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Question DetailsAsked on 7/24/2016

How to clean out basement floor drain

Drain has L shape curve and there is a clog in the drain line. I need a tool that can go thru the drain, that curves and ca grab clogging material.

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BTW - you rarely (unless foreign material like a cloth or toy or such, which probably would not make it up through your floor drain anyway from the sounds of it) want to pull a clog back out unless visible at the drain inlet - generally you want to break it up and flush it down.

Several of floor drains -

1) some (generally older ones but still available) have two openings inside (not visible unless water is removed from the drain), with one being the normal trap, but an angled snaking passage above that like this which bypasses most of the trap except the outlet end (to keep the bypass under water) - generally the upper (snaking) one has a flap over it - image about halfway down blog

2) others have a floating or cast iron plug in them (with grip top or eye on the top to lift it out) that lets water past but has to be lifted out to get a snake in the trap -

3) some are just a regular U- or S-trap and can be directly snaked with ease

4) some, mostly pre-90's, have a quite flat curved wide bottom and the trap is basically right at the inlet of the drain, and getting a snake to make the turn without kinking is very hard. For those you sometimes use a flat wire snake, which is just a flat piece of spring metal tape with a twist or small hook on the end, much like an electrician's wiring puller. From your description of an L-shaped curve, you might have this type - or might have missed a higher-up snake entry point like 1) above, or missed a lift-out plug like 2) above at the bottom to access the drain pipe with a snake.

Depending on whether this has finished flooring around it or not (which determines if some overflow or stray water splash or spray matters or not) and whether it is partly draining or not, several things that commonly work, in no particular order:

1) if partly draining, wrapping a rag tightly around a hose and forcing it tightly into the drain, then having a second person turn it on and off as needed (or using a large-nose trigger-type spray nozzle like this - need to run the facuet up to full flow quickly but manbe just a few seconds if it does not flush out, so can spray back on you - not good on finished floors. Be careful not to pressure the pipe up to full hose pressure because not all drain pipe can handle pressures into the 60-70 psi that a hose might put out. A quick shot to pressure it up then stop and relieve if it does not flush on out.

2) putting some baking soda into the trap, then add vinegar to make it foam - being careful (or having wet-dry shop vac handy and running) to not let it foam onto finished flooring - works for many type clogs but not if sanded in. Ditto to commercial cleaners but much messier and dangerous to try to wet-vac up so it does not overflow if working in a finished floor situation.

3) filling trap with water, wrap rag around end of wet-dry shop vac hose, and use the vac to pull the clog up through the drain - or at least to loosen it up, then maybe flushing down with hose as in 1) or buckets of water. Note doing this may pull the water out of other traps in the house, so be sure to run water at each water drain point (sinks, basins, tubs, showers, other floor drains) afterwards to refill with water to prevent sewer gas infiltration to the house.

4) thread or tape a piece of 1/4" semi-rigid plastic tubing to a hose or air compressor (keep pressure down to less than about 20 psi) and feed that down into the drain, keeping the flow going as you feed it in.

5) if clogged in the trap itself, like sanded in, running a small nosed spray nozzle like this into it on jet can flush the material out commonly - works good on garage and unfinished basement floors where some overflow can readily be cleaned up, not so nice on finished floors. This method is basically flushing the grit to the surface and back out of the drain entry, so you get a fair amount of water on the floor (minus what someone else may vacuum up while you are working).

6) if tight right angle turn, toilet augers (toilet snakes) commonly have sharper cable turning capability (but lengths generally not over about 10-12 feet but most floor drains are not over a couple of feet from the main sewer pipe anyway so 6 footer will commonly work) and have the fixed protective rubber/plastic sleeve that is made to go into the toilet trap and make a 90 degree turn, then the snake cable turns inside that coming out horizontally - can work in many of this type lateral trap drains though if it has the coil-type snake end as shown below that might have to be clipped off and replaced with just a slight bend at the end of the wire so it digs around as it turns

7) commonly these drains plug up from lack of use, so debris and floating material from the main sewer line back up into the floor drain line (especially if your main drain is starting to plug up and back up during high flows through it) and plug the floor drain branch (generally not 100% blockage), so many times snaking/routing or pressure cleaning the main line first with special emphasis on that wye area, followed by a bit of water pressure on the floor drain, will clear it out.

Obviously, if not up to the DIy thing or you can't solve it yourself with one of these, then a Plumber - Drain Cleaning or a Sewer and Drain Cleaner is the person to use.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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