Pressure Pump


Exhilarating, manual drain blasting

This cheap, no-name, pump-action drain unblocker is a great alternative to professional models that can cost more than $50. This pump is also really fun to use. Rather than poking a hole in blockages, it really dislodges them: I put one end of the unblocker on the edge of a chair, pump down up to 35 times, place one of the item’s four gaskets over the business end, position that end in the drain, put most of my weight behind the handle and pull the trigger — Ka-POW! Very satisfying.

It takes less than five minutes, not counting the prep: open a tap until a couple of inches of water are in the basin and pound rubber stoppers into the two circular overflow-drain outlets. Important: in bathroom sinks and tubs, the overflow drains have to be plugged first to ensure the blast doesn’t spray backed-up water all over the bathroom. An extra pair of hands and/or lots of Gorilla Tape over the wadding are needed for non-circular overflow drains.

Unlike an auger, which I’ve had trouble getting to follow a 90-degree pipe-turn, there’s no yucky clean-up of the tool afterwards or any need to get your hands into the backed-up water. The Zip-It drain cleaner is no doubt a cool tool in some situations, such as a clogged trap beneath a low-height sink, or perhaps a clogged bathtub or toilet trap. But it doesn’t do as thorough a job in cleaning the trap, and it wouldn’t clear a pipe that’s up behind the wall. It’s too short (less than 18 inches below the handle) to reach to the bottom of my unusually tall bathroom sink’s trap. It’s also too wide — it barely fits through the four slots in the drain-guard of my kitchen sink. When I withdraw it, every barb catches on the slots’ edges, which means that much of the gunk it snags falls back down the drain. I’m glad to have the Zip-It, and it does cost very little, but it’s only a partial solution. When you have a stopped-up drain that seemingly only a pro could unclog, you need a Pressure Pump (or Air Pressure Drain Opener, more info below) – and again, its cost is modest in comparison to a pro model.

I have also tested the Drain King, a pulsing expanding-rubber-gasket drain unblocker. Its main defect is that the guard-fence beneath the drain inlet must be removed to thread it through, which is usually impossible, or a plug in the basement must be unscrewed, which dumps a pail full of nasty water into the pail you’ve thoughtfully placed beneath it (or not). You can get around this if the trap, etc. beneath the sink is removed — but that’s still a messy hassle — and it doesn’t always work. Further, if you have a larger pipe, an additional, wider-diameter Drain King must be bought to cope with it. Another drawback to the Drain King is that few apartment dwellers will have the garden hose and faucet fittings that are necessary to drive it. And even for those persons who live in a house, it’s a pain running a hose in through a propped-open door–and it can be a bit messy.

That’s why the blaster is so cool — even though it’s not a do-all product, it fills a crucial niche where other products work poorly or with difficulty.

The Kleer Drain is a better-publicized, award-winning home-style drain blaster sold at Home Depot, but it costs $30 (more than twice the Pressure Pump and a few bucks more than the Air Pressure Drain Opener). The Kleer Drain also requires carbon dioxide cartridges to power it, which might be impossible to obtain in a dire emergency situation (i.e. social collapse) and obviously it costs money to buy refills. The Kleer Drain does come with a “splash guard” — a piece of plastic wrap with a hole in it – but with the Pressure Pump or Air Pressure Drain Opener one could easily make one, or just wrap a towel around the barrel. More important in reducing blowback is to put a lot of straight-down weight on the barrel before pulling the trigger.

There is no lettering on the Pressure Pump itself. There is an 8.5 x 11 sheet folded into a booklet format with humorously inept-English instructions. It says the manufacturer is “Yidatong Pumps.” The title or brand name is “Dongsheng Drain Unblocker.” No address or other info is provided. The only lettering on the plain white box is “Country of origin: China.”

I recently learned that the stock is limited for the Pressure Pump, but I found a similar manual pump being sold as the Air Pressure Drain Opener that also comes with four gaskets.

-- Roger Knights 03/14/07