Selecting A Drain Cleaner
by Steve Spielmann
One of the challenges facing maintenance personnel is keeping drains, waste lines and product conveyance lines free from obstructions and blockages. This includes sink, shower, tub, toilet and floor drains, main waste lines and sewer lines. Many drain cleaners are available to the maintenance professional for accomplishing these tasks. These include force cups, plungers, dual action force pumps, closet augers, drain augers, kinetic water rams, power jetters and electromechanical cable drain cleaners.
For purposes of brevity, this writing will concern itself with power jetters and electromechanical cable drain cleaners and the reasons to select either or both types of equipment.
Power jetter drain cleaners are an outgrowth of the pressure washer industry. Early jetters were simply conventional pressure washers fitted with special hoses and nozzles capable of negotiating bends and elbows found in typical sink, shower and tub installations. Typically, the nozzles consisted of a ball-shaped or tapered body machined with orifices pointing both forward and angled rearward. These are known as penetrating nozzles. They rely on pressure alone to dislodge and break up blockages in drain lines as well as to propel the nozzle down the drain line. Jetters available today have changed little from early models but they incorporate two important improvements. The first is the development of specialty nozzles including blind thrust nozzles, cornering nozzles and drop head nozzles. Blind thrust nozzles have only rear facing orifices for maximum forward impetus. Cornering nozzles are similar to penetrating nozzles except the forward facing orifice is moved to one side of the body causing the nozzle to push to one side for negotiating elbows. Drop head nozzles have weights in front of the nozzle body that cause the nozzle to drop down into a vertical line when approached from a horizontal "T" line. The second improvement is the addition of a valve that allows the user to deactivate one of the pump cylinders to create a pulsing action. This pulsation creates more action in the nozzle and hose allowing the nozzle to wriggle its way through bends more easily.
Jetters are ideal for removing soap scum residue, grease, hair and food blockages in drains as well as for maintaining and cleaning product conveyance lines. Their ease of use and portability make them an excellent tool for scheduled drain cleanings as part of a preventive maintenance program.
Electromechanical cable drain cleaners have been around for many years and remain virtually the same today as they were in the beginning. Most of the advancements over the years have been in the form of improved cable quality, a wider variety of auger heads and the addition of power feed capability. These are the machines that utilize a spring type cable coiled in a cage style reel powered by an electric motor. The cable is fitted with a single or double bladed cutter, saw tooth cutter, grease spring or other cleaning head. They are available with different horsepower drives for different diameter cables and have a reach of up to 300'.
Cable drain cleaners take over where jetters lose their effectiveness, such as larger waste lines and lines with hard blockages. Jetters are not capable of cutting up solid blockages such as roots, cloth, paper, etc. Cable drain cleaners are also capable of capturing and retrieving deposits using a helical shaped auger. In addition, cables can be coupled together for greater reach.
Conventional cable drain cleaners are fed manually into the line to be cleaned. Newer models have added mechanical drive capability to make the job even easier.
Ultimately, most commercial, institutional and industrial facilities will probably find a need for both types of drain cleaners. Together, jetters and cable drain cleaners can solve nearly all drain and waste line cleaning jobs.
About the author:
Steve Spielmann is the Customer Service/Technical Manager of Goodway Technologies Corporation, Stamford, Connecticut. Goodway Technologies is a manufacturer and supplier of Drain Cleaners, Floor Machines, Vacuums, Hi-Pressure Washers, Tube Cleaners, Duct Cleaners and other maintenance related equipment.