Drano Is For The Weak

While I sit here at my desk I hear the grinding sound of a kind of chain running forth & back through a pipe. It was the background music for the whole day.
The housing management announced some weeks ago that workmen would take care of the downpipe in the bathroom of the appartements 2 (mine, I live in a “2”) and 4. It would be necessary that not only access to the flat is possible through the whole process, but that also an inhabitant shall be attending. I asked my janitor about this, because of my morning drive, I am usually back before or around nine o’clock. He advised me to pin a paper to my door and by this tell them that I’d be back at nine in the morning, and all is good : “They just need to have a look, no big deal.”
I wondered because I only had problems with the downpipe of the kitchen, and I know that other tenants had too. I think the number increased over the last two years.
This morning when I returned I met two young men in shock-orange, they were pretty upbeat. I mentioned that I’d have to leave in the afternoon – no, they do not expect to be here by then. And yes – it was the kitchen pipe they had to work on, no clue why someone had written “bathroom” in the announcement.
Soon they started to do what they had to do, and some interesting grinding sounds came to my ear. They came near my flat, becoming louder obviously, and went away, downwards. Some hours later Red (I’ll call him “Red”, he has red-golden hair ; his colleague may be called “Black” – sophisticated eh?!) came by and asked if all would be right. I said yes, no problems. The problem showed up when he turned on the faucet of my sink ; the water was spiralling down, and after some seconds it came back, and spurted out of the hole in the wall where the drain goes in.
He sighed deeply. I said that yesterday I had washed my dishes without any problems. He replied that this would be exactly one of those things that could happen. He marched off and soon another round of grinding noises started. I grabbed some rags and started the mop up. On second thoughts I took a small bucket with warm water & cleaner, and wiped the kitchen floor, it was needed anyway.
Some time later Red dropped by again, looking unhappy. He told me that the kitchen on the fifth floor was swimming, and the two ladies there were not happy about this. In fact they yelled some un-ladylike words, towards him and the world in general. But meanwhile the situation on the second floor would have resolved. I did not inquire.
I asked him why they would not simply throw some Drano down the pipe and hope for the best, at least he laughed.
Again some hours later I had to put my gear together and leave again. So I searched for Red & Black, because I wanted to know whether they still needed access to my flat. I found them on the highest level of the house in a maintenance room under the roof. Both looked tired.
Black was on the phone telling the foreman that they had lost that spirally thing they inserted into the pipe, a coupler or engagement thingy had given in. They had to stuff more than forty meters of this device into the pipe ; the pipe itself has a diameter of a little more than five centimeters, the cleaning thing exactly five. It moves, bangs, rotates, I have no clue what it needs to do to detach the slimy goop of forty years from the inside of the tube, but it does its job. Now it does nothing except blocking effectively a very long stretch of said tube. Don’t know how much they could pull out before the “thing” gave in.
I handed my key to Red, he would put it into my letterbox when they leave. He said that they would not plan to stay overnight here, with a wry grin … well …
Actually I have to drive a longish detour, so I have to start earlier in the morning to reach my first, most distant,  stop. In the evening I come back notably later than usual, despite the fact that when the kids are not aboard I can use some bumpy shortcuts.
I wondered how my kitchen would look like.
When I came home some hours later I found Black in my kitchen watching the drain and listening intensely. He told me that Red would be in the fourth, so I went there. Red had given the key to Beard, die Verstärkung, who actually was on the fifth. Beard was friendly, I got my key.
They now have to fight against blockage after blockage, it feels as if every ten centimeters a new obstacle arises. The spiral-thing is still in the tube, seemingly somewhere over the fifth floor. Without getting rid of the blockages they have no chance to reach the thingy from below and push it up with strong springs, or grab it with at least something. From above they have tried what there is to try. They have to clear this tube any way.
And exactly this is what they try to do.
Since I came home I had a sandwich, drank a beer, wrote this post. And listened to the interesting sounds in my kitchen wall. There seems no perceptible progress. In the end the poor sods will have to stay some more hours, sadly I can’t offer them at least a sandwich.

What is actually the name for that stuff that blocks a downpipe ? Any thing in mechanics, plumbing, in technics in general, has a (speaking) name, why not this stuff ? Does nobody collect & analyse it ? Ach, the wonderful, undetected world of gunk !
I really wonder when they will give in. And only hope that “gunk” will not explode into my kitchen tonight.

It was remarkably quiet for some time now. I thought that they left, but a glance in the yard where their vans are parked, shows me that an other one arrived. So they called for additional help and may pause, well deserved after more than twelve hours.

Just some minutes ago Black came by and told me that they have finished the job. Not much left from the matutinal shock-orange of his workwear, it’s more a solid black with orange dots. What a job.

12 thoughts on “Drano Is For The Weak

  1. In my plumbing experience, there are strategically placed clean out access ports placed along the main and branch plumbing circuits. Seems like Red & Black should have access to vertical clean out ports between the floors to retrieve their cleaner thingy. ???

    I don’t know of a technical name for the gunk that blocks the pipes. Usually it is accumulated grease, hair, and god-knows-what. Yes, indeed, Drāno is very effective at clearing such blockage.

    Personally I never pour grease down the drain. I collect it in a jar to solidify and dispose of that in the garbage when full.

  2. I am quite familiar with the “snake” (the long, flexible drilling/declogging) tool the plumbers and maintenance professionals use. I’ve seen it in operation three times in the past five years at my apt building. The first time, the neighbor on the second floor, above my next door neighbor, poured grease down the drain. Big mistake! Caused a major blockage and backed up out of the next door neighbor’s sink. The second time, the people above me misused the garbage disposal to rid themselves of old veggies and food, instead of just tossing it out into the garbage container. It blocked up the drains. The last time, the storm had backed up mud and debris into the sewer systems, so the pros had to drill and drain for a day. Thank goodness it never took more than a hard day’s work.

    Glad to hear they’ve fixed the problem(s), esp. the one they inadvertently caused with the snake broken and stuck in the pipes.

    I’ve used Drano/Liquid Plumber three times in my life in different places. They work great for small sink clogs. But man, are they stinky and the fumes are strong!

    Hope you have a nice weekend!

  3. Oh, you have it with them words LẌ – “clean out access port” ! :) Never have heard about this.
    I think Red & Black (one wonders whether they are related to the Walker’s of Kilmarnok ?) had only access on top of the pipe, on the eleventh level of the house. Because as I see it, this pipe goes through from top to the second basement level within the wall of the / my kitchen. And in all kitchens the wall is closed, there is not a kind of metal box or something that one could open and see – Achtung : clean out access port.
    It is the wall, some tiles (“Fliesenspiegel”), and a hole in the wall that one better keeps shut, because it leads to the downward pipe, where the kitchen water rushes down. When it is open the kitchen smells of “Kanal”, kind of sewer, the paint peels, the inhabitants shrivel up.
    Drano is the only name I could remember, it seems to be a worldwide product.

    And as Eroswings mentions, there are fumes. I think it was Drano that my parents once used ages ago for a blocked kitchen sink. Thankfully the pieces and stuff under the sink were made from metal – it became really hot while the agent worked its way through the blockage. Plastic parts would possibly have melted or somehow produced a leak.
    “Liquid Plumber” – for heaven’s sake !
    Thank you for the good wishes, back at yah !

    Gunkmaker Flash and the Furious Fries ? Gives the old “Don’t push me, I’m close to the eedge” a crispy new undertone.
    I’m sorry Dinahmow, I am not good enough in English to use the bad words correctly. Interestingly I swear in my “natural” language, the one I learned first, my native dialect.

  4. Perhaps your building is too old to have clean out ports like we do over here in N. America? I have a 25′ snake in my house and have used it a couple of times, and have had a plumber in to clean tree roots from the main sewer pipe that leads from the house to the street. He had a 100′ electric snake with cutter blades on the end. I have no trees in my yard but there is a tree right on the property line and it was the offender. The plumber told me to use hydrochloric acid once or twice a year down the main clean out port to keep the roots at a minimum. That stuff stinks like rotten eggs but works like a dream! I buy it at the hardware store and always keep it on hand. I’ve had to use it in the kitchen sink and the bathtub drains on occasion. Hopefully you won’t have any more issues, with either backed up drains or weary plumbers tromping in and out.

  5. Gargl … thank you IDV, another image to remember … No, I think it is not fat that blocks the downpipes here, and as I recall, in the whole city such a “fatberg”-problem did not occure. I think the explanation is simply that frying is not a real part of the cooking here.

    I know, darling Anna, I know. I am working on it.

    This house is built either 1970 or 1972, I forgot.
    I wouldn’t have a space to store all this hardware Ponita ! And me & tools are not always a good combination. Outside the house I once watched “tube tv” with a repairman, who checked for roots and other defects in the channel. He actually cut out some wood that blocked the channel.
    Salzsäure is something like the last defense, I usually use Essigsäure, acetic acid, and cleaners based on it. It is not that powerful like Salzsäure, but for what I have to deal with it is okay, and it is disposed in a biologically & environmentally friendly way.
    Now that they cleaned this pipe through I guess there will be no harm for some time to come.

  6. A friend who lived at the end of a road at the bottom of a hill once had such a problem. We lent her drain rods and it didn’t shift the gunk but fortunately nice drainage board men happened to be in the next road and they dealt with it for her, though it wasn’t actually their job.

    I rodded Rose’s drains a few weeks ago, about 15 metres at a time. You feel bloody good when that’s been successful, but wretched while doing the work. I washed, I showered, I washed again, it took a long time to feel clean.

  7. I only was thankful for the fact that they did the kitchen pipe, and not the bathroom one.
    BTW I met them the next morning – they had to do the pipe for the appartements number four. This all went according to plan. I saw them in the afternoon, when they packed their car – their overalls were still orange.

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