Snakes in a drain.

A few months ago, in my neverending quest to bore the crap out of every last reader I had, I mentioned I was having slow-drain problems. All slow-drain problems, in my experience, go back to a single source — hair. Maybe in some specialized environments (Jame Gumb’s basement, a morgue) they have other causes, but in a house with two women, you can pretty much count on what you’re going to find when you go a-plumbing.

Our long-haired reader and correspondent Mindy suggested that I buy myself a gadget called a Zip-It, that it would spare us much grief the next time the drains ran slow. It so happened that this weekend the planets aligned and gave me slow-running drains and an errand to an Ace hardware store, sole distributor of the Zip-It, according to Mindy. I snatched one up for $2.99. It’s a long (18 inches or so) strip of flexible plastic with sharp teeth pointed upward. The directions were simplicity itself: Insert into drain all the way to the hilt and remove. No twisting, fiddling or other technique required.

I got it home, stuck it in the drain and pulled it out. With it came an enormous wad of greasy hair. Halle-freakin’-lujah. I disposed of the repulsive nodule in the toilet and turned on the water to rinse away the rank drippings.

Within seconds, the water backed up. Where before the drain was running slow, now it wasn’t running at all. Further attempts with the Zip-It were fruitless. Apparently my removal of one clog had dislodged another one, out of its reach. I considered several options, including calling Mindy to tell her this amusing story. Instead I told Alan. He fetched a drain snake — which I didn’t know we had — and stuck it down the drain. He reported finding one obstruction at three feet and another at five, and now the drain is clear again.

The moral of the story is: Mindy is a long-haired LIAR. What works for me may not work for you. Although Alan says we should keep the Zip-It and give it another try. He was intrigued by reports of its apparent initial success, as illusive as it turned out to be. Who knows — maybe a regular poking with the Zip-It will keep the drain snake in its hole the next time.


Tim Rutten at the L.A. Times has a theory about the Reuters photo doctoring I hadn’t considered, but makes sense the more I think about it: Blame the bean-counters. Works for me!

When the New York Times publishes a report from Indiana, of course I’ll pay attention. But this thing made no sense to me at all.

This week’s going to be tops in busy. Partly cloudy, chance of no-shows here and there.

Posted at 10:46 am in Media, Same ol' same ol' |

39 responses to “Snakes in a drain.”

  1. brian stouder said on August 21, 2006 at 10:59 am

    Yes. The Indiana essay SEEMED to be building toward a point, but indeed it ended up no place.

    (maybe we hoosiers should be offended?)

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  2. brian stouder said on August 21, 2006 at 11:09 am

    You know, it just occurred to me that the header on this blog entry could have been Snakes in a Drain..

    (“I’m sick of this Mother%$#@ hair in this Mother^&%#$ drain, and this Mother&*^#% $2.99 snake!!”)

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  3. nancy said on August 21, 2006 at 11:14 am

    (Kicking myself.) Done and done, Brian. And, as they say on the copy desk, “nice catch.”

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  4. Sammy said on August 21, 2006 at 11:16 am

    Another plumber recommendation: periodically pour a whole tea kettle of boiling water down each tap (including tub/showers). I find it decreases the ick the hair balls accumulate, thereby delaying the slow-drain situation….

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  5. Dorothy said on August 21, 2006 at 11:27 am

    Sammy’s right. We had a drainage problem in the kitchen sink last night after I ground up potato peels and after plunging it, we dumped boiling water in there. Mike says that probably helped quite a bit.

    I used to have problems in my laundry tub 2 houses ago, where all this ick from the washing machine would accumulate in the drain and cause back ups. I bought these little mesh condom-like things that fit around the output pipe (that’s not what it’s called but I’m hardware-phrase challenged). Before I used the mesh bag things, I had tweezers that were sort of long-nosed, and I used to use that when the laundry tub got plugged.

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  6. Connie said on August 21, 2006 at 12:50 pm

    When we moved into our new house in Minnesota some years ago, our tub drain was slow. We plunged and plunged, used Drano, and it always worked for a bit. We finally resolved our problem after months of trouble when we plunged up a plastic bottle cap. Never had a problem again. Wonder how long it had been down there?

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  7. jcburns said on August 21, 2006 at 1:12 pm

    So you took the giant ugly wad of hair that was clogging up one drain…and put it down another drain!?!?

    (As opposed to, say, outside in the trash?)

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  8. Bob said on August 21, 2006 at 1:41 pm

    Did Valerie Sayers actually use “upscale” in the same sentence with “Michigan City?”

    Michigan City may have its charming spots, an outlet mall and a lighthouse and decent beach, but what I’ve seen there hardly qualifies as upscale. Maybe overall, compared with downtown Gary, but …

    A sniper on Cline Avenue — all the more reason to use the South Shore trains when traveling between South Bend and Chicago. It’s inexpensive, reliable and convenient, and I haven’t heard any reports of trains being hit with sniper fire – yet.

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  9. nancy said on August 21, 2006 at 2:21 pm

    Toilets are made for this sort of thing, John. Ask anyone who’s barfed into one.

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  10. mary said on August 21, 2006 at 2:32 pm

    I don’t know about you, but I have never barfed up a giant wad of hair.

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  11. brian stouder said on August 21, 2006 at 2:40 pm

    I don’t know about you, but I have never barfed up a giant wad of hair.


    Well, I was at a party one time and…..on second thought, nevermind

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  12. mary said on August 21, 2006 at 4:08 pm

    Did the party involve wookies? I might have been there.

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  13. Kevin Knuth said on August 21, 2006 at 4:31 pm

    I like the reference to Jame Gumb…..wonder how many people did not get it.

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  14. mary said on August 21, 2006 at 4:58 pm

    I’d bet a good chianti most of us got it.

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  15. Dorothy said on August 21, 2006 at 7:13 pm

    Actor who played Jame Gumb appears on the series “Monk” as Adrian Monk’s boss.

    When I lived in Eighty Four PA my brother Joe said I had a “Silence of the Lambs” basement. It had lots of nooks and crannies, but no pit with girls or dogs in it.

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  16. mary said on August 21, 2006 at 7:52 pm

    Oooh, that’s true Dorothy. I knew I had seen him somewhere and couldn’t remember where. He does look like a half dozen other TV actors in a way.

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  17. vince said on August 21, 2006 at 9:08 pm

    My mother will never ever let me live down the Thanksgiving dinner with the potato peels.

    She raised us on potato flakes. Those dehydrated, once-were-potatoes-but-aren’t-now spuds.

    Having left home and tasted real mashed potatoes, my sister and I resolved next Thanksgiving we’d make the REAL ones for the T-Day feast.

    I peeled and peeled and stuffed the gloppy mess down the garbage disposal.
    Only I stuffed too many at once.
    The disposal reacted as if I’d stuck a rock down there.

    And there stopped the holiday meal preparation.

    Next came the wait. The long wait for the plumber.
    He brought his professional snake, and his bill for a call on a holiday with overtime pay.

    Not a single holiday spent at home passes without a recounting of this I-told-you-so tale.

    And I’ve never put another peel down the drain since.

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  18. Pam said on August 21, 2006 at 9:18 pm

    Potato peels just should never go into the disposal. At our house we have a 100% clog record with potato peels. Bill has taken the trap apart so many times that we go the old fashioned way — sit at the table and peel onto newspaper and put in trash. Which, BTW, is where the hair clog should have gone. Potatoes aren’t even greasy! So why do they do this?

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  19. Nance said on August 21, 2006 at 9:44 pm

    Jame Gumb was played by the wonderful Ted Levine, a very versatile actor — he played one of Al Pacino’s crew in “Heat,” Mare Winningham’s husband in “Georgia” and about a bazillion other roles. His IMDb entry is longer than your arm. The guy works all the time.

    I also notice he was born in Bellaire, Ohio — stone Appalachia.

    As for potato peels, my theory is, they’re too thin to get chopped up by the disposal, and slip through the slots, where they have just enough natural adhesion to one another down the road, and really fill the pipe but good. Once at our FW house, Alan cleared a potato-peel clog from a spot about 12 feet beyond the sink.

    (I hope Mindy wasn’t bothered by my teasing. The Zip-It really is a fairly ingenious device. This job just wasn’t in its realm.)

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  20. alex said on August 21, 2006 at 10:16 pm

    Wish I could figure out how to re-set my disposer. It choked on a peach pit a while back. I press the re-set button but all it does is hum. And it’s got some fiercely bad breath, so I really want to do something soon.

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  21. Nance said on August 21, 2006 at 10:24 pm

    Alan says: “Tell Alex there’s an Allen wrench he needs. It either comes with it, or, if he doesn’t have it, he can buy one. If he looks on the very bottom of the disposer, you’ll see where it fits. Then you use it to turn the thing manually, and it’ll free up whatever’s clogging it.”

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  22. brian stouder said on August 21, 2006 at 10:58 pm

    I loved the movie Heat, except –

    it’s one of those pics that falls apart when it’s over and you think back on it.

    DeNiro has this great crew, right? Professional, impressive, top of the line….but then you think back, and every single thing they did went straight to hell! They hired the wrong new guy (causing much trouble going forward) and they fail in one major action after the next!

    btw – a few years ago when I saw the news video of those two real knuckle-heads who had the big big shootout against the Los Angeles Police outside of a bank that they had failed to rob, my first reaction was that they got the idea from the movie Heat. (and indeed, the outcome was very similar)

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  23. jcburns said on August 22, 2006 at 1:15 am

    I think being married to Alan gives you a huge get-out-of-screwups-around-the-house-free-card, Nance. He sets a high standard, to say the least. Okay, Sammy, I’d be delighted to clear a potato-peel clog 12 feet down the line from the sink. Sure, point me at that ol’ sink.

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  24. Dorothy said on August 22, 2006 at 6:32 am

    You guys have convinced me not to put potato peels down the disposal anymore. And I’m embarrassed to admit that I read an article in the newspaper here a few months ago listing what should and should-not go down there. Peels were on the should-not list. Guess I forgot.

    We wandered a little into movie discussions above. Has anyone seen “Inside Man” with Denzel Washington yet? We rented it this weekend and found it fascinating. Different from your usual bank robbery stuff. And I spotted an actress immediately who had been in Dog Day Afternoon. In both movies her character’s name was Miriam. The actress is Marcia Jean Kurtz.

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  25. Dorothy said on August 22, 2006 at 8:11 am

    Oh and Alex – put some baking soda in the disposal. It’ll help with that smell problem.

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  26. brian stouder said on August 22, 2006 at 8:25 am

    To be honest – it amazes me that drains work at all, let alone as well as they do.

    One very large reason why I will always live in a municipality as opposed to “out in the county” is for city water/city sewer service. And even though good ol’ Fort Wayne has various unrelated fees and so on appended to the water bill – I’ll never bitch about it.

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  27. mary said on August 22, 2006 at 10:50 am

    Our potato peels go in the compost heap with the coffee grounds and wilted lettuce and onion peels and egg shells. Don’t give me any California tree hugger guff about this, because my New Jersey grandmother did the same thing seventy years ago.

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  28. Dorothy said on August 22, 2006 at 11:02 am

    Mike told me his theory this morning about why you should not put peels in the disposal. He thinks it has something to do with the starch content of the things, not the thinness of them. He thinks it makes a “slurry” in the drain that won’t go away unless you plunge, snake or open the damn thing up and pull them out. I did Google this idea today and I did find a plumbers website that said not to put any starches in: rice, potatoes, etc. It compared the mess to glue. And this plumber reminded that you should run the water for a minute or so after the disposal is shut off.

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  29. colleen said on August 22, 2006 at 11:33 am

    The very first time I made dinner for my now husband I clogged the disposal. Lettuce. I have also clogged with cucumber peels.

    I grew up in a house with well water and septic. Never. Again.

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  30. Dorothy said on August 22, 2006 at 11:57 am

    We had septic and well water in Eighty Four, Colleen. I’m with you – never again! The sale of our house nearly fell apart over discrepancies in a test of the well. Thought I was going to have a heart attack over all the fussin’.

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  31. colleen said on August 22, 2006 at 1:00 pm

    I know of at LEAST one Fancy Schmantzy neighborhood in Aboite Township where I would lay money that most of the houses’ septic systems are nothing more than big containers of poo in the front yard….

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  32. mary said on August 22, 2006 at 1:35 pm

    …but it’s special fancy schmancy poo.

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  33. nancy said on August 22, 2006 at 1:41 pm

    What an image, Colleen. You should write the copy for real-estate listings: “Professionally landscaped yard obscures big container of poo.”

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  34. brian stouder said on August 22, 2006 at 1:49 pm

    As the late great Erma B famously said, the grass is ALWAYS greener over the sceptic tank

    (If I have any choice, I shall never have one of those things; and no basements, either)

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  35. colleen said on August 22, 2006 at 3:51 pm

    Why do you think the landscaping looks so good?

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  36. alex said on August 22, 2006 at 5:53 pm

    Yeah, well my lawn looks like shit. And I have septic.

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  37. mary said on August 23, 2006 at 12:30 pm

    Your problem, Alex, is that you have shit, not fancy schmancy poo, in your septic system.

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  38. marisa said on September 3, 2006 at 7:24 pm

    mary-why would a california tree hugger give you guff for recycling your waste in a compost?! it’s very environmentally friendly for it to be re-used as compost as opposed to taking up space in a garbage dump.

    also, having grown up vacationing on the jersey shore…i’m not sure that anything our ancestors did THERE is something to be used as a defense of how it ISN’T bad for the environment! =)

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  39. Joanna said on November 24, 2006 at 5:37 pm

    OMG. I decided to Google how to clear my kitchen sink after I did the potato peel thing, and I stumbled upon this site filled with references to barfing hairballs and fancy schmancy poo. I laughed so hard I nearly peed.

    Still have a clogged sink though.

    Damn it.

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