and tug it up out of the drain when extracted. You can purchase one at any hardware store for $5 or less.

Simply insert the drain stick down the drain, pull it back out, and dispose of the debris it catches. Repeat several times if necessary until it moves in and out without impediment.

Option 3: Snake the drain

For even more serious clogs, you may need to snake the drain. This method is a bit more complicated so if you don’t feel comfortable tackling it, this may be the time to bring in a plumber.

A plumber’s snake is a steel cable wound around a spool fitted with a hand crank. You insert the end of the snake into the drain and crank it so that it unwinds down into the drain. The snake solves stubborn clogs by pushing through and breaking up the blockage, so when you encounter resistance (the clog), keep pushing it down, wiggling it back and forth to help dislodge the debris.

Be careful not to be too aggressive so you don’t damage your pipes in the process. If the problem is accumulated gunk, you may need to extract the gunk by pulling the snake back out—it should pull the gunk with it. Repeat several times until the snake moves freely through the drain. Turn on the faucet to verify that the water flows as it should.


If you’ve tried these three solutions to unclogging your slow-moving drain, it’s time to call a plumber. A Bonfe plumbing technician can clean out severely clogged drains before they cause more serious problems in your home.

One thought on “Troubleshooting a Slow-Moving Drain

  1. I didn’t know that a plumber snake unwinds a spool into a drain to push through blockages. I don’t have a plumber’s snake and my kitchen sink takes about an hour to drain. As a plus, I have not had to wash dishes because I cant. My wife isn’t as happy about the drain so we are going to look for a plumber service.

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