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LifestyleHome and Garden

Homework: A quick fix for a slow drain

Each day you've noticed your bathroom sink takes longer and longer to drain. Remember when the water used to race from the sink out the drain, and you'd hear that slurping sound as the last water races from the basin?

In just a few minutes and with a simple tool, you can get your bathroom sink drain back to its old self. I know, you're timid around plumbing and think that you'll ruin something or cause a leak. Don't worry -- I've been a master plumber for nearly 35 years and will hold your hand through the process.

These instructions are for most modern sinks that have a pull rod that's part of the faucet. This rod operates the sink stopper, making it go up and down. Just about every bathroom sink has this type of mechanism. Let's get started.


Believe it or not, you'll just need one simple tool for this job: adjustable pliers. A smaller one will do -- it doesn't have to be a giant pair. It needs to adjust so it can grab something that's a little bigger than one inch in diameter.


Empty everything from under the bathroom sink. You're going to be on your back under the sink to loosen a round nut that holds the lever that makes the sink stopper go up and down. Take off your shoes before you do this so you don't mar the wall, floor or anything in the bathroom. Take your cellphone out of your pocket along with anything else that can cause discomfort or get broken from applying pressure as you lie on your back or side while under the sink.


Get on the floor and wiggle carefully under the sink so you can see all the parts. Don't bang into the P-trap (the part of the pipe that dips closest to the floor) or water supply lines. You'll notice a straight pipe that extends up from the P-trap toward the bottom of the sink. This smooth straight pipe is called the tailpiece. It connects to another pipe that has a rod extending from the back of it. This odd-shaped pipe connects directly to the bottom of the sink.


The rod that extends from the back of this odd-shaped pipe is the lever that operates the stopper up in the sink that keeps water in the sink when closed. The end of the rod passes through a hole at the bottom of the stopper. This is why you can't pull the sink stopper straight up out of the sink. If you can pull the stopper up, then it has not been installed properly all these years.


The rod is held in place to the back of the odd-shaped pipe at the bottom of the sink by a round nut that has knurling (a criss-cross pattern) on its surface. Your job is to loosen this nut so you can pull the rod out of the odd-shaped pipe. You'll use the adjustable pliers and you'll turn the nut counterclockwise as you're facing the back of the rod.


The nut will come off with little effort. As you pull it out from the back of the pipe, out with it may come some goo-encrusted hair. Be prepared for this and keep your face out of the way so the goo doesn't drip on you.


Have a helper pull the sink stopper up out of the sink. You may extract more hair and who-knows-what as you do this. Take a flashlight and look down the hole in the bottom of the sink to look for any other blockage. You should see a reflection of water that's sitting in the P-trap.


If you have a helper, hold your hand over the hole that's in the back of the odd-shaped pipe where the rod came out. Have the helper turn on the water to the sink and see how the drain works. It should take all the water the faucet can give it. If it doesn't, then the clog is in the P-trap or further down the drain system. Ninety-five percent of the time, though, the clog is right there at the end of the rod that connects to the stopper.


Once you've recovered from the goo and cleaned off the end of the rod and the bottom of the sink stopper, put the two parts back together, making sure the end of the rod passes through the bottom of the stopper. Tighten the round nut with the pliers and celebrate your success as you get rid of the cramping in your back and legs.

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