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dstebbins

Top water slow; bottom water clogged

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I'm having the strangest problem with my kitchen sink ... one that seems to defy the laws of physics!

My pipes are clogged. Normally, I can take the pipes apart by unscrewing them and simply scooping out the crud in the pipes with a spoon. But this time, the clog seems to be so far down that I can't reach it. I've tried liquid clog remover, but that doesn't work.

But here's the weirdest part: If I put water in my sink, it will take about 10 minutes to go down the drain. That's slow, but at least it gets the job done.

But when I took the pipes apart to attempt (in vein) to scoop out the crud, I noticed that the water in the bottom pipe (the only pipe I can't unscrew) just doesn't want to go down. At all. I can leave it there overnight, and the water in the bottom pipe is still there!

Now that's the part I don't get! If the clog is so strong that the water doesn't drain at all, then how can the top water still drain? If anything, shouldn't the weight of the top water press down on the bottom water and push it through? After all, that's how water towers work!

http://mentalfloss.com/article/64577/how-do-water-towers-work

But the water in the top pipe still drains ... slowly, but still drains ... while the bottom pipe is totally clogged! If anything, shouldn't it be the other way around?! The top water still has to go through the bottom pipe, and if there's a veeeeery small opening in the clog, then shouldn't the bottom water also slowly seep down too? Or is this just magical flying water?

I'm about to call my landlord for help. But this is weird! Does anyone have an explanation as to how this could possibly be happening?

Edited by dstebbins
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Not sure of the setup you described, but it sounds like the pressure of the additional head from the sink slowly pushes the water through the clog...but not when the additional head is not present.

 

Or are you describing a clogged trap. The trap always maintains some water to seal sewage gases from venting back into your house...normal operation it holds some water whether clogged or not, as the water has to go uphill to get further down the system, and can only do this with at least a small amount of head.

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Indeed, the holes in the clog could be small enough for capillary forces to withstand a little bit of pressure from only water in the lower tubes, but not from the additional pressure of more water on top of it.

 

Or you have poorly installed piping which drains upwards and traps the water that way. That would also explain why it gets clogged there.

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Please forgive me but if you don't even know how plumbing works why are you posting on a Physics forum?

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Please forgive me but if you don't even know how plumbing works why are you posting on a Physics forum?

Since Bender and J.C.McSwell show no evidence of being ignorant of plumbing I assume you are addressing this to the OP. Clearly he is posting on a physics forum in order to find out why his plumbing is behaving as it is. What is unusual about that?

 

This is just a suggestion, but it's probably not a sound idea to make such an aggressive and apparently silly post as your first contribution to the forum. Unless, of course, you intend silly and aggressive to be your hallmarks.

 

Either way, welcome.

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Please forgive me but if you don't even know how plumbing works why are you posting on a Physics forum?

!

Moderator Note

This is not a very helpful reply. We try and help with our responses here. It makes it nicer and more productive for us all.

 

Please do not reply to this modnote in the thread.

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!

Moderator Note

This is not a very helpful reply. We try and help with our responses here. It makes it nicer and more productive for us all.

 

Please do not reply to this modnote in the thread.

I don't see how one could not understand that he has a clog below the trap. These normally occur where a drain T's into another pipe. Often these are caused by hair from a shower on the main line and are notoriously difficult to relieve since the corrosives that can be used, leak though too rapidly to be effective. The "water on top" would be the water normally caught in the trap as it is designed to do. If the sink fills up it also fills the line between the trap and the clog. At this time the sink will fill. Hair clogs usually leak slowly though and you leave the sink full and the next morning it will appear empty.

 

For these problems you can usually spend more on goos and hand cleaning wires than getting a plumber in there in the first place. If the distance from the trap to the clog is very far it usually requires the services of a plumber with a motorized cleaning wire.

 

Hopefully this is helpful but as you see instead of asking on a physics board which showed most people uneducated on these subjects he could have gone to a home repair site where the answers he got would have been both rapid and accurate.

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Hopefully this is helpful but as you see instead of asking on a physics board which showed most people uneducated on these subjects he could have gone to a home repair site where the answers he got would have been both rapid and accurate.

He chose to ask scientists as is his prerogative.because he felt the phenomenon was unusual and wanted an explanation. A home repair site would have been unlikely to give a scientific explanation because a scientist a physicist is equipped to understand the forces involved. A chemist could have advised on the best chemicals to use once they knew the nature of the blockage.

 

Which part of the modnote did you not understand?

 

 

Please do not reply to this modnote in the thread

Edited by StringJunky
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He chose to ask scientists as is his prerogative.because he felt the phenomenon was unusual and wanted an explanation. A home repair site would have been unlikely to give a scientific explanation because a scientist a physicist is equipped to understand the forces involved. A chemist could have advised on the best chemicals to use once they knew the nature of the blockage.

 

Which part of the modnote did you not understand?

 

Municipal piping has been around for over 1000 years. During that time how has physics helped to unclog any drains? When you have a clogged drain do you call for a physicist or a chemist?

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Municipal piping has been around for over 1000 years. During that time how has physics helped to unclog any drains? When you have a clogged drain do you call for a physicist or a chemist?

Ask the OP.

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Municipal piping has been around for over 1000 years. During that time how has physics helped to unclog any drains? When you have a clogged drain do you call for a physicist or a chemist?

 

Again you completely missed the point. StringJunky specifically said that you would call a plumber to get the clog removed, but you would ask a physicist to explain why it's happening if you are curious about it. A plumber probably wouldn't be eligible to give you a real explanation.

And the OP himself said that he is calling a landlord to get it removed and is asking here in an attempt to understand what's happening, so you had no reason to misunderstand that.

 

You have an issue with reading and/or understanding the posts.

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Again you completely missed the point. StringJunky specifically said that you would call a plumber to get the clog removed, but you would ask a physicist to explain why it's happening if you are curious about it. A plumber probably wouldn't be eligible to give you a real explanation.

And the OP himself said that he is calling a landlord to get it removed and is asking here in an attempt to understand what's happening, so you had no reason to misunderstand that.

 

You have an issue with reading and/or understanding the posts.

 

Actually he said that he was about to call his landlord but hopefully it would be the same thing. Plumbers are MORE than adequately educated to explain how plumbing works despite your disrespect for them.

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What? That is nonsense and a strawman argument. I did not disrespect plumbers in any way.

By your logic, if I were to say that a chemist isn't by profession eligible to explain computer programming, I am somehow disrespecting chemistry. That makes no sense.

 

Plumbers have a working understanding of how plumbing works (obviously) and they may give rough a explanation of this, but their profession doesn't teach the physics and mathematics of these details.

Also, you completely misread the OPs question. He does understand that he has a clog (which a plumber would have told him and solved the problem), but he asked why the top water was draining but not the bottom water on a fundamental level.

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I'm having the strangest problem with my kitchen sink ... one that seems to defy the laws of physics!

 

...But here's the weirdest part: If I put water in my sink, it will take about 10 minutes to go down the drain. That's slow, but at least it gets the job done.

 

But when I took the pipes apart to attempt (in vein) to scoop out the crud, I noticed that the water in the bottom pipe (the only pipe I can't unscrew) just doesn't want to go down. At all. I can leave it there overnight, and the water in the bottom pipe is still there!...I'm about to call my landlord for help. But this is weird! Does anyone have an explanation as to how this could possibly be happening?

Not sure of the setup you described, but it sounds like the pressure of the additional head from the sink slowly pushes the water through the clog...but not when the additional head is not present.

 

Or are you describing a clogged trap. The trap always maintains some water to seal sewage gases from venting back into your house...normal operation it holds some water whether clogged or not, as the water has to go uphill to get further down the system, and can only do this with at least a small amount of head.

No doubt the clog has been fixed, but I think an illustration of a P-trap will clarify J.C.MacSwell's explanation for seeing water in the lower pipe. Whether the clog is in, or downstream of, the P-trap is a matter of plumbing, whereas why a P-trap works is a matter of physics.

 

Purposeful Plumbing: What is a P-trap?

P-trap-diagram1-300x280.png

Pascal's Law

 

 

Pascal's law or the principle of transmission of fluid-pressure (also Pascal's Principle) is a principle in fluid mechanics that states that a pressure change occurring anywhere in a confined incompressible fluid is transmitted throughout the fluid such that the same change occurs everywhere.

...

This principle is stated mathematically as:

Δ P = ρ g ( Δ h )

Δ P is the hydrostatic pressure (given in pascals in the SI system), or the difference in pressure at two points within a fluid column, due to the weight of the fluid; ρ is the fluid density (in kilograms per cubic meter in the SI system); g is acceleration due to gravity (normally using the sea level acceleration due to Earth's gravity, in SI in metres per second squared); Δ h is the height of fluid above the point of measurement, or the difference in elevation between the two points within the fluid column (in metres in SI). ...

Edited by Acme
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What? That is nonsense and a strawman argument. I did not disrespect plumbers in any way.

By your logic, if I were to say that a chemist isn't by profession eligible to explain computer programming, I am somehow disrespecting chemistry. That makes no sense.

 

Plumbers have a working understanding of how plumbing works (obviously) and they may give rough a explanation of this, but their profession doesn't teach the physics and mathematics of these details.

Also, you completely misread the OPs question. He does understand that he has a clog (which a plumber would have told him and solved the problem), but he asked why the top water was draining but not the bottom water on a fundamental level.

 

Then you wouldn't mind telling us in mathematical formula how these drains clog. You have yet to explain how you have ANY idea of how plumbing works even though Paris was plumbed in the 1700's. Hadrian's wall has guard posts that are outfitted with plumbed toilets. Which quantum physicist do you suppose it took to design those?

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You are, again, completely missing the point. Rephrasing will probably do no good so I'll do my best to find a simple analogy.

 

OK, so think of Galileo and Copernicus. They described the mechanics of planetary motion. Their models were correct and used from then on by astronomers. They, however, did not understand why planets acted in such a way and why they circled around the sun in an elipse.

Then came sir Isaac Newton who clearly explained how this worked and gave absolute mathematical formulae for everyone to be able to calculate. Galileo and Copernicus are plumbers in this analogy, while Isaac Newton is the physicist. So, to reiterate, the two astronomers understood completely well how the planets are moving and how they will be aligned in a certain point in time, but they did not understand why any of that was happening.

 

It is not a perfect analogy, but you should be able to undestand now. If not, I can't help you.

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Then you wouldn't mind telling us in mathematical formula how these drains clog. You have yet to explain how you have ANY idea of how plumbing works even though Paris was plumbed in the 1700's. Hadrian's wall has guard posts that are outfitted with plumbed toilets. Which quantum physicist do you suppose it took to design those?

Here are two words:

 

Empirical

Theoretical

 

If you cannot see how these relate to your misperception then, like Lord Antares, I probably cannot do much for you.

 

Edit: I suspect the block for you is not intellect, but obstinacy.

Edited by Ophiolite
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You are, again, completely missing the point. Rephrasing will probably do no good so I'll do my best to find a simple analogy.

 

OK, so think of Galileo and Copernicus. They described the mechanics of planetary motion. Their models were correct and used from then on by astronomers. They, however, did not understand why planets acted in such a way and why they circled around the sun in an elipse.

Then came sir Isaac Newton who clearly explained how this worked and gave absolute mathematical formulae for everyone to be able to calculate. Galileo and Copernicus are plumbers in this analogy, while Isaac Newton is the physicist. So, to reiterate, the two astronomers understood completely well how the planets are moving and how they will be aligned in a certain point in time, but they did not understand why any of that was happening.

 

It is not a perfect analogy, but you should be able to undestand now. If not, I can't help you.

 

I am not attempting to insult you. I am attempting to show you what disdain you appear to have for people who you believe have a lesser education. LONG before Galileo ocean voyagers found their way around the seas using the stars to navigate by, Ferdinand Magellan found his way around the world 40 years before Galileo was born.

 

Quantum Physics is presently balanced on a hair's breadth of evidence in a universe of perception.

 

We are saying that 80% of the universe is dark matter without the furthest idea what that could be. To add to that we found dark galaxies just a couple of years ago and in a couple of years have identified something like 50 of them. So HOW many are there and how much matter does that make up in the Universe?

 

Should I pretend to have more knowledge than you because I worked high up on teams that gave one man a Nobel Prize and another an Emmy? That I delivered weapons systems to the military that no one else could get to work? That the first job I got out of the service was in high energy nuclear research?

 

Science almost always answers questions that have already been completed by others. In case you missed it the Chinese invented rockets in the 13th century. Von Braun was an engineer.

 

Stephen Hawkings standard model is now toast. My opinion is that control fusion ain't going to happen. Drug development is now so staggeringly expensive that each new drug will cost an order of magnitude more than the last. At what point does it become economically unfeasible to pursue?

 

Knowledge in an of itself is nothing more than a game of statistical probability. At some point there is not enough knowledge in the universe about the universe.

 

Are you going to spend your life working on something to discover it doesn't work the way you thought it does and end up talking about AI taking over man-kind or supposing that soon we'll be contacted by space aliens?

Edited by RiceAWay
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I cannot help you any further. You seem to be completely misunderstanding everything. I know what you are trying to say, but you are wrong.

 

Again you're saying that I have disdain for lesser educated people, which is far from everything I've said. All I said is that plumbers are less educated in physics than physicists are. Do you seriously have a problem with that sentence? If I said that mathematicians are less educated in history than historians, would you deduce that I was insulting mathematicians and considering them stupid? Because that sounds exactly like what you are doing.

 

For the third or fourth time, yes, the Chinese invented rockets long ago, but only a physicist can really explain to you the forces involved and only he or a mathematician can exactly calculate the trajectory, force, etc. of the rocket. This is something that the Chinese were unable to do at that time. They were able to use the rockets, but not explain them. Please don't accuse me of disdain towards the Chinese.

 

Your Magellan example is invalid. You were countering an analogy. Again, Magellan would be the plumber if I were to use another analogy, and today's astronomers would be the physicists. I don't have the energy to repeat myself again, so take from it what you can.

 

You know, you are a strange case. You somehow seem at least somewhat intelligent; there is a certain logic behind your reasoning, but it is all wrong and you keep completely missing the point all the time. I don't know if you skim through the posts or make no effort to understand them or what.

As I said, I won't reply anymore cause it would warrant having to repeat myself all over again.

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I cannot help you any further. You seem to be completely misunderstanding everything. I know what you are trying to say, but you are wrong.

 

Again you're saying that I have disdain for lesser educated people, which is far from everything I've said. All I said is that plumbers are less educated in physics than physicists are. Do you seriously have a problem with that sentence? If I said that mathematicians are less educated in history than historians, would you deduce that I was insulting mathematicians and considering them stupid? Because that sounds exactly like what you are doing.

 

For the third or fourth time, yes, the Chinese invented rockets long ago, but only a physicist can really explain to you the forces involved and only he or a mathematician can exactly calculate the trajectory, force, etc. of the rocket. This is something that the Chinese were unable to do at that time. They were able to use the rockets, but not explain them. Please don't accuse me of disdain towards the Chinese.

 

Your Magellan example is invalid. You were countering an analogy. Again, Magellan would be the plumber if I were to use another analogy, and today's astronomers would be the physicists. I don't have the energy to repeat myself again, so take from it what you can.

 

You know, you are a strange case. You somehow seem at least somewhat intelligent; there is a certain logic behind your reasoning, but it is all wrong and you keep completely missing the point all the time. I don't know if you skim through the posts or make no effort to understand them or what.

As I said, I won't reply anymore cause it would warrant having to repeat myself all over again.

 

And there it is again - YOU cannot help ME. You neither know what caused this clog in the first place or how to clear it. You are unaware that many times in plumbing especially in older homes that there will be multiple traps in a line due to home improvements over time. But you are telling me that I misinterpret your comments about how this was in some manner related in any way to physics. Or that physicists most of whom can't even answer basic questions in anatomy would have knowledge of Mr. Stebbins misinterpretations of his observations.

 

Hardware stores make an absolute fortune selling "heavy duty drain cleaner" to people that think that they know more about plumbing than plumbers. By the time they are done they have spent far more than a plumbers call would. Not to mention the degradation of the seals around traps and older style pipes from corrosives.

 

The world around us is not theoretical. And that means that for most of the world's problems you have to approach them from a practical and not a theoretical basis. Not as StringJunky who doesn't seem to understand that this was not any sort of special phenomena but nothing more than the ordinary common clog. I've spent the last 50 years flipping light switches on for PhD's that have replaced a light bulb 5 times and I have come to wonder how they do not understand why the light never comes on.

Edited by RiceAWay
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And still you miss the point. While some PhD's are also a dab hand at carpentry and plumbing and car mechanics, many are completely inept, yet brilliant in their own field. I hired skilled tradespeople to repair my roof, rewire the electrics, install a new kitchen, plaster some walls and lay carpet. But not one of them - and I doubt any current member - could adequately recommend a specific bit and associated drilling parameters for any oil and gas well on the planet.

 

No one is disputing the different skill sets and knowledge bases possessed by individuals and groups. You seem to think some here are. You are mistaken.

 

I notice you have failed to respond to my suggestion you consider the two words empirical and theoretical. Scared?

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and I doubt any current member - could adequately recommend a specific bit and associated drilling parameters for any oil and gas well on the planet.

I could... I would ring my uncle. :P:) He was in your game.

Edited by StringJunky
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I'm having the strangest problem with my kitchen sink ... one that seems to defy the laws of physics!

 

My pipes are clogged. Normally, I can take the pipes apart by unscrewing them and simply scooping out the crud in the pipes with a spoon. But this time, the clog seems to be so far down that I can't reach it. I've tried liquid clog remover, but that doesn't work.

 

But here's the weirdest part: If I put water in my sink, it will take about 10 minutes to go down the drain. That's slow, but at least it gets the job done.

 

But when I took the pipes apart to attempt (in vein) to scoop out the crud, I noticed that the water in the bottom pipe (the only pipe I can't unscrew) just doesn't want to go down. At all. I can leave it there overnight, and the water in the bottom pipe is still there!

 

Now that's the part I don't get! If the clog is so strong that the water doesn't drain at all, then how can the top water still drain? If anything, shouldn't the weight of the top water press down on the bottom water and push it through? After all, that's how water towers work!

 

http://mentalfloss.com/article/64577/how-do-water-towers-work

 

But the water in the top pipe still drains ... slowly, but still drains ... while the bottom pipe is totally clogged! If anything, shouldn't it be the other way around?! The top water still has to go through the bottom pipe, and if there's a veeeeery small opening in the clog, then shouldn't the bottom water also slowly seep down too? Or is this just magical flying water?

 

I'm about to call my landlord for help. But this is weird! Does anyone have an explanation as to how this could possibly be happening?

 

 

I think the folks have nailed the reason for your 'bottom water'

Perhaps if you had posted some photos and/or sketches more complete advice could have been forthcoming.

Thanks to Acme for the diagram of a P trap.

 

However it is quite likely to be a bottle trap rather than an S or P trap.

These are favoured by builders as they are smaller, cheaper and easier to fit.

They do unfortunately clog up more easily than pipe type traps since the fluid path is not smooth.and regular.

 

Please note on the bottom of Acme's diagram a 'cleaning eye' is shown as a bump.

 

You should find out the type of trap and check youtube for cleaning and maintenance instructions.

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I think the folks have nailed the reason for your 'bottom water'

Perhaps if you had posted some photos and/or sketches more complete advice could have been forthcoming.

Thanks to Acme for the diagram of a P trap.

 

However it is quite likely to be a bottle trap rather than an S or P trap.

These are favoured by builders as they are smaller, cheaper and easier to fit.

They do unfortunately clog up more easily than pipe type traps since the fluid path is not smooth.and regular.

 

Please note on the bottom of Acme's diagram a 'cleaning eye' is shown as a bump.

 

You should find out the type of trap and check youtube for cleaning and maintenance instructions.

 

Although bottle traps are better if you keep them cleaned out (and no one ever does outside of a laboratory) I have never seen one of these in a residence since they are illegal in most areas in residences. Even S traps have been illegal for quite some time and they only allow original installations to remain. P traps are supposed to be the standard.

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Although bottle traps are better if you keep them cleaned out (and no one ever does outside of a laboratory) I have never seen one of these in a residence since they are illegal in most areas in residences. Even S traps have been illegal for quite some time and they only allow original installations to remain. P traps are supposed to be the standard.

In what jurisdiction are they illegal? Because they're not where I live.

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