First, see if you can unclog the pipe just where it meets your sink or tub. Make sure the screen covering the drain pipe is clear, then lift it out and use a thin wire, such as an unwound coat hanger, to scrape up any hair or other clogs that might be lurking just underneath.
The next step is to use hot water. It’s not only one of the best offenses against clogs, but should also be first in your line of defense. You should regularly clean out your pipes with hot water. Boil a teakettle, or a spaghetti pot, full of water and pour it down each of your drains every month. In the case of a clog, pour some baking soda and vinegar into the backed-up sink or tub before adding the hot water.
If hot water doesn’t get your pipes flowing freely, it’s time to try your plunger. Remember when using a plunger, you want to think of it as pulling the clog back up, not pushing it down into the pipes. If you’re clearing a sink or tub, make sure you have at least two inches of standing water, then apply the plunger, pushing down gently until it’s all the way down, then strongly pull up. Check after doing this a couple of times for hair or other clogs you can clean out of the sink or tub. If you’re plunging a sink, remember to block the overflow hole with a wet towel or rag. This will insure you have enough suction.
There are also some non-toxic, organic drain cleaners you can use to clear blocked drains, but be very careful about using harsh, chemical drain cleaners. Over time, these will damage most pipes, leading to weakening and even holes in your pipes! If you have tried a chemical drain cleaner on a clog and it didn’t work, then don’t use your plunger! And if you move on to using a drain snake, make sure to wear protective gloves and clothing, and flush the pipes with plenty of hot water after the clog is gone.
Actually, you always want to wear gloves when operating a drain snake. Some other precautions to take before using one have to do with keeping things clean. Unclogging a drain with a plumber’s auger is usually very messy, and sometimes stinky, work. Put old towels down on the floor and wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. You should also keep a bucket close at hand for the debris you’re going to pull up out of your pipes.