A stopped-up drain should be taken care of immediately or as soon as possible. That's because if left unattended, that minor nuisance you may shrug off now will accumulate into a big mess, which means expensive repair (and who wants that?).
There's a variety of different things that can cause drain clog: Hair, big food chunks, food that had no business in the drain, grease, kids' small toys, bobby pins and other hair accessories, rings, silverware, lids and bottle caps, Popsicle sticks, scissors, reading glasses (!), pencils and ink pens, and other objects that you figure would just be too big or cumbersome to fit, let alone fall right into a drainpipe (never underestimate!).
But fortunately, I've found that any of the following usually works like a charm, so far!
A plunger is usually my first go-to; it's great not only for minor clogs, but also for those particularly stubborn ones. The energy that's exerted on the plunger goes into the surrounding water, which then applies pressure against the clog. Repeatedly pushing on the plunger can move the clog along until the drain's free. And if there's not enough standing water to cover the rubber part of the plunger, just add more. Then plunge!
Wear old clothing when plunging; the results can be messy! And to also be on the safe side, spread out some old newspapers (or old towels) around the immediate toilet area if the bowl water's at or near the top, just in case.
If possible, have two plungers, one for the bathroom, one for the kitchen (this way, you're not “cross-polluting”).
Try baking soda and white vinegar mixed together (pour ½ cup baking soda down the drain, followed by ½ cup white vinegar. Let set for 30 minutes to an hour. Repeat if needed). These two products combined form a new chemical, carbonic acid. Carbonic acid immediately begins to break down into carbon dioxide gas, which produces foam and bubbles in the process. This bubbling action can upset the source of a clog in the pipe and also dislodge particles that may be causing the water backup (use caution when handling the mixture and be sure to keep your face-particularly your nose-away from the drain. The smell can be quite strong!).
To break down a grease clog, use baking soda mixed with salt and boiling water (pour 1 cup baking soda and ½ cup of salt down the drain,followed by 2 cups of boiling water). Repeatedly using this mixture down drains will gently clean the pipes and keep the water flowing.
Did you know that colas contain a lot of phosphoric acid? It's more acidic than lemon juice, more corrosive and is excellent for dissolving calcium deposits. Phosphoric acid will also fizz in the drain and break up any greasy residue.
A pipe snake (which is basically a flexible piece of wire that 's inserted in the pipe; it may have a coarse or wound end to catch a clog) is commonly used by professional plumbers to clear up any deeply serious blockage. The “snake”can push hair or any other objects through the pipes until the water's running free or back the object out of the drain. There are also commercial pipe snakes of various lengths that can be used. Did you know that a wire coat hanger can be used as an informal snake? Unbend the hanger and form a small hook at the end. Move it through the drain pipe to break through the clog.
Sources: “Tips for unclogging drains” by MetroServices-Valley Homes-The (Sunday) Vindicator, Sept. 22, 2013 and “Fix-It List” by Diana Dickinson and Andrea Cooley-Better Homes and Gardens, October, 2013