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Old 03-13-2019, 02:05 PM   #1
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Possible to snake a narrow bathtub drain from the 1960s?


I've got a slow draining bathtub. I was unable to get a snake past the trap, so last June, I used some Instant Power drain cleaner and that cut a path through the blockage. Well, here we are, 9 months later and the drain is getting blocked again, as the water drains too slowly to prevent pooling while showering.

I had a drain clearing service come out and the guy was unable to get past the trap. He thinks it's a narrow trap that cannot be snaked and recommended I hire a plumber to replace the trap, which of course involves ripping out the ceiling underneath the tub.

I'm wondering if there is any less invasive solution than replacing the trap which is likely the original trap from when the house was built in the 1960s, other than continuing to use drain cleaner, which is clearly only a temporary solution that also carries some risk of eating a hole in the pipe.
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Old 03-13-2019, 02:34 PM   #2
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Re: Possible to snake a narrow bathtub drain from the 1960s?


Sometimes old fashioned plunger will do it. Sometimes boiling hot water.
Could be hair.
Could be from the lotions and potions people use in the shower.
Could be a kitchen sink fat clog below on same line.
Could be the trap or beyond the trap.
A plunger needs to fully seat/seal and push, then pull on the clog. Back and forth, until it breaks loose enough to move along.
Filling the tub to half full, then opening stopper (removing it first is even better) and plunging vigorously.
Significant other should be standing by with encouragement and towels.
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Old 03-13-2019, 04:40 PM   #3
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Re: Possible to snake a narrow bathtub drain from the 1960s?


Not many P traps are snake friendly unless someone knows of a special snake.



If the clog is in the trap, Clorox dissolves hair. Try a couple of applications about 2 hours apart followed by hot water. If the clog is farther down the drain somewhere Clorox usually isn't as effective and may require more applications.
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Old 03-13-2019, 05:25 PM   #4
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Re: Possible to snake a narrow bathtub drain from the 1960s?


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Originally Posted by SeniorSitizen View Post
Not many P traps are snake friendly unless someone knows of a special snake.



If the clog is in the trap, Clorox dissolves hair. Try a couple of applications about 2 hours apart followed by hot water. If the clog is farther down the drain somewhere Clorox usually isn't as effective and may require more applications.
It's not hair. We tested this when trying to deal with this slow drain last year: https://www.diychatroom.com/f7/clear...ge-tub-622586/
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Old 03-13-2019, 05:28 PM   #5
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Re: Possible to snake a narrow bathtub drain from the 1960s?


Quote:
He thinks it's a narrow trap
I don't think there is such a thing.


I would try a toilet auger. It is more flexible. Cut the end off to reduce the size. It is just hard to get a snake, which has to have a certain amount of stiffness to be pushed down the pipe, to make the turns in a trap.


Try to snake from the overflow. That's one less turn than from the tub drain.
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Old 03-13-2019, 05:34 PM   #6
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Re: Possible to snake a narrow bathtub drain from the 1960s?


Tub drains love shampoo bottle caps. Last tub I snaked had two trapped at a sharp turn into the main stack.
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Old 03-13-2019, 07:57 PM   #7
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Re: Possible to snake a narrow bathtub drain from the 1960s?


Quote:
Originally Posted by diyorpay View Post
Sometimes old fashioned plunger will do it. Sometimes boiling hot water.
Could be hair.
Could be from the lotions and potions people use in the shower.
Could be a kitchen sink fat clog below on same line.
Could be the trap or beyond the trap.
A plunger needs to fully seat/seal and push, then pull on the clog. Back and forth, until it breaks loose enough to move along.
Filling the tub to half full, then opening stopper (removing it first is even better) and plunging vigorously.
Significant other should be standing by with encouragement and towels.
So you want to plunge while the tub is draining? I'll give this a shot.

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Originally Posted by hkstroud View Post
Tub drains love shampoo bottle caps. Last tub I snaked had two trapped at a sharp turn into the main stack.
How did you know? Did the tip of the snake snag the cap and pull it back out as you retracted the snake?
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Old 03-13-2019, 09:04 PM   #8
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Re: Possible to snake a narrow bathtub drain from the 1960s?


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How did you know?
This was a second story bath. I was called in after Rotor Rooter failed. The bath was above the entrance foyer which had a mirrored ceiling. After snaking and doing everything is I could, I went into the ceiling from of a closet below on one side of the foyer. I cut the drain line and tried to snake from there but hit a solid blockage. I remove the toilet and cut out the floor. The tub drain made a 90 degree turn into a 45 in the toilet arm. I cut the drain line and there stuck in the 45 were two shampoo bottle caps. I re-soldered everything replace the flooring, and reset the toilet. Don't remember what the floor covering was but I restored it also. Patched up the ceiling of the closet.

The home owner was a young divorcee and seem to be a bit of a premadonna. Got a little annoyed that I tracked up foyer a little bit. Anyone else would have charged her four times what I did, but I was only a handyman. There was a couple of electrical thing she threw in since I was there, but that was a long time ago and I don't remember what they were.
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Last edited by hkstroud; 03-13-2019 at 09:13 PM.
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Old 03-14-2019, 03:05 AM   #9
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Re: Possible to snake a narrow bathtub drain from the 1960s?


Quote:
Originally Posted by jbrah View Post
I've got a slow draining bathtub. I was unable to get a snake past the trap, so last June, I used some Instant Power drain cleaner and that cut a path through the blockage. Well, here we are, 9 months later and the drain is getting blocked again, as the water drains too slowly to prevent pooling while showering.

I had a drain clearing service come out and the guy was unable to get past the trap. He thinks it's a narrow trap that cannot be snaked and recommended I hire a plumber to replace the trap, which of course involves ripping out the ceiling underneath the tub.

I'm wondering if there is any less invasive solution than replacing the trap which is likely the original trap from when the house was built in the 1960s, other than continuing to use drain cleaner, which is clearly only a temporary solution that also carries some risk of eating a hole in the pipe.
9 months sounds about right for Draino. Here's the problem.

Many older houses use galvanized steel drain pipes in some sections. The large pipes in the stack are usually cast iron and those are fine but sometimes they used galvanized steel in some of the laterals.

Once the galvanizing corrodes off the pipe, the pipe starts rusting and the rust will capture hair, even small pieces of it, and that will pick up oils and other organics and make the drain slow.

Snaking that is ALSO a temporary fix. The problem is that the inside of the pipes is a rough surface and will capture hair.

You can buy these plastic drain filters that are soft plastic with very fine holes and those are very effective at keeping this kind of a drain clear. of course, the drain filter often has to be cleaned after every shower.

Buying a gallon of liquid drain cleaner every year is just a typical preventative maintenance for this kind of a house. Welcome to old home ownership.

If you use highly caustic drain cleaner in a slow running metal or PVC drain line you won't damage the pipes.

If you use a highly acidic drain cleaner in a slow running PVC drain line you also won't damage the pipes. But if you put it in a metal pipe you will damage it.

If your drain lines are mix of PVC and metal - you can only use caustic drain cleaners.

If your drains are stopped and not moving - then chemical drain cleaners can damage pipes. It is because the reactions in the drain generate heat and can corrode metal pipes with byproducts of the reactions.

It is not a good idea to pour boiling water down a PVC drain. Boiling water can soften PVC pipes. However hot water from the tap won't soften PVC pipes.

What I do with slow running drains is run hot water from the tap down them for about 5 minutes to get the drainpipes good and warm, then I pour several kettles of boiling water down the drains (my slow runners are all metal) then follow that with whatever the cheapest caustic draino kind of product I got from the big box store. I get a gallon container of it and pour half of it down that insures that the lateral is completely full of the stuff. I do that right before bed and then I let that sit for overnight and in the morning I then run 5 to 10 minutes of hot water from the tap down it to flush the drain.

I also use the fine plastic screens but the rest of the family hates them and are constantly taking them out of the drains. Generally I go through a gallon of drain opener per slow running drain per year.
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Old 03-14-2019, 07:45 AM   #10
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Re: Possible to snake a narrow bathtub drain from the 1960s?


Follow #2 instructions for plunging with a couple exceptions. There is usually a vent when air enters at the shower/tub direction. Can't tell what you have no images. Anyway if you find the vent(it helps the water empty from the tub) take the cover off and wet a rag and block it tight. fill the tub half way a mentioned and get that plunger over the drain and plunge up and down with quick jerks real hard while making sure the vent is blocked. If the vent is not blocked the water just swishes up and down on the plunging motion. You want that plunge pressure going in and out of the trap. Good luck.. Sounds like a lot when writing.

PS Let us know the outcome.
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Old 03-17-2019, 09:34 AM   #11
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Re: Possible to snake a narrow bathtub drain from the 1960s?


Bio clean it will clean the entire inside of the pipe. Acid only cleans the bottom.
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Old 03-17-2019, 09:40 AM   #12
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Re: Possible to snake a narrow bathtub drain from the 1960s?


Yo BRAH, you ever get that drain cleaned out. Be nice to know the results. Later.
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Old 03-17-2019, 12:11 PM   #13
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Re: Possible to snake a narrow bathtub drain from the 1960s?


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Originally Posted by COLDIRON View Post
Yo BRAH, you ever get that drain cleaned out. Be nice to know the results. Later.
It's been draining acceptably well since the drain clearing service came here and tried, unsuccessfully, to get their snake through the p-trap. Could be that some of the blockage was in the front portion of the p-trap and he knocked that stuff off, or maybe all the vibration shook some of the blockage off deeper into the trap.

So I'll just wait until it slows down and will try the plunging method. And if that doesn't work, I'll go with @tmittelstaedt 's suggestion to use drain cleaner. It looks like a galvanized steel pipe (and feeds into a cast iron main line), so I'll just keep using Instant Power drain cleaner (same as I used 9 months ago) as necessary. It's strongly alkaline, so I guess that should be safe for the pipes. But if it eats through the galvanized steel pipe, then I'll have to cut out the ceiling underneath (which is in the garage) and replace the pipe and p-trap. Since that section of ceiling would be cut out whether I replace this pipe today or sometime in the future if/when the pipe decays to the point of leaking, there's no harm in waiting (other than the relatively low cost of periodically purchasing drain cleaner).
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Old 03-17-2019, 01:37 PM   #14
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Re: Possible to snake a narrow bathtub drain from the 1960s?


Snakes usually have that hair catcher in the front. The image. Cut it off and just use the 1/4" spring per hkstroud advice. In fact, if you cut off about 5' section and attach to the drill, drill makes it lot easier to maneuver through the pipes. You need to hold the snake with a rag and give it bit of pushing as well. Once you're in 3-4', retract while giving it max spin every foot or so. This will knock off some of the rust, if that is the problem. I keep my tub with old iron pipe going like this.


BTW, I go through the overflow.
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Old 03-17-2019, 03:10 PM   #15
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Re: Possible to snake a narrow bathtub drain from the 1960s?


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Snakes usually have that hair catcher in the front. The image. Cut it off and just use the 1/4" spring per hkstroud advice.
So you think without the bulkier head, it can make a tighter turn?

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In fact, if you cut off about 5' section and attach to the drill, drill makes it lot easier to maneuver through the pipes.
So cut off a 5' section of the coil, discard the auger and chuck the coil directly into a drill? Interesting.

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BTW, I go through the overflow.
Yeah, I went through the overflow as well, as did the drain clearing guy - one less turn the snake has to make.
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