Domestic plumbing can be an awfully big adventure.
The water in the handbasin of my bathroom drained away very, very slowly. It was blocked. How to fix it?
The local chapter of the plumbing mafia have a reputation for being long on charges, and short on skills. Surely, with my superior computing and internet surfing skills, a blocked drain would be no problem?
I started by spending some time looking at the pipes and the U-bend water trap under the basin. How it connects from the basin sink to the drainage pipe. Maybe the blockage was in there, so out comes to the toolkit and I set about taking it all apart. After spilling lots of smelly water, I caught the rest in plastic food boxes, I retrieved the U-bend piping and decided to take it all apart and give it a thorough clean in my kitchen sink. There was a bit of bacterial slime, but no great hair ball or other gunk that could cause a blockage.
So, the blockage must be further down the drainage pipe that goes into the wall and wends its way to the outside drain. I would need a long pipe cleaner to deal with that and it goes around a lot of bends. It would have to be very long…there must be an easier way. So I investigated the lethal world of drain cleaning products.
I went to my local plumbing store and browsed a shelf of bottles of drain cleaner. There seem to be a couple of types. The alkaline fat dissolving types and the rather more fearsome acidic ones. One of the acide types looked particularly dangerous, it was called ‘Bullit’ and seemed to be a mixture of strong acids. It was in a protective mesh and boxes padded with straw. Having just seen a particularly grim episode of ‘Breaking Bad’ I had visions of this stuff eating through the floor. So I wimped out and bought another product that was only about 20% hydrochloric acid. But the was bad enough lots of dire warnings about protective clothing, googles and so on. Fumes seeped out threateningly when I twisted off the top of the bottle.
Now…having removed pipes between the basin and the wall, I just have a drainage pipe going to the wall. How to get this stuff into the pipe whilst crouched under a sink. Back to the local DIY store…I bought a few feet of clear plastic flexible pipe, whose diameter was just a bit smaller than the drainage pipe and pushed it inside and taped it in place. The other end, I taped to the out side of the basin, so that it was vertical and put a plastic funnel into it and taped that up.
Then wearing old clothes, protective glasses, rubber gloves and having run the bath, so it was full of water, I felt confident enough to unscrew the top of the drain cleaner. I poured the evil looking green liquid down the clear pipe a bit at a time. There was a violent bubbling as it reached the blockage in the drainage pipe. Gas splutter out, then died down. I tipped a bit more in and there was some more bubbling. I did this several times, and then the acid filled the plastic pipe…and stayed there.
So…a pipe full of acid held in place by tape. This was worrying, what if it ate through the tape? I left it a while and noticed a few big bubbles coming up the pipe and it slowly drained away. I poured lots of water down the funnel to wash the acid away, but it went down quite slowly, so the blockage was still there! Maybe I would have to get a set of long pipe rods and try to push it out…
I then had an idea…I have a vacuum cleaner, why not put it on blow and try to push the blockage out. The vacuum cleaner pipe was about the same size as the clear pipe so more tape. Then, for good measure I put it on suck instead of blow and there was as great clattering in the pipe as a whole bunch of small bits of plaster, tile chips and other builders rubbish scuttled into the vacuum cleaner.
That was the problem. The guys who fitted the bathroom had washed a lot of their building waste down the sink and it must have clumped together, been trapped in the drainage pipe, restricting the flow. The acid had loosened it and broken it up so the vacuum cleaner could suck it up.
It attached the clear pipe to the drainage pipe and used the funnel to pour down water. It drained straightaway, very fast. I then spend the next hour or so cleaning up and putting all the pipes back in place. My bathroom sink has drained very well ever since.