A quick note on the idea (or question) of cleaning drains with baking soda and vinegar. I find the volcanic reaction can break loose clogs, in the following fashion- first, get a gallon of water boiling. Next, dissolve a quarter cup or so of baking soda in a cup of really hot water. Make sure it’s completely dissolved, then pour it down the drain. This will fill the trap with baking soda slurry, and the trap is where the clog happens. Then dump a half cup of vinegar down the drain. After the volcano subsides, dump the gallon of boiling water in. The volcano loosened the clog, the boiling water washes it away.
I’ve rarely had to do this, but when I do, it works to clear the drain for a long time!
The volcano can help; however, it depends entirely on where "away" is for your house.
If the clog is in the trap then it's much easier on the plumbing and the human to use a zip-tool to pull out the plug instead of dislodging it so it can join forces with other clogs further down the pipes.
As is the way of the world, the main clog point in my house is 48.75 feet away from the cleanout point. I know that because we measured. It's not fun! It stinks. It makes one heck of a mess to clean the snake and dry it before recoiling it.
What happens at 48.75 feet that causes the clogging? Can that be re-plumbed? Typically the drain pipes get larger as they move toward the septic or city sewer connection, thus preventing bottleneck points that would lead to clogs. The trap is often the worst offender, as water sits there and holds soap scum and hair plus whatever other bits of stuff.
I’ve found the zip tool will pull out some (maybe most) of the hair, but still leaves all the scummy stuff, whereas the volcano and boiling water will get rid of the stuff the zip barbs can’t grab. Plus it isn’t moving the ‘blob of clog’ as one mass, but it breaks up and disperses with the gallon of water, so it shouldn’t be adding to another clog anywhere else. A gallon or two of boiling water down each drain once a month or so is actually really good prevention of clogs in the entire system, and it won’t harm your septic system if that’s what you have.
I would guess that you didn’t cause leaks, but rather, found them. In other words, they were already there, but the gunk was sealing them (temporarily). When you foamed away the gunk, the leak opened. So, you would have had to make those repairs regardless. The vinegar volcano can not cause a leak in proper plumbing drain lines. The pressure created is not great enough to blow pipes or fittings apart, unless they are weak to begin with, which means they already were in need of repair. Similarly, boiling water will not damage any proper drain system, including any seals. There may be plastic pieces that, if you boiled them in a pot, would deform, but running boiling water through them briefly, as in the case of a gallon or two, will cause no damage at all. Plumbing drain line, whether copper or plastic, is made to handle this stuff.
Julie Reed wrote:What happens at 48.75 feet that causes the clogging? Can that be re-plumbed?
They are old pipes and we would have to dig up a big chunk of the house to fix it. We had the camera down there and it's just age and metal plus water. Also, the old owners used some nasty chemicals that weren't septic safe so (according to the professionals who did the scan) that probably contributed to the damage.
The less expensive option is to be aware of what causes clogs and not do that behaviour.
Any time we have to do plumbing related to sinks, we splurge and replace the traps with the sort that have screw fittings. That way, rather than having to fiddle with the snake, we simply put a pan under the trap and unscrew it.
The downside of that is the sink usually has a cabinet, so it's usually a *really* awkward job. When we renovated the kitchen of a previous house which had a full basement, I suggested putting the trap below the sink in the basement. Hubby thought about this "outside the box" idea and was convinced to try it. The first time he had to rescue something from that trap, he was thrilled - he was totally sold on the idea! My intention was to have more space in the cupboard as it was a *really* small kitchen, but it really did make cleaning the trap easier.
That said, I totally agree with Raven - learn not to let stuff get into the plumbing that is best captured some other way. I wipe greasy pots with something I can burn in the wood stove, anything compostable goes in the compost bucket which is right there, I wash veg in a bucket and that goes to plants, we try to be sparing with soaps, and sinks/showers exposed to hair have filters although they're not perfect.
While I agree the best solution is to avoid the clog to begin with, we don’t live in a perfect world, and despite our Own best efforts there are kids, visitors, and of course people not even taking proper care of their drains. Clogs happen. I doubt the septic tank (typically an average of 1000 gallons) would be adversely affected by (or even notice!) such a comparatively tiny amount of vinegar/baking soda, especially since the 2 neutralize each other and a healthy septic tank runs between 6-7.5, or, neutral. Your own water from the well may be outside that range, and contribute far more to an imbalance of the septic tank! The weasel thing looks like it would work great, but it’s a disposable plastic product, which many of us choose to avoid. It removes the hair, but not all the other gunk. Obviously there’s no fictional land of ‘away’, but it would either be a Muni waste treatment plant, a septic tank, or a greywater treatment system such as a reed bed, all of which have been proven to handle worse stuff than the occasional ph neutral mix of a 1/2 cup of vinegar volcano.
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