Drain Blockage in Thailand Houses and Condos

Anywhere in the world, drains get clogged, especially bathroom sinks. How should you unblock this drain stoppage?

However, unlike in the West where you can just buy a chemical like Draino and drop it in, in Thailand you should NOT use chemicals.

The reason is that the sewage system here is nature-based under your house, not piped out to a centralized utility. Nearly all houses and condos in Thailand have a septic tank under the house, and the decomposition of human wastes and other things is dependent upon the natural bacteria thriving in that tank. The chemicals used to dissolve clogs in the sink will kill that bacteria, and then you have turned a minor problem into a serious problem.

(It is also said that the chemicals can start corrosion in your pipes, but I'm not sure that's a serious problem.)

In the tropics, bacteria thrive in the warmth year-round, so nature-based septic tanks work fine.

If the tank does fill up, then you call one of the "poop sucker trucks" (Thai language translation).

Normally, the solids fall to the bottom and scum floats to the top, where anerobic bacteria break them down leaving just liquid which can flow out into to the drain or seepage field (or to a second settling tank and then out to the field). If the bacteria are killed, then clogs can happen and stinky sewage go out with lots of human germs, and it's a difficult problem to solve way underground.

Notably, most soaps are environmentally friendly. However, chemicals like Draino are not!

Bangkok is not an exception. Even though Bangkok is an urban place, infrastructure does not include anywhere nearly as much sewage piping as in western cities. Condos often have just bigger and larger numbers of septic tanks. Housing villages often have a centralized facility of their own, but the septic tank processing usually starts under your own house.

Condos are usually more tolerant of abuse than houses, like hotels, but they are known to get problems, sometimes due to just one particular mindless primate in one of the units.

There are some other important preventive measures you must take with a home in the tropics, listed at the bottom of this page.

Solution

All you need are these:

  • A pan of boiling water
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Plunger
  • Wet rag

Boil the pan of water. Put some dish soap down the sink. Pour a little bit of the hot water into the sink. Let it sit for awhile.

Sometimes just the hot water and dish soap works, whereby you repeat the step above a few times. However, if you have a plunger, then it's worth plunging.

Prepare to plunge. Every sink has two holes, one at the top back of the sink (or bath tub). You can't really plunge without covering that hole, and in fact plunging may cause water to shoot out of the hole onto you. You need to seal the hole to maintain plunging pressure. Wet the rag (so that it becomes much less air permeable) and cover the hole. (Don't use toilet paper because the plunging can suck it into the sink pipe and then you have a bigger problem.) Put the plunger over the sink hole and pour in the pan of hot water over the plunger to put it underwater. Plunge.

The sink is usually draining almost as fast as new after the first or second plunge. However, if not, then let it sit with dish soap and hot water inside for awhile to dissolve oils and gunk.

After it starts to drain, keep plunging to make sure you clear it as much as possible. Let the water run awhile to wash everything and disperse it way down the pipe, preferably completely thru the pipe. Make sure you complete the "solution".

Notably, when my wife bought her house, we had a drainage problem in the pipes. Eventually, we found out that the builders had just stuffed trash down the pipes on their way out, including plastic.

If the drainage backs up house wide, then you probably need to call the poop sucker truck to suck the septic tank dry. You'll see these out on the highway from time to time. Many of them also can "snake" (or "roto-rooter") the pipe to break up blockage, i.e., put a flexible metal hose down the pipe.

I've put just a normal water hose down a pipe and turned the water on full blast to clear blockages.

Prevention

Don't use food grinders, like in the west. Don't wash large amounts of rice down the drain. This overwhelms the tank puts too much fibrous and other stuff into the septic tank, which eventually causes blockage. Put food in the trash.

Of course, you should have a screen or other drain cover to prevent big things from going down your drain, especially the kitchen sink.

Dumping excess cooking oils, grease, and tissues can cause problem in the septic tank. Of course, feminine napkins, cotton buds, and the like won't break down and will just clog up the system. (Normal amounts of toilet paper are usually fine.)

Don't pour any chemicals down the drain! Put them in an empty water bottle and drop them into the trash. It's good to have a funnel around.




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