There's Nothing SEXY About Clogged Drains... Or Is There?

When I was an Apprentice Plumber working for my father-in-law, in addition to mechanical work he also did drain cleaning. I was never a big fan of cleaning drains, but Irv always said it was an easy in and out, no parts, no permits, just clear the drain and you're done. I always hated removing the dirty cable and wiping it down before pushing it back into the canister.

I did a lot of drain cleaning with Irv and to his credit, he had all the right equipment. From handheld electric snakes to rods, to self-feeding pedal-operated machines for larger drains, he was always prepared to get the job done. Years later, after Irv had passed and I went into business for myself, I only kept a few plungers, a Super Vee electric hand-held for small drains, and a closet auger for difficult toilet clogs. The big stuff I gladly referred out to drain cleaning companies.

When a regular customer called and it was a small drain I always responded and provided them with service. Over the years I removed a lot of different objects from toilets, sink traps, disposers, sewage ejectors, and drain piping. In the absence of a cleanout, I've climbed up on roofs to snake down through the roof vent, sometimes referred to as the "stink pipe".

I once retrieved a diamond ring from a toilet and another time a diamond earring from the trap in a bathroom sink. That woman was so frantic that after I pulled the earring out of her sink trap she couldn't find where she put the other earring. She called later that night to say she found it.

I don't understand a word of it, but Nidhhi is so fucking hot and she does end up getting a ring, so it works! (don't skip past this, you'll thank me later)

Another time, using a closet auger, I pulled eyeglass frames out of a toilet for one of my older customers. When she saw the frames she asked me if I could find the lenses. She was dead serious too. She collected wooden owls and her husband was a memory expert and had written a book on the subject. They were very different and going there was always a treat. When Bill was in his late 80s I bumped into him at the Town Post Office and after I asked him, "how's it going?", he looked at me like a dear in headlights. So kidding around I had to ask, "Big mister memory expert, you forgot my name didn't ya?". He looked confused and it took him a long, silent, uncomfortable minute before he called out my name, address, company, and phone number like he was a newly enlisted man responding to his Drill Sergeant. We smiled at each other, knowing the universe as we knew it to be, was still intact and he'd retained his credibility as a memory expert, at least with me.

After not being able to find the $900 rack of dentures his mother dropped into the powder room toilet, I got the call for help from one of my good customers early on a Saturday morning. After removing the toilet and not seeing it in the exposed area underneath, we decided to replace the older toilet with a newer model and then crack the old one open with a sledgehammer to see if the denture was stuck up inside the integral trap.  At first, we couldn't see it, but after a second hit with the sledge, there it was, jammed in the upper portion of the trap. After he boiled the denture for 15 minutes, his mother put them right back in her mouth. A real-life "shit-eating grin" if there ever was one!

I went to another house and when I couldn't clear a second-floor toilet I pulled it off the floor and found a chicken carcass stuck in the outlet. After I cleared it and reset the toilet I brought the key back to my customer at her place of business and trying to maintain some professionalism and not laugh hysterically, I told her what I found. She immediately came clean, claiming that despite her objections, her husband regularly flushed chicken carcasses down the toilet. When I handed her my bill I said, "Tell him it'd be a heck of a lot cheaper if he just ate steak."

I've removed children's toys, paper towels, and a host of other things from toilets, but the most common kitchen drain clog was celery. Once it lines the drain, the celery stalk absorbs liquid and swells. One time, even my Super Vee electric snake was no match for it and I was forced to cut out a section of 1 1/2" PVC  pipe running horizontally across the ceiling below. I used a wooden dowel like a ramrod packing a musket, pushing a two-foot section of celery out of it. It was so packed it stayed together like a celery log. When I showed it to my customer she was horrified. I ended up charging her for a couple of hours. It turned out to be very expensive celery…


Pulling hair out of a sink or tub drain is never fun. I pulled eight inches of packed hair out of one bathroom sink and it had collected all kinds of stuff so it looked pretty disgusting. Even if it only takes 5 minutes to clear, it's a one-hour charge that can cost upwards of $150. (Cha-Ching!)

Clogged sewage ejectors are the worst and people have a difficult time finding someone to work on them. The 30-gallon plastic drum is usually full. The piping has to be cut/disconnected, the cover removed, and the pump pulled out. I got a call from a good customer I'd known for a very long time, and his sewage ejector wasn't working. It was during "Spring Break" and his daughter was home from college. He said he'd leave the garage door open and that she'd be home. I   bought a new pair of heavy-duty, elbow-length rubber gloves and brought a roll of plastic I always put down so when I pull the pump I don't make a mess on the floor.

1001nights. Getty Images.

This is what happens when an old plumber's memory and imagination combine. Let's just go with it…

When I arrived I knocked on the door between the garage and the family room and I heard his daughter respond, "Come in". I walked in with everything I needed in my arms and pockets and stopped for a minute to say hello. She was a very attractive girl and she was laying on a black leather couch with her head propped up and watching TV. It was 8:30 in the morning. She didn't move, but we talked a bit and she said she was enjoying her time home on spring break.

I went downstairs and walked straight into the unfinished part of the cellar, where the ejector was. I glanced through the open door and into the family room where I saw the pullout couch open and the sheets and pillows in disarray. I didn't give it much thought, took a deep breath, and went to work.

I put some wiggies in the electrical outlet first to make sure there was power, and there was. Then I tried shaking the piping to try and get the pump to work and empty the contents, and if that worked, I would've flushed several times to be sure the float was free and the pump was okay. This pump was dead. I figured either it was clogged and tripped the breaker in the pump or it died and needed to be replaced. I laid down the plastic and took apart the outlet and the vent piping. Then, using a socket set, I removed all the bolts securing the cover to the drum. Now comes the tough part. Pulling the cover and making eye contact with the goulash… After the room filled with a disgusting odor, I briefly questioned my reason for becoming a plumber, but there was no time to procrastinate, it was time to pull the pump. I grabbed onto the piece of 2" PVC pipe still attached to the pump and in one pull, I removed it and set it on the plastic. I took a step back, paused for a second, long enough to get a good whiff of the room, it stunk! Next, I flipped the pump on its side so I could look underneath and get a look at the impeller…


You find all kinds of stuff wrapped around impellers, but as I took a closer look I could see that in this case, a condom was the culprit. I paused and looked back through the open door and into the family room and now the condition of the pullout couch made sense to me…

I manned-up, and using my Channellocks, I removed the condom. I set the feet of the pump in the indents at the bottom of the basin, reassembled the cover and then the piping, plugged it in, and began flushing the toilet. I worked flawlessly. I cleaned up, gathered my tools, and headed back upstairs.

xplorer2. Getty Images.

The fantasy continues…

While I was downstairs wrestling with the sewage ejector, she hadn't moved an inch. She was laid out on the couch still watching TV. I got her attention when I walked into the room and she perked up a bit and asked if everything had been fixed. I said it was but that "whoever clogged that sewage ejector had the most fun they could before doing it". Her face turned many different shades of red, her eyes opened wide, and her jaw dropped. I waited, enjoyed my catch, then looking directly into her eyes I said, "I'll tell your father it was clogged with toilet paper, but make sure you tell whoever did that not to flush them down the drain." She sat up, the color in her face returned to normal, and with a big wide smile, she thanked me over and over again until I was out the door. I sent a bill for $500, which I thought was reasonable considering the nature of the job. As to just who got fucked, well, at least three of us knew…

Phil was a good customer who owned a big hardware store and his son was a friend of mine in Junior High. He called me when he had a stopped-up toilet. I went over first thing in the morning and after using my closet auger I could tell the clog wasn't in the toilet, it was in the 4" cast iron drain the toilet emptied into. I recommended that he call a drain cleaning company, not wanting to try an undersized Super Vee on a 4" drain, which would've been a big waste of his money and my time. I left, went to do other jobs and I was done for the day by 3:00. I was home when I got the call that the guy doing the drain cleaning needed me to snap the 4" cast iron pipe in the basement. I told Phil I was on my way.

Snaking a drain against the flow is never a good idea, but he'd removed the toilet and couldn't get at the stoppage from that end so he didn't have any other options. The pipe went across the basement ceiling in the family room and I needed a small ladder to wrap the chain of my soil pipe cutter around it. The first cut was clean. Then I set it up the second cut two feet away and it was good too. There was plenty of room for the guy to work his cable into the pipe. The guy was about six feet tall and not an ounce under 300 pounds. He was wearing a crew neck tee shirt, a pair of jeans, and sneakers. As he stepped up onto the ladder, I stepped back and pulled Phil with me and whispered, "You're not gonna wanna be too close to this one…". He put a trash barrel next to his ladder hoping to catch the contents of the drain.


That's what it looked like…

As he fed the cable I watched, waiting for the big rush of sewage. Then I heard his machine struggling, saw the cable twisting, which is the drain cleaning equivalent of a fishing rod bending, and then in one instant it broke loose. He knew he couldn't drop his hand-held machine without damaging it, so he stood on the ladder holding it and took it like a real trooper! While the 4" pipe was emptying it looked like the back end of an elephant suffering from food poisoning. I kicked the trash barrel closer to where the waste was falling but it didn't help very much. When it was done emptying, he was covered head to toe. To his credit, he maintained a good attitude and had a smile on his face throughout the entire process. He said situations like this were why he kept a change of clothes in his van. A lot of it was absorbed in the drop cloth he put down, but the rest he mopped up. Phil was thankful I pulled him back and away from the action. When the place was clean I stepped in and using two 4" no-hub couplings and the piece of cast iron pipe I snapped out, I put the drain back together. There was enough movement that it went back together without a hitch.

The drain cleaning company charged Phil $300 for clearing the drain. Before I left I reset the toilet with new bolts, wax, and a braided supply. I handed Phil a bill for $400. On the way home I knew I had made the right decision not to get involved in trying to clear that drain.

Guys I know who only do drain cleaning can make up to $1,500 a day, sometimes more. They give quotes over the phone and usually get it done quicker than they thought, which means more money for them. Drain cleaning was not my favorite thing to do, I preferred mechanical work, but some guys don't mind doing it. Hey, shit stinks but the money certainly doesn't…

Best opening guitar riff in the history of fucking guitars!