Drains and Plumbing

Sink Drains in the Kitchen and Bathroom

Most sinks are embedded in a countertop, either in the kitchen or the bathroom. Some deep utility sinks are stand-alones, and it is possible to buy the old-fashioned, pedestal sinks that are entire fixtures and don't fit into counter tops. Pedestal sinks let it all hang out—you can see the attached plumbing. But if you have a sink in a counter, you can look under the counter to see the most interesting part of the sink—the angled drain underneath it called the "trap".
Drain traps aren't really traps at all, but angled pipes, usually running under sinks and toilets, whose main function is to hold a bit of water all the time. The water that stays in the trap acts as a barrier and prevents sewer gas from entering your home by coming up the drain. Traps also have another useful function: they catch small objects that fall down the drain, winding up at the bottom of the angled pipe, becoming "trapped" rather than moving immediately outside the house with the waste water. Drain traps are wonderful things, because thousands of people every year knock their rings or earrings into the drain while washing their hands, and without the drain trap, all that lovely jewelry would wind up in the sewer.

When you lose a piece of jewelry down the drain, get a pair of pliers and a pail or a small trash can. Place the pail under the trap and remove the nuts from around the trap, allowing the contents to spill into the pail. Your ring may very well be in the water from the drain trap: if not, use a large pipe cleaner or bottle brush to clean out the inside of the trap, in case the item got caught in soap scum or other drain stuff. You'll probably find your jewelry right away, and you won't have to spend money on a plumber. When you're done, make sure to tighten the nuts around the trap, and check for any leaking. If you cleaned a lot of junk out of the trap, strain it with the strainer from the kitchen sink and throw the bigger bits or slimy stuff into the trash to avoid creating a clog.

Sink drains are usually full of nasty, slimy bits of soap, hair, grease or food. The detritus of our daily washing leaves the drains full of all sorts of interesting junk, which causes things like slow-draining sinks or bad smells. Sometimes, quantities of really hot water are enough to clear out a drain, but the smell remains because there's still odor causing bacteria on the inside walls of the pipe. Put a cup of baking soda down the drain and follow it up with some more hot water.

If the drain is really bad, you may need a more drastic intervention. Place a bucket under the trap, remove the trap and let any water from the sink fall into the bucket. Plug the bottom of the drain with a plug from the hardware store. Pour oxygen bleach and hot water into the sink and let it sit for a few hours to work, then remove the plug and let the liquid pour into the bucket. Clean the trap itself with a brush and more oxygen bleach, and run the brush into the pipe that joins the wall to clean it as well as you can. Reassemble the trap, and your sink is now cleaned of bacteria that may have been breeding on the walls of the pipes. To keep your drains from getting nasty again, buy a microbial drain cleaner like Drainbo and pour it into the sink drain once a week. The bacteria in Drainbo love to eat the odor-causing bacteria, and will replace them in the drain. Drainbo's bacteria keep drains fresh and clean, preventing build up on the sides of the pipes as well.

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Natural Drain Cleaner for Clogged Drains

The first thing you need to know before working on a clogged drain is that the drain cleaners you see advertised on TV or on the supermarket shelves are made of dangerous chemicals that will eat through rubber gloves, skin, certain kinds of pipe, wood and anything else they touch. If their fumes are inhaled, they can cause damage to the lungs, nose and mouth. If they are eaten, they will kill, even in small amounts. Even when they are used "properly", they can ruin septic systems, pollute groundwater, and destroy pipes.

For a more healthy and safe alternative, try a natural drain cleaner, such as Drainbo, that is made from natually occuring bacteria that will fix a clogged drain, but won't hurt your drain pipes or the environment.

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