Our advice: Start with the humble plunger and work your way up to Boss Hogg tools.
For a quick dose of humility, there's nothing like celery strings
dangling from your ears," says This Old House plumbing and
heating consultant Richard Trethewey, recalling one encounter with a
clogged kitchen drain early in his career. Rather than empty the greasy,
overflowing sink, he went to the cellar, opened a pipe, and worked a
snake line up from below. "I thought I was clever, until the entire
contents of the sink came rushing down, hitting me square in the
forehead ? a real Three Stooges move," he laughs.
Today, Richard says to start with a plunger and gently escalate the
action as needed. "Old house plumbing can be delicate," he explains.
"You don't want to come in with guns blazing ? blasting water down
the drain or ramming the clog. You could burst a pipe or blow apart a
The next attack should come from a hand snake ? a coiled metal cable or
flat steel wire that winds down the drain and breaks up the clog with
gentle twists and tugs. Richard advises a slow, deliberate approach.
"Best not to be hasty," he warns. "Most people advance several feet of
wire before turning it. Then it either kinks ? or flips out,
scratching the fixture or splashing mucky water all over you." Feed the
snake in one foot at a time, he urges, then turn it, feeling the way.
"It's like fishing," he explains. "You sneak up gradually, patiently,
and when you get to the clog you can feel it, like a nibble." When you
hit the block, work at it gently. While this can take time ? "Even
the best of plumbers," Richard says, "can lose hours to a clogged line"
? it minimizes trauma to both plumber and pipe.