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Old 11-13-2010, 03:41 PM   #1
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Cleaning black sludge out of the drain


I've got a house that is 40-50 years old that we moved into about a year ago. At the time of inspection, the downstairs bathroom sink was found to "drain slow." The inspector told us it wasn't that bad and it probably due to "older pipes." We didn't worry about it and other than the rare nuisance, it hasn't been an issue.

Last week, we noticed a nasty smell coming from the bathroom sink when the tap was on. Only when the tap is running (hot or cold) and no other faucet in the house. The drain from the sink (trap etc) to the wall is clean. The plumbing guy at home depot said to take the pipe off of the wall and snake out the drain pipe inside the wall, saying there was likely a clog in there or above in the vent. Well, I opened it up and voila! the entire pipe as far as I can see is covered with thick black sludge! I can't even get the snake in. (It's a tape snake if that makes a difference.) I cleaned a bunch of it out with my (gloved) fingers and a wire, but can't find where it makes the turn to go up or down, it seems to be a dead end. I know it's not, but...

Is there a way to clean this out chemically so I don't have to cut my wall open to get this pipe out and replace it or hire a pro? We just had to have some work done on the sewer line under our house to the tune of $1200 so I really can't afford any more major repairs.

Will the baking soda and vinegar thing work since the sludge is so far away from the trap? Even if we can just fix it now, knowing a bigger repair will be needed in the future, I could save some money. You know?

Thanks!
Bryan

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Old 11-13-2010, 07:24 PM   #2
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Cleaning black sludge out of the drain


Long shot.

Take a toilet plunger and put it over the drain. Fill the sink partway.

Very slowly push the plunger down. Have some helpers hold the sink down, or kneel on it yourself. Then yank the plunger up. Don't use tremendous strength with stainless steel kitchen sinks because this can warp them.

Repeat.

This may dislodge the sludge and also bring it up into the open as opposed to push it further down and compact it.

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Last edited by AllanJ; 11-13-2010 at 07:33 PM.
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Old 11-13-2010, 08:38 PM   #3
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Cleaning black sludge out of the drain


I believe you are talking about a lavatory sink, are you. If so, replace the trap (unless the existing one is in good condition). Go to the hardware store and ask for a "Hand Auger". They usually cost around $8-$20. What you will do is take the stopper out of drain and stick the end of the cable into drain. Then, once you can go no further pushing it, you'll tighten the set screw on the auger and start spinning the handle clockwise. Make sure you leave some slack in cable but not too much. Once you get cable past trap, you'll loosen screw and pull a little more cable out of auger, tighten screw and spin it again. You'll need to go about 6'' at a time to not kink the cable. Run water also while doing this so you'll know when clog is broken free.
I do not advise use of ANY chemicals in my customers drains, nor will I advise you to do so either. If you have a house that's 50+, you need to stay away from that mess. It hardly ever works and they don't call it "plumber's best friend" for no reason (i.e. drain replacements) They may say 'safe for pipes' just like those wet wipes say 'flushable'. Neither is true.
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Old 11-14-2010, 02:19 AM   #4
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Cleaning black sludge out of the drain


Quote:
Originally Posted by Plumber26
I believe you are talking about a lavatory sink, are you. If so, replace the trap (unless the existing one is in good condition). Go to the hardware store and ask for a "Hand Auger". They usually cost around $8-$20. What you will do is take the stopper out of drain and stick the end of the cable into drain. Then, once you can go no further pushing it, you'll tighten the set screw on the auger and start spinning the handle clockwise. Make sure you leave some slack in cable but not too much. Once you get cable past trap, you'll loosen screw and pull a little more cable out of auger, tighten screw and spin it again. You'll need to go about 6'' at a time to not kink the cable. Run water also while doing this so you'll know when clog is broken free.
I do not advise use of ANY chemicals in my customers drains, nor will I advise you to do so either. If you have a house that's 50+, you need to stay away from that mess. It hardly ever works and they don't call it "plumber's best friend" for no reason (i.e. drain replacements) They may say 'safe for pipes' just like those wet wipes say 'flushable'. Neither is true.
It is a lavatory sink. The trap is good. The pipe from the sink to the wall is all PVC and completely clear, it's only once it gets inside the wall that the trouble starts. I dug as much out as I could and then someone suggested pouring boiling water through so I did that and it drains much faster and so far, no smell! I may go get a snake like you recommend and give it a shot. The Home Depot guy recommended this tape so I got that, but it's not getting the job done...
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Old 11-15-2010, 08:29 AM   #5
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Cleaning black sludge out of the drain


I use enyzme-based drain cleaners such as DrainCare for sluggish drains like that. Snakes will often just plunge through that kind of gunk without clearing it all out. Yes, it a chemical, but is is NON-CAUSTIC and will not hurt the fixture, pipes, etc., but it WILL eat out that organic gunk.
You just run warm water into the sink, pour in the DrainCare and let it eat overnight. Then you flush it down with hot water. I usually start that flushing with a kettle of boiling water.
If it is really built up, you may have to do it more than once, but it WILL clear it out to the bare metal of the pipe interior.
Good Luck!
Mike
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Old 12-02-2010, 01:30 AM   #6
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Cleaning black sludge out of the drain


any update on this?
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Old 12-02-2010, 08:52 AM   #7
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Cleaning black sludge out of the drain


I tried the hot water and drain cleaner you recommended and it worked great. The sink is draining again and the smell is gone. I noticed the other day that it looks like it might be slowing down again, so I'm going to try again and see if maybe it's got some more in there that needs to come out.
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Old 12-02-2010, 09:06 AM   #8
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Cleaning black sludge out of the drain


Go to the hardware store and find some Lye. (If you can, it's sometimes hard to find as I was told they also use it to make meth).

It's caustic so be careful by using eyeglasses and rubber gloves.

Pour a tbs down the drain and let it work 15 minutes, then flush. Do this 2-3 times and for a few weeks. Then once month as maintenance. Your black sludge will be gone.
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Old 12-05-2010, 08:49 AM   #9
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Cleaning black sludge out of the drain


Be careful with lye, if you are on a septic system it has a tendency to kill the active bacteria.
I have had good luck with a product called Bio Clean, there are many products that use the Bio name, but i have found Bio Clean is the best. It is available through plumbers only. Expensive but worth it, in my opinion.
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Old 12-05-2010, 10:57 PM   #10
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Cleaning black sludge out of the drain


thanks for the update guys
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Old 12-05-2010, 11:33 PM   #11
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Cleaning black sludge out of the drain


Dont put it in your drain is a general good rule. The Chemicals that are Caustic will usually eat through your pipes... maybe not the first time but eventually. You can use the auger as suggested... I have had luck with tieing a rag on the end also to help with the cleaning of the sludge (soap scum, Skin and hair combo). If there is a Mr Rooter in your area you can also get a chemical called BioChoiceES from them. This is another natural enzyme that will east away at the scum and skin and allow the hair to pass through. I am sure there are other brands but, this is the one that I have experience with

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