When it comes to clearing a clogged drain, there are three main options. Knowing how each option works can help you decide which is best for the plumbing issue you are dealing with.
Many homeowners turn to drain-clearing chemical solutions that are easily available at any hardware store. Chemical drain cleaners are typically caustic, as they are designed to eat through the hair and soap scum that often leads to a drain clog.
Often, though, these chemicals only provide short-term solutions. The issue is that chemical drain cleaners must reach the clog in order to dissolve it. Most clogs are large and extensive, so the cleaner can't fully reach into the clog to eat away at it before the drain is used again and the cleaner is diluted. There are also hazards involved with cleaners. If the drain backs up without being fully cleared, you may be exposed to the caustic chemicals in the cleaner.
A drain auger, sometimes referred to as a drain snake, is a more effective solution for a drain clog. The auger used must fit the job. Toilet augers, for example, have protective tips that won't damage the porcelain, while sink augers are smaller to accommodate the shorter drain pipes. Main drain augers are often motorized so they can drill through the debris and tree roots that often clog sewer lines.
Augers can damage lines if not used correctly, though. In some cases, the drill-like tip punches right through a pipe and destroys it. It's best to leave augering, particularly in main drains, to the professionals. Augers may also leave behind some residue that can rebuild, thereby making a new clog, particularly if the blockage was caused by the collection of fats, oils, and grease in the drain line.
One of the most thorough solutions for drain clearing is hydro jetting. High pressured water is sprayed from a special emitter that is fed down the drain pipe. The water sprays forward, sideways, and backward. This means that all of the residue in the drain is cleared off the interior of the pipe so that clogs don't reform as quickly.
Hydro jetting can also shear off tree roots, making it a good choice for main drain blockages. This method is also sometimes used as preventative maintenance since it cleans pipes and keeps clogs from ever forming. It may not be suitable for smaller clogs in localized drains, such as a blocked sink drain.
Contact a residential plumber if you have constant clogs that need to be addressed.