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Super Handyman: Spring cleaning for your drain lines

A slow-moving drain could mean a clogged drain line. But it often is a clogged vent stack. In order for a typical drain line to work properly, it needs air. Your household drain lines have attached air vents to allow for the best drainage of toilets and sinks. These vent stacks are located on your roof, so they can become clogged with leaves, bugs, bird nests and other debris.

Here are some tips on clearing these vent stacks and keeping them clear.

• You may have a vent that serves more than one drain. This is common. For example, you may have all of your bathroom fixtures on one vent. That’s why it’s so important to keep them cleaned out.

• Since the easiest way to clear these is to get up on your roof to do so, plan ahead. Always take extra precautions when you need to work up on your roof. A plumber’s snake is a super tool for clearing a vent stack. Carefully feed it down into the line, and work it back and forth to clear it out. This usually will take care of most clogs.

• Another way to flush a vent pipe out is with water. Stick the garden hose down into the pipe as far as it will go to get the best pressure for forcing a clog out.

• Never use chemicals to get the clog out. This is just a recipe for disaster and should never be done, no matter how bad the clog.

• If you have a lot of trees that overhang your roof, trim them back. You also might consider installing a cover over your vents. You can make a simple cover from a square of wire mesh, cut larger than the vent and held in place over the top with a hose clamp. Other devices are available at your home center or hardware store. You’ll need to know the diameter of your stacks to get the right fit, so take measurements before shopping.

Keep your vent stacks clear, and you will have a head start on keeping your drains running smoothly.


Q: We have an outdoor faucet in our side yard that has been dripping for a while. There are mineral salts all over it and the brick wall. I can’t make it budge and really wanted to try to replace it. Can you help? – J.H.

A: See if you can saturate it with a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water. That should cut through a lot of the mineral deposits. Then you can shut off your water and try to loosen the faucet in order to replace it.

If you need to, you might try adding some heat to it with a torch, or try tapping it with a hammer. Both will help loosen it up. Good luck!

A Super hint

If you want to make a super-size bulletin board, just go to your home center and buy a rigid foam panel. You can paint it or cover it with fabric and attach it to any wall. It’s great for a kid’s room, craft rooms, sewing rooms and home offices.


Mosquito Dunks are great to throw into standing water. They are safe for fish and birds, but will kill mosquito larvae. Now you can buy Mosquito Bits. These smaller bits of the same 100 percent natural, biodegradable material are perfect for bird baths, planters, fountains and other areas. The container has a shaker lid to make broadcasting easier, too. You can find it at your garden center, hardware store or home center. To get additional details, go to

Got a question or a handy tip? Send it to The Super Handyman at Those of general interest will be used in future columns.