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Plumber performing drain cleaning in a home.

The Difference Between Clearing and Cleaning Your Drains

Keeping your drains flowing smoothly is essential for maintaining a healthy and functional plumbing system. However, when faced with a clogged sink or pipe, it's crucial to understand the distinction between clearing and cleaning to get to the root of the problem. 

Clearing Your Drains

Clearing a drain involves removing the immediate obstruction or blockage that is limiting water flow. This method is typically employed in response to a sudden clog, such as a backed-up sink or slow-draining bathtub. Common tools used for clearing drains include:

  1. Plungers: Plungers are a simple yet effective tool for dislodging minor clogs in sinks, toilets, and showers. By creating a vacuum seal and applying pressure, plungers can force the obstruction out of the drain and restore proper flow.
  2. Augers or Drain Snakes: Drain augers, also known as drain snakes are long, flexible tools designed to reach deep into pipes to dislodge stubborn clogs. By rotating the auger and maneuvering it through the pipe, you can break it apart and remove blockages caused by hair, grease, and other debris.

Cleaning Your Drains

While clearing addresses immediate blockages, cleaning focuses on removing buildup from the interior surfaces of your pipes such as debris, grease, and residue. This process helps prevent future clogs and maintains optimal flow. Drain cleaning is a preventive maintenance measure that helps extend the lifespan of your plumbing system and reduce the risk of repair costs. Common methods for cleaning drains include:

  1. Chemical Drain Cleaners: Chemical drain cleaners are powerful solvents designed to dissolve organic matter, grease, and soap scum that accumulate inside pipes. While effective for minor clogs, chemical drain cleaners can be harsh on plumbing fixtures and may cause damage if used improperly. It's essential to follow manufacturer instructions carefully and exercise caution when using these products.
  2. Hydro Jetting: Hydro jetting is a professional drain cleaning technique that utilizes high-pressure water jets to cleanse the interior of pipes and remove stubborn buildup and mineral deposits. Hydro jetting is highly effective for deep cleaning and restoring optimal flow, making it ideal for commercial properties or homes with severe clogs or recurring drainage issues.

Choosing the Right Approach

When faced with a clogged sink or pipe, assessing the severity of the blockage is key to choosing the appropriate method for resolution. In general:

  • Clearing is suitable for minor clogs that can be easily dislodged with a plunger or drain snake.
  • Cleaning is recommended for preventing future clogs and maintaining optimal flow, particularly in older homes or properties with recurring drainage issues.

While clearing and cleaning serve distinct purposes in drain maintenance, both are critical for ensuring the long-term functionality and efficiency of your plumbing system. By understanding the difference between clearing and cleaning your drains and knowing when to utilize each method, you can effectively address clogs, prevent future blockages, and keep your drains flowing smoothly.

As always, don’t hesitate to contact a professional plumber for extra stubborn clogs and other tricky plumbing issues. At Valley Plumbing, we are here to provide you with the know-how of professional technicians. Give us a call or visit our website to schedule your next appointment.