repairing a clogged drain
Photo: Merle Henkenius
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Tools You'll Need

Armed with the right tools and techniques, you can easily unplug stopped-up drains without having to call in a pro. All plumbing systems develop clogs—there's no way to avoid it. We'll show you how to clear stubborn clogs in a kitchen sink, bathtub, toilet and floor drain. These proven techniques will dislodge virtually any clog. If you can't clear a clog after a few attempts, make sure you admit defeat and turn the job over to a drain-cleaning service or licensed plumber. Exerting too much force can permanently damage a pipe or fixture.

That said, specialized plumbing tools used to combat clogs are affordable, and they're available at any hardware store or home center; you can even rent some.

• The first tool to reach for when trouble arises is a plunger. This plumber's friend clears clogs from most fixtures, including sinks, tubs and toilets. Every homeowner should keep one handy.

• To dislodge clogs located farther down the drainpipe, use a cable auger, or plumber's snake, a long, flexible steel cable wound around a spool that's fitted with a hand crank. Cable augers are available in lengths up to 100 feet, though a 25-foot model will suffice for most any household clog.

• A closet auger is specifically made for snaking out toilets. It, too, is equipped with a hand crank, but instead of a spool, the cable is encased in a rigid shaft. The auger end is bent at a precise angle to fit through the tight curves of a toilet trap.

• For a very large clog or one that's far from the fixture, rent an electric power auger. This machine—basically a large cable auger powered by an electric motor—is very effective at cutting through virtually any clog, even tangled tree roots. Before bringing home a power auger, be sure the rental agent shows you how to safely dispense and retrieve the cable.
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