Hair-clogged drains are one of the most common plumbing issues experienced in the United States. Not only are hair-clogged drains frustrating due to the sink’s inability to drain normally, they can also cost homeowners hundreds or thousands of dollars in possible damages.
When hair enters the drain, it may not always make it’s way smoothly through your pipes. Minor existing deposits or trapped items may gather hair, and over time, clog anything including your bathroom sink’s p-trap, to a major plumbing connection deep inside the walls.
Table of Contents
- How Does Hair Clog Drains?
- Here's What Actually Happens When Hair Goes Down the Drain
- What to do When You Get a Hair Clog in Your Pipes (4 Easy Solutions)
- How to Prevent Hair from Going Down the Drain
How Does Hair Clog Drains?
Before we think about what happens when hair goes down the drain, we first gotta figure out why hair clogs drains. Hair in drains is very common in US households. It’s very difficult to avoid dropping hair down the drain. This is made even more complicated for those with long hair, brittle hair, and those experiencing hair-loss. Daily acts like grooming and showering create an army of hairs just waiting to knot-up your sink’s p-trap.
Here’s Why Hair is SO GOOD at Clogging Our Drains
- Hair is Strong – 1 strand of hair…. not so much. But thousands of hair strands knotted together can create a pretty strong plug.
- Hair is Plentiful – Almost everyone has hair, whether it’s on their head, face, or other places (you know the ones). You add in the hair from your dog’s bath, you quickly can develop a pretty nasty clog.
- We Don’t Think About it – Many of us don’t consider hair a real threat to our pipes. After all, it can take years for a clog to develop from an accumulation of hair. But a careless attitude towards hair in sinks will eventually land you clogged-up where it really counts, your cash flow.
Here’s What Actually Happens When Hair Goes Down the Drain
Long, thick strand of hair pulled from a bath drain. Photo by moppet65535 on Flickr
Some people may be unclear on what happens when hair goes down the drain. If you think your gobs of beautiful, silky hair are slipping and sliding through the pipes… you may be surprised to learn the truth.
According to a Robinson Plumbing article, oily deposits from our bodies, soaps, and other sources create sticky surface in your pipes. This surface continues to trap other oily deposits as well as solid items including… you guessed it… hair! Short hair, long hair, black hair, brown hair, and even dog hair all can get trapped in these drain deposits. The Worst Part? You may not even know these deposits exist until the clog has dammed your pipes.
Here are the steps of normal “hair” travel through a plumbing system:
- Your hair falls from the head, body, clothes, or gets pushed into the sink while cleaning.
- If the hair falls into the sink, it will travel through a trap. P-traps are the most common type of pipes used in kitchen and bathroom sinks. If the hair falls down a tub drain or toilet hole, it will pass through a straight drain pipe.
- The hair then moves into a larger series of pipes designed and arranged to project water downward through your home.
- Finally, all drainpipes lead to one exit pipe called the lateral line. The lateral line continues to move the hair away from the house, across the yard, all the way to the municipal sewer line.
What to do When You Get a Hair Clog in Your Pipes (4 Easy Solutions)
Now that you know what happens when hair goes down the drain, we’ll tell you how to fix it! Here are 4 easy solutions for when you get a nasty clog.
1. Grab the Plunger
A household plunger is perfectly capable of freeing up a minor-to-moderate hair clog. Don’t forget, a plunger is not only for toilets. Plungers can be used on any drain including tubs, bathroom sinks, and even kitchen sinks.
2. Unwind the Snake
No, I’m not talking about a python, anaconda, or garter. The snake I’m talking about is like a souped-up fishing reel used to break-up deep clogs. Many homeowners believe a plumbers snake is solely used by professional plumbers, but that’s not true at all. Even a novice can pick up a consumer-grade snake and eradicate deep clogs.
3. Check the P-Trap
Many hair clogs take place right under your bathroom sink. Sometimes it’s easiest to remove the p-trap and simply remove the hair with your fingers or a long, thin tool (i.e. screwdriver). The p-trap should be removed without too much trouble by simply loosening the fittings between the pipes. Remember to place a bucket or tray below to collect the mess when the pipe is removed, especially if the sink is currently full of trapped water.
4. Call a Professional Plumber
Perhaps the easiest solution of all is to call a plumber to resolve the issue. No hair clog is match for a plumber’s arsenal of tools including industrial augers and snakes that can travel over a hundred feet into your home’s pipes. Many plumbers also offer coupons and discounts for emergency and routine plumbing services like clogged drains.
Hair Clog Solutions to Avoid
Not all hair clog solutions are recommended. Many effective solutions, including household remedies and store-bought chemicals, may damage your pipes. Been using drain cleaner to clear up clogs? You should think twice about using it again. A recent article we wrote uncovers the hard truth behind drain cleaner, including the fact that many popular drain cleaners can actually damage your pipes.
How to Prevent Hair from Going Down the Drain
Good brushing practices can actually reduce hair in drains. Photo by Klaus Post on Flickr
As I mentioned before, keeping ALL hair from going down your drains is likely impossible. But there are plenty of simple, common sense ways to stop stray hair in its tracks. Let us help solve your hair clog conundrums by recommending changes to your cleaning habits and your plumbing fixtures.
There are two main avenues for preventing excess hair in your pipes:
Changing Your Habits
The way you clean yourself, and clean your house, can force needless hair down your drains. Be mindful of hair when it is near or inside a sink, shower, or the toilet. Regularly remove hair from these areas by throwing in the trash, NOT flushing down the toilet or drain. Brush your hair before a shower or bath to remove would-be strays. If you notice you are losing a lot of hair in the shower, wear a hair net when not washing your hair, or soften your touch while you do wash your hair.
Change Your Fixtures and Pipes
Sometimes inadequate fixtures, pipes, and accessories can fail to prevent hair buildups. If you are prone to shedding lots of hair, you may want to consider some of the following upgrades and add-ons.
- Hair Catching Drain Cover – These simple inventions collect hair just before it enters the drain. Removable drain covers are very inexpensive and available at most supermarkets and hardware stores. Permanent hair catchers must be installed using the proper tools and may require professional assistance.
- PVC P Trap for Hair – Some P traps are made specifically to trap hair for easy collection and disposal. They are widely used in salons, but can be installed in a residential home.
Remember to always contact a plumber who handles bathroom renovations if you are thinking about any upgrades. A plumber experienced in bathroom renovation can not only install new P traps and drain covers, but can also address other inefficiencies in your bathroom including a “ghost flushing” toilet, leaky pipe, or constant drip.
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