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Everyone has experienced the frustration of a clogged waste pipe. If you haven’t, just add it to the list of things you’ve yet to have happened. Clogs in sewer drain lines happen for a number of reasons.

Hair, food particles and just the build up of dirt and grime over the years are the primary culprits. You can prevent major clogs that require a plumbing professional by following a few simple maintenance tips and keeping the right tools on hand if a waste pipe does get clogged.

Tools Needed to Unclog a Waste Pipe

The tools you’re going to need to unclog a plugged drain line depend on the severity of the clog. Chemical over the counter products will clear out a clogged drain line. However, they are not recommended as a regular solution to what can become a reoccurring problem. If your waste pipe dumps into a septic system, they are a very bad idea. The chemicals can compromise the natural biodegrading processes inside the septic tank.

Everybody usually has a standard plunger on hand, but that is a temporary solution to what can turn into a recurring problem. Use a plunger with some of the solutions suggested below, to completely flush out clogs in your waste pipe. Here are some tools besides the standard plunger, to keep around that will usually handle minor to moderate clogs without much difficulty. They are collectively, far less expensive than a one-time service call from a plumber.

#1. Vinegar & Baking Soda

Keep a gallon of white vinegar and a large box of baking soda handy under your sink. They’re great for a number of other household fixes as well. The solution used in the how-to instructions below works well on minor clogs, plus is an excellent maintenance procedure to help avoid them altogether.

#2. Wet & Dry Vacuum

Just like a gallon of vinegar and a box of baking soda, a wet/dry vacuum is a useful household tool for some projects. It can be the answer to unclogging minor, to even difficult clogs in your drains. Just like the previous solution, the vacuum will work on existing clogs, plus is a great tool to keep your drains flowing freely with a periodic maintenance.

#3. Pipe Wrench, Screwdriver & Coat Hanger

These are usually part of the standard household toolbox. They are essential if you think the clog is in the trap under one of your sinks. Usually, if you follow periodic maintenance suggestions, or follow the steps for unclogging simple plug-ups, you won’t need to dismantle anything. There are three good tools to have available just in case though.

#4. Drain Snake

This is the tool of last resort for unclogging a waste pipe. It is a long metal, rope-like device, which coils back up inside a small cranking case. One end has a bulbous barb that acts as a bore to twist and loosen bad clogs. The drain snake doesn’t take up too much room in the tool closet. However, it may be the difference between a do-it-yourself removal of a clog, and a healthy invoice from a plumber. Keep one on hand, especially if you live in an older home.

How-to Guide for Unclogging a Waste Pipe

a modern plumbing system illustration

How many steps it takes you to unclog a drainpipe will be determined by the severity of the clog. One good way to reduce the chances of a serious clog to almost zero is to perform some of these steps periodically as waste pipe maintenance. Since the solutions and mixtures use all-natural products, they will not harm your pipes, or compromise the biodegrading process of a septic system.

1. Break It Down

If you sense a waste pipe is draining slower than normal, add one-third of a cup of vinegar in a metal saucepan, then sprinkle in another one-third of a cup of baking soda. It is going to fizz almost immediately, so mix it over the drain and be ready to dump it down as soon as it begins to fizz. The fizzing will begin to break up hair and dirt clogs around the edges inside the drainpipe.

Let the solution sit for at least an hour, overnight if possible. Flush the pipe clean using hot water. Frequently, one mixture will unclog the pipe. Repeat this once a week just to make sure you get the pipe as clear as possible. If this doesn’t free up the clog, keep the vinegar and baking soda handy and move on to the second solution.

2. Boil It Out

When the vinegar and baking soda do not free up the clog, try one more trick. Start out by adding a teakettle full of boiling water down the drain. Let it sit for a few moments, and then add a double mixture of vinegar and baking soda. Immediately follow that up with another kettle full of boiling water. This will sometimes give the mixture a little extra kick, helping to boil out the clog through.

3. Blow It Out

Another great way to send a clog flushing out the other end of your waste pipe is to blow it out. You can suck backward using a wet/dry vacuum, but it isn’t the recommended solution to use frequently. It is a good way to clear out a temporary problem in a trap, but sucking backward sometimes does nothing but shift clogs, making the problem worse.

Start out by giving the clog a little help, using the previous two steps first. Loosen it up with a dose of boiling water, followed by a shot of vinegar and baking soda. Leave it to work for about an hour, and then hook up the wet/dry vacuum in reverse. Tightly affix the end down the drain and turn it on full power. The combination of the solution and the intense force of air down the drain is often enough to blow out the clog.

4. Snake It Out

Using a snake to clear away a clog in your waste pipe is hopefully a last resort. The process is a little more involved but far less expensive than the bill from a plumber. It’s well worth at least one attempt. First, remove the trap under the sink, or look for a convenient cleanout valve, if you have access to your sewer lines. This is where you can more easily run the snake through the open waste pipe.

Always start a more involved unclogging procedure with the good old vinegar and baking soda solution. Every little bit of assistance you give to freeing up a clog, the better. Follow the instruction manual for your snake, cranking it down the waste pipe slowly. Eventually, you should feel it run into the clog.

Continue to work it around a few times. Frequently, this will be enough to force the clog through, and you notice the snake begin to work itself deeper inside the pipe. If you think you’ve busted through the clog, recoil the snake back out of the pipe. Usually, you’ll find the culprit clinging to the barbs at the end of the snake.

Once you feel like you pushed the clog through, or pulled it out, use the vacuum to blow through the line one more time. Add another double mixture of your trusty solution, and add a kettle full of boiling water. Close the line back up at the trap and test your drain. This step can be repeated multiple times, but usually, after a second or third attempt, there may be no solution left but to call a plumber.


As a maintenance procedure against clogs, you can actually add a little baking soda down the drain slowly, and then pour the vinegar over the top. It will fizz inside the pipe. Do this roughly four times a year, or monthly if you’ve been experiencing frequent clogging issues. Again, it will not hurt the waste pipe, and over time it will clear away most deposits.

Boiling water added down a waste pipe system that seems prone to clogging is another helpful maintenance trick. Boiling water helps to loosen greasy buildup on the pipe walls. To give this step a little help, add some dish detergent with a high grease removal rating. Pipes notorious for clogging up suddenly flow freely after using this simple maintenance trick for a few months.

Bottom Line

Hiring out a plumber to remove a clog in a waste pipe can be a costly expense. Most plumbers charge a pretty stiff fee just for showing up at your door. Then, they add at a hefty hourly rate, to do something you may well have been able to do yourself.

Keep the items necessary to free up minor to moderate clogs on hand, plus use them periodically as preventative maintenance. A good cleaning every once in a while can be the perfect solution to keeping your waste pipes flowing freely.

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