DIY Mishaps: Dangerous Drain Repair DIY Mishaps: Dangerous Drain Repair

My drain was clogged. The sink in the master bathroom drained so slowly, you couldn’t brush your teeth or wash your hands without it filling up. Your typical chemical drain opener had no effect, and I could have gone with stronger stuff, but it’s really not good for your pipes, or for you. Besides, I could tell the blockage was right in the P-trap, and with an ABS drain, that’s really easy to remove and clean out.

This was only going to take a few minutes, so I didn’t bother with the amount of preparation I normally would. I grabbed a bucket, a wrench and an old bottle brush. With the bucket under the sink, I removed the P-trap. A little water spilled from the open pipes into the bucket, but despite my lax prep there was no real mess.

I’m not pointing any fingers, but someone who regularly uses this sink has a lot of long, blond hair. That, coupled with toothpaste, soap, dirt and dust and the other things that go down the bathroom sink, had congealed and clung to the walls of the pipe, restricting the flow to a trickle. Still, it was easy enough to run the brush through the curve of the trap and scour it clean. That done, I reattached the trap and the sink drained like new.

So where’s the mishap? About an hour, maybe two, after my heroic DIY, my throat started to itch. Within a day I was so sick I had to miss work. That clogged drain was a perfect environment for bacteria or viruses to flourish and wait for some amateur plumber to infect. Professional plumbers wear rubber gloves and respirators when they do stuff like this. (They even get hepatitis shots.) My abbreviated prep skipped these safety steps and I paid the price. I’m just lucky I wasn’t thinking, “I’m only going to be using the angle grinder of a minute. No need to wear goggles.”


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