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How to Keep Your Home’s Drain System Free of Clogs - Part 2

Part 1

The following items should never enter your drain system:

Coffee grounds

Disposable diapers

Facial tissues

Fabric dryer sheets

Cigarette butts

Heavy–duty paper towels

Sanitary napkins

Latex gloves and condoms


Earth (from flower pots)

Cat litter

Panty liners

Preventative Drain Maintenance:

Have you ever thought of cleaning your drains on a regular basis? We clean and replace filters in our heating and air conditioning systems on a regular basis. But few people do any preventative maintenance on their home’s drain system.

Hot Water:

dishwasher drain
Figure 10 - Dishwasher drain

Hot water is one of the best preventative maintenance items you have at your disposal. Every time you use a sink, bathtub, or shower you should run hot water down the drain for a minute. This will help to remove any contaminates that have adhered to the inside of the drainpipe walls.

Once every month or so, depending on how often you use your clothes washer, you should pour a gallon of hot water down the drain that the drain hose from the washing machine is stuck into.

Don’t forget your dishwasher. Your dishwasher’s drain, if it is a built-in dishwasher is most likely connected above the trap for the kitchen sink, as shown in Figure 10. After you wash a load of dishes, let the hot water run in the sink for a minute to flush any soap scum left by the dishwasher. Your dishwasher will have a filter basket or strainer of some sort; make sure you clean it regularly.

Baking Soda:

Baking soda is an exceptional cleaning agent that is safe to use anywhere. A 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by hot water will remove a lot of latent grease and grime that is sticking to the insides of the drainpipes. It will also remove any odors that may be in the drain from the top of the water in the trap to the drain in the plumbing fixture.


White Vinegar contains acetic acid which is a solvent to most organic materials and as most of the problems with clogged drainpipes is caused wholly or in part by organic materials then vinegar will help to dissolve the problem. Pour a cup of white vinegar down the drain and let it stand for half an hour. Flush this with boiling water.

vent pipe cap
Figure 11 - Vent pipe cap

Preventative Vent Pipe Maintenance:

The drainpipes, as explained earlier, are only part of your home’s drain system. Another very important part of the overall system is the vent pipes.

The vent pipes are usually 3 or 4 inches in diameter and they protrude through the roof. In most cases they are not covered. If you live in an area where there are trees that are higher than the roof of your home, having uncovered vent pipes can lead to problems. There are of course numerous other items that can end up in your vent pipes; dead birds, small animals, trash and balls.

Clogged vent pipes show themselves in a host of different manners. Drains that gargle when water is draining; drains that are slow to drain; toilets that flush without human intervention and my favorite drains that burp.

Opening clogged drain pipes can be difficult and expensive, depending on how the vent pipes have actually been run in your home. In this case the best prevention is to install vent pipe caps, as shown in Figure 11, to prevent anything from entering the vent pipes and causing a full or partial blockage. Vent pipe caps are relatively inexpensive, less than $20.