Charlie Glahe WIN Broomfield

Spectacular spring cleaning: Tackling your drains


We know the act of cleaning during a spring home sale might not feel so spectacular but we also know you'll feel wonderful once you've finished the work. More than that, you'll be able to rest easy during the home inspection.

We promise the remaining chores won't be too painful. Let's begin with the drains.

Unclog drains
Though icky might be a common word to describe this task, there's no way around it. Functioning pipes are on a home inspector's checklist, and anyone looking to buy a house will be running the taps. The good news is unclogging drains doesn't have to consume too much of your time. 

The first rule is to avoid chemical drain cleaners. Not only can they eat away at older pipes - especially those made of iron - but they're not always strong enough to remove a clog. When this happens, the toxic cleaner stays in the drain and becomes a hazard to whomever is tasked with snaking the drain. Trade the bottle of blue stuff for some vinegar, baking soda and hot water. Here's how to use them:

Start with hot water because it's the least labor-intensive. Boiling water is most effective but don't use it on PVC pipes, as they can melt or bend with the heat. Wait until your tub or sink has drained completely before pouring a kettle's contents into it.

If the hot water doesn't work, make your own non-toxic drain cleaner with baking soda and vinegar. This mixture is most effective on grease clogs in the kitchen sink, though it's best to avoid future disposal of grease down the drain.

Take a half cup of baking soda and funnel it directly into the sink or bathtub drain. Pour in a half cup of vinegar and cover the drain, so the bubbles stay where they need to be. After five minutes, try adding a little more vinegar. Cover the drain, let it sit for at least thirty minutes, and flush with hot water.

You can also use baking soda and vinegar to clear slow toilets. In this case, it isn't necessary to let the concoction sit for half an hour. Simply flush the toilet as soon as you've added the vinegar.

Even if your drains aren't clogged, try giving them a weekly baking soda bath to keep them pristine and free of obstructions. 

Be an amateur plumber
When baking soda and vinegar fail, you'll need to go for the plunger. If your drains have been clogged for a while, it's probably time for a trip to the hardware store  to buy a cup plunger and snake.

If it's news to you that two kinds of plungers exist, here's the distinction: Cup plungers are shaped differently than standard toilet plungers, which won't work on your sink or bathtub drain. On the other hand, cup plungers won't work on toilets, so it's best to have both types on hand. 

If the plunger fails, try your hand at snaking the drain. Think of it as a chance for some muscle-building or bragging rights. You can purchase a standard drain snake or pipe cleaner, or you can fashion a wire coat hanger into a light-duty snake. Light-duty is the key word here: Snakes are made for hair clogs, not for deep obstructions in your pipes.

If you'd like to avoid the cost of a plumber, your last option is to buy a drain auger. This is essentially a smaller version of what a professional will use, but it will only run you about $20.

Of course, there's no shame in calling a plumber if you don't want to snake the drain yourself. On the upside, paying a plumber means sparing some of your own precious time.