Sometimes drain clogs are as easy to fix as clearing out some hair or gunk. Other times, however, clogs are a little more difficult to fix. These can happen when you don't have easy access to the pipe underneath or if there's standing water in the way. Here are three difficult problems you might encounter and how to tackle them.

Drain Cap Won't Come Off

Some clogs are easily fixed if you can fit a snake down the drain, but this becomes much harder when you can't remove your drain cap. There are a few ways around this.

  • Try to remove your drain cap. How you do this will depend on what kind of cap you have. The most common issue, especially with brass or bronze caps, is that the threads on the screw holding the cap in place have been corroded and no longer move when you try to unscrew it. Some caps can be pried off or lubricated, and some can simply be pulled off with enough force. Look up a guide for your specific cap to be safe, or ask a plumber to help. If the cap is corroded, it will likely need to be replaced anyway.
  • Use a safe drain cleaner or water and vinegar mixture. If getting the cap off can wait, using a standard drain cleaner should do the trick. If you have the option, look for a septic-safe cleaner even if you aren't on septic, and avoid using bleach; these safer cleaners are less likely to damage your pipes and are still just as effective.

Standing Water in Sink or Tub

Standing water in a sink or tub can make it very difficult to even get to your drain, much less unclog it. These usually indicate a more serious clog as well.

First, do your best to remove as much standing water as you can. If you have a wet/dry vacuum, this is a good time to use it, but if not, it's OK if you have a little bit of water remaining when you're finished.

Next, you can try to unclog the pipe by putting a snake down the overflow/vent pipe if the pipe is large enough. This will let you bypass the main drain, and while it may be a bit more challenging, it's a useful workaround.

If that doesn't work, a wet/dry vacuum can also work well here. Seal the overflow drain as tightly as you can, then place the vacuum hose over the drain and seal that as tightly as you can as well. The suction will sometimes be enough to remove or at least loosen the clog.

If that doesn't work either, keep the airtight seal on the overflow pipe and try using a plunger over the drain. This will work even if you have some standing water left because the air trapped under the plunger will be forced down into the drain, which can break the clog.

Multiple Drains Back Up Simultaneously

If multiple drains in the same area are backed up, this indicates a clog somewhere farther down the pipes. It could be just below where all of your room's pipes connect or as far down as your house's main drain. There are a few ways to try to locate this clog and then fix it.

Try running water into other bathtubs or toilets in the house. If they don't experience any issues, the clog isn't in your main drain. You can also look at the sewer cleanout pipes to look for any standing sewage or water that might indicate the clog is deeper down. If the clog is somewhere deeper down, it's hard to reach, but you can attempt to clear it using a motorized snake or a hose with high water pressure.

If the clog only affects one room, try running a snake down the lowest drain in the room, which is usually a tub. That will put you that much closer to the clog itself. You can also look for the cleanout plug for that particular set of pipes if it's accessible to you; if it is, you can get much easier access to the clog from there and use a snake or something with high water pressure to force it out.

If none of these options work, it's likely a problem that's very difficult to handle without professional training and equipment, so call a plumber for help with drain cleaning.

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