How to Unclog PEX Pipes

What You'll Need
Baking Soda or Alka Seltzer
White Vinegar
Commercial drain cleaner
Safety glasses
Old rug or drop cloth
Channel lock pliers

PEX pipes revolutionized plumbing by eliminating the need to solder fittings or to join pipe sections at regular intervals. But the pipes still clog. Not to worry, tried and true also works on the new. Read on to clear that nasty clog.

    Step 1 – Diagnose

    One sink not flowing indicates the problem is likely at the trap. However, if more than one sink or a sink and toilet is clogged that means the problem is further down the line. Perhaps the drainpipe or vent stack (the portion of the drain system that extends through your roof).

    If nothing in the entire house functioning then the main drain line is the culprit and must be augured (a plumber’s “snake”, like a rope but made of flexible steel that is pushed into the pipe to clear the obstruction).  

    Step 2 – Simple Steps First

    Try the simple first then move to the more complex (and messy).

    Crumble three Alka-Seltzer tablets into your drain followed by 7 fluid ounces of white vinegar. Allow the concoction to sit for a few minutes then rinse with hot water. Baking soda can be substituted for Alka-Seltzer, use two tablespoons. Repeat as necessary. 

    Off the shelf drain cleaner may also do the trick. Follow the can’s directions.

    Plunging is your next step; this works by pushing the clog free or by pulling debris back into the sink. Two types of plungers exist. The first resembles an upside down rubber bowl at the end of a wooden handle. The second is heavier duty; the business end looks like an accordion.

    Before you plunge make certain that water can only flow out the drain. Clamp other exits, such the hose that connects the dish washer to the drain. Plunging can be messy so wear your gloves and be prepared to clean up afterward.

    One caution: if you’ve used a commercial drain cleaner before plunging wear safety goggles and a long sleeve shirt.

    Step 3 – Dismantle the Trap

    If the problem still exists the next step for sinks is to dismantle the trap. If you’re dealing with a toilet move to step 4, auguring.

    Use channel lock pliers to remove the trap. Place a bucket or pan under the trap to catch water that will run from your sink and the trap. Remove obstructions then replace.

    Step 4 – Auguring

    DIY and hardware stores sell small plumber’s snakes. Insert the snake turning the handle as you go. Apply pressure and continue cranking as you meet resistance. Advance and withdraw, cranking as you go, to allow the augur to loosen the clog.

    Consider hiring a professional if you’ve reached this stage and your clog remains. 

    Auguring a drainpipe requires a longer snake powered by an electric motor that can be rented. Depending upon the clog’s location you’ll need to auger from the home’s clean out (a pipe fitting located just outside the home and installed into the main drain line. It has a cap on top that when removed allows access to the drain line). The second entry point is from the vent stack on your roof. Follow the same procedure as above, feed the snake into the drain line or the vent stack allowing the motor to auger against resistance as you go.