It seems like most homeowners have plungers, but plungers aren't the only tools you can use to clean a drain. Knowing which tools you have on hand--and which tools you can buy--to clear your drains is an important part of home ownership. The following tools can help you keep your plumbing clear, which can help you from needing to secure professional drain cleaning services.
Vinegar and Baking Soda
Both vinegar and baking soda are common cleaning products that can clean pipes as they clean other surfaces. When combined, they create a chemical reaction that produces a lot of bubbles and fizz. In a pipe, this chain reaction can help move debris around and flush clogs through.
To use this method, put a pot of water on to boil. Once the water is boiling, pour it down the drain, then sprinkle baking soda into the pipe. Chase the baking soda with a combination of vinegar and warm water, then cap the drain and let the chain reaction take place. Put another pot of water on to boil, and then flush the drain with more boiling water.
A plumber's auger is basically a manual drain snake. Augers can be purchased at home improvement centers and hardware stores. To use an auger, simply insert the coiled cable into the drain, and then use the crank to push the cable down. When the auger encounters the clog, it will dislodge it. When this is done, you can retract the cable.
You can also use a wire hanger as a make-shift auger if necessary. Straighten a wire hanger into a hook, then insert the hook into the clogged drain. Fish around with the hook until it encounters the clog. Use the hanger to pull out or dislodge whatever is in the drain that is causing the clog. This only works on clogs near the surface of the drain, but it can also often be useful for sink drains and bathtub drains clogged with hair.
Wet-Dry Shop Vacuum
Use your hand to form an O around the drain opening, then hold the hose of the shop vacuum up to your hand. Turn on the shop vacuum and adjust the hose so that it creates a good a seal with your hand. Finally, turn on the vacuum until it pulls the debris out of the drain. This may only work on loose debris caught near the surface of the drain but is still worth a try.
If your drain at home is clogged and none of these methods work, then it's time to contact a professional drain cleaning service in your area.