As a business owner, something that definitely puts a damper on things is when you have clogged urinals. It doesn’t look nice, it doesn’t smell nice, and it doesn’t reflect well on your business either. It’s actually pretty interesting how these devices can get clogged, seeing as they really aren’t designed to handle solid materials at all.
With that being said, urinals do get clogged, and when they do, you need to know what to do. What we’re here to do today is to take a closer look at the main causes of clogs, as well as various methods at your disposal to get them flowing again.
What Are the Main Causes of Urinal Clogs?
Before we get into talking about how to unclog a urinal, it is important to know exactly why your urinal is clogged in the first place. There are three main reasons why your nose may become clogged, so let’s take a closer look.
Uric Acid Crystals Buildup
Perhaps the most common cause of clogged urinals is a buildup of uric acid crystals. Urine contains a lot of uric acid, and when this uric acid comes into contact with water, there is a potential for small crystals to form. These are known as uric acid crystals.
These uric acid crystals can adhere to the interior walls of the pipes within the urinal and in the drainage system. When too many of these uric acid crystals build up, it can cause blockages. I wrote about how to dissolve those crystals here.
Now, generally speaking, a buildup of uric acid crystals will not completely clog or block a urinal, but it will cause it to flow much slower. With that being said, over a long period of time, if this issue goes untreated, it may very well lead to a total blockage.
Hard Water Buildup
The second cause of blockages in urinals is due to hard water. For those of you who don’t know, hard water is water that contains a high amount of dissolved minerals such as calcium and magnesium. As very hard water flows through the pipes, those mineral crystals can also adhere to the walls of the pipes.
Those mineral crystals will adhere to each other, and to the inside of your pipes, thus forming large blockages. Hard water buildup usually looks like white stains, although as they get bigger and bigger, they may start to look like small white rocks. Don’t think that this is your fault though, because hard water is a regular occurrence, especially if you live out in the country and are using your own water source.
Just like with uric acid crystals, when you have a hard water buildup in your urinal and in the pipes below, it usually won’t cause a total blockage, just reduced flow. That said, once again, if this issue goes untreated for a prolonged period of time, then it may very well lead to a full blockage.
The third main cause of a clogged urinal is an actual physical blockage. If your urinal is completely clogged and overflowing, then chances are pretty big that there is something stuck down in the drain.
Yes, people can be animals, and they could put all kinds of things like tissues, cigarette butts, and other miscellaneous objects down the urinal. If you are operating a commercial establishment, such as a restaurant, and you see that a urinal is totally clogged, then it is very likely that somebody has shoved something down in.
How to Unclog a Urinal
As noted above, there is a difference between a clogged urinal and a urinal that just has a reduced flow rate. It is important for you to determine whether or not your urinal is totally clogged because this will determine the first method that you should choose in order to try and rectify the situation.
Something else that you need to keep in mind here is that this is not going to be some kind of step-by-step tutorial. Rather, we’re going to start by providing you with the best method for each situation and if that does not work you will then move on to the next method and so on and so forth until you find something that works.
Situation #1: Urinal with a Reduced Flow
OK, so if your urinal just has reduced flow then the issue is probably caused by either a buildup of uric acid crystals or by hard water. Therefore, the methods that you use to solve this problem must match the original causes.
Using Hot Water
The first and easiest solution to a slow-flowing urinal that you should try is to pour a gallon of boiling hot water down it. Boiling water is virtually free and it takes minimal effort. Just boil some water and try pouring it down the drain.
This may be enough to dislodge any buildups or physical blockages, although it is a long shot. If this does not work, move onto the next method.
The second thing that you should try doing to unclog the urinal with a reduced flow is to fill the pipes with vinegar and let it sit overnight. Vinegar has the ability to dissolve hard water buildup as well as uric acid crystals. The issue here is that you first have to empty the pipes of water before filling them with vinegar.
You will need to put around three gallons of vinegar in your water heater or in the water system so that when you then flush the urinals, it will pull the vinegar through them. This is actually a good thing to do on a regular basis because it will keep the pipes decalcified and free of uric acid crystals.
Keep flushing the urinals until you smell vinegar coming out instead of water. Once you smell vinegar coming out, give it a good five or six more flushes to force the vinegar into the drain. Let it sit overnight. It should solve the problem, but if it does not move on to the next solution.
Using Drain Cleaner
If the vinegar did not work, then you will need to try something stronger, a professional drain cleaner designed for use with urinals. Even better than regular drain cleaner is muriatic acid, which is a very strong cleaner with the ability to dissolve all sorts of minerals and crystals.
Mix one part of the acid with ten parts water, pour it into the urinal and then let it sit for about ten minutes before flushing a few times. If this method does not work, then the cause of the clog is likely a physical blockage, some kind of tissue, cigarette butts, or other such things, in which case you will want to refer to the next section.
Situation #2: Completely Blocked Urinal
If the above methods did not work, or if your urinal is just 100% blocked, then you will want to refer to any of the below methods for unclogging.
Using a Plunger
Just like you would plunge your toilet, you can also plunge a urinal. Get a good plunger, hold it in the urinal and make sure that you create a solid fit with the drain. Remember, there needs to be a vacuum created when you go to plunge, so it needs to be a 360-degree seal between the plunger and the urinal.
All you have to do now is to slowly raise the plunger and then push it down with great force, just like you would with a regular toilet. Plunge the urinal about ten times to see if anything happens. If you hear noise, especially gurgling and hissing sounds, then the plunge job has likely worked. If this does not work, refer to the next method.
Using a Urinal Snake
When the plunger does not work, the next method at your disposal is to use a urinal snake. No, toilet snakes are not the same as urinal snakes, just so you know. If you happen to have a urinal snake, now is the time to use it.
Unscrew the drain cover in the urinal and then get to work with the urinal snake. Put the coil of the snake down the drain and then get to turning on that handle.
When you crank the handle, it will feed the coil down the drain, and it should then push out anything that is in the way. Once you encounter any amount of resistance, you know that you have moved the blocking, in which case you will really want to crank on that handle.
If this still does not work, then you will need to contact a professional for assistance. Yes, you could try playing plumber and unscrewing pipes to see if you can find the issue, but this is not something we recommend doing if you have no prior experience.
Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks
Before we let you go work on the problem, here are last few tips:
- If you don’t know plumbing, don’t go disconnecting urinals and unscrewing pipes. It’s not worth the risk.
- Do not use a toilet snake on a urinal. They are not the same things, and in all reality, a toilet snake probably would not fit anyway.
- Always wear a face mask that covers your nose and mouth when trying to unclog a urinal. You don’t want old urine from 100 men splashing into your face. Yeah, some goggles and rubber gloves would come in handy too.
- If using a drain cleaner, make sure that it is urinal safe. Not all drain cleaners can be used on urinals.
There you have it, folks, all of the causes of a clogged urinal, as well as all of the methods to get it flowing again. We hope that we were able to assist you in your time of need!