The Clog of War

stick with it until your worries drain away

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Michelle Roberts

When it was over, relief washed over me like a gush of clear water rinsing the dirty suds from a dinner plate. When it was over, a knot of muscles between my shoulder blades magically untied itself.

When it was over, I wasn’t even there.

My first tactic was liquid. I bought a bottle of gentle enzymes, and I slowly sloshed it into the sink. I wanted it to slowly caress my home’s pipes. Keep them safe. I wanted this liquid drain cleaner to tenderly persuade the clog to leave. Like it was the clog’s own idea. That’s what I wanted.

I’d been dealing with the problem for days. It felt like weeks, maybe months. And yes, I’m being overdramatic. I am, after all, talking about a clogged kitchen sink.

Have you felt my torment? Have you endured days – nay, a long weekend – without a kitchen sink? At first, the sink would merely back up a few times a day. Then water would sit there all night until it drained away, leaving behind a slimy, gritty layer of grit and slime.

And then my kitchen sink just stopped draining altogether. It was clogged. Greasy and gross.

My first tactic was liquid. I bought a bottle of gentle enzymes, and I slowly sloshed it into the sink. I wanted it to slowly caress my home’s pipes. Keep them safe. I wanted this liquid drain cleaner to tenderly persuade the clog to leave. Like it was the clog’s own idea. That’s what I wanted.

It didn’t do a damn thing.

So I got a more aggressive liquid. The label on the bottle rhymed with “shmain-o.” I poured some in. I waited. But the sink would not drain-o. So I poured again. And then I plunged. And then I poured again. The clog remained. Silent. Evil.

By my (perhaps) imperfect calculations, I poured 40,000 gallons of liquid drain cleaner into my kitchen sink. Not really. It was probably less than that. During a final plunging, I sucked a ton of nasty looking brown water up into the open air. This was not ideal.

It was time to get real. I needed to ... go in.

I carefully removed the standing water. I pulled everything out from beneath the sink, and dismantled the pipe. And there at the wall I saw a black circle glaring back at me. Bravely, I held aloft my latest purchase: a 20-foot drain auger/snake/thing. Slowly, I shoved 20 feet of cold, coiled metal into the darkness, twisting around every bend. And then I carefully retracted it. This must be it, I thought. This must be the end.

And yet.

I reassembled the pipes. And then, just to show that clog exactly how much business I meant, I poured a pot of fiery hot, boiling water down the drain ... which immediately backed up.

I suspect the clog had taught itself to regenerate, sealing itself back up in seconds. I will admit to almost giving up. But I had one more secret weapon. The final advantage: the Internet.

I searched for tips and watched videos. And I read more Amazon.com reviews of drain cleaners than I care to mention.

It was, like, 40.

It was upon the Internet where I learned about a more caustic variety of liquid cleaners. I believe they consist mostly of lye. And Satan’s tear drops.

I found some at a local hardware store. It looked dangerous. And that’s why I bought it.

Back home, I took every precaution outlined on the bottle. This is why, at 7pm on a Monday night, I stood over my sink wearing bright yellow rubber gloves and a pair of my wife’s old sunglasses in lieu of safety goggles. I twisted off the cap. The instructions warned of “explosive reactions” so I yelled at my kids to stay in the other room. Obviously, they immediately scrambled into the kitchen to see what I was doing.

After yelling back and forth a few times, they agreed to leave. I timidly reached out, holding the bottle directly over the drain. Trembling, breath bated, I tipped the container and poured the caustic liquid into the drain. 

And of course, nothing happened.

I covered the drain and waited for six hours. Then I poured in boiling water. It backed up. I plunged. The water went down a bit. I poured in the rest of the Devil Juice, covered the sink, and went to bed. In the morning, the water had gone down about half way. So I plunged again. Nothing. I took a shower.

After my shower, I entered the kitchen as my wife mentioned, “Hey, the sink drained.”

“What?!” I said, hope filling my heart. “Yeah,” she said, “There was a big gurgling noise, and then ... the water disappeared.” As if this was just another Tuesday morning and not a Day of Victory to be remembered by our children’s children’s children.

I poured in more boiling water. It disappeared. I cleaned the sink. And since that day, all has been well. It’s been such a relief. It feels like a sparkling dump truck has dumped a ton of shiny, euphoric bricks right onto my gentle head. The end.


Addendum: Despite how it may sound, I don’t take my plumbing for granted. I know some people don’t even have access to clean water, let alone a drain to pour it down.