How to Get Paint Out of Drain Pipes in a Few Easy Steps

Last Updated On May 26, 2022
how to get paint out of drain pipes

Most people love taking on home improvement DIY projects on the weekends or when they are on holiday. Many of these projects are not only fulfilling, but also financially rewarding (could add value to your home). However, not very many DIY enthusiasts have the right know-how as far as material disposal is concerned. 

Take leftover paint, for example. What do you do with it? Do you pour it down the kitchen sink? The answer is no, because it will clog up the drain pipes. But should that happen, do you know how to get paint out of drain pipes?

These are all things that not very many DIY enthusiasts think about beforehand but, unfortunately, will face eventually. Because of this, paint clogs tend to be very common in households.

To help you prepare a bit more for your DIY projects at home, let’s take a look at how to get paint out of drain pipes before it does too much damage.

What's In This Guide?

      How Does Paint Clog Drain Pipes?

      It might at first seem quite harmless to wash paint down the sink or shower drain. After all, it is a liquid that can simply flow out, right? Well, not quite. Paint is essentially designed to cling to most surfaces, including metal or plastic drain pipes. 

      Once the paint clings onto these surfaces, it’s designed to dry up, harden and withstand water, which means that it will remain on the PVC pipe as a stain.

      While it’s perfectly okay to wash off a paintbrush over the sink (provided they have very little paint on them), it’s never okay to wash down a significant amount of paint down the sink drain for both environmental and plumbing reasons – remember, all of that ends up going to the sewer line and water treatment plants. Most of the time, a little bit of latex paint down the drain won’t affect the pipe.

      But, even the slightest amount of paint will cling onto other would-be drain pipe clogging materials such as hair, dirt, and grease. Once this combination gets going, you’ll have a clogged drain in no time at all.

      did you know how to get paint out of drain pipes

      Tips on How to Get Paint Out of Drain Pipes

      Although it might seem as though removing paint from drain pipes is as straightforward as removing paint from any flat surface, the truth is that this is a much tougher proposition than most people anticipate. 

      Yes, the principles are pretty much the same as removing paint from walls and tabletops. When it comes to curved surfaces, especially fully rounded surfaces like those found in drain pipes, there is a slight variation in the materials, techniques, and level of expertise required. 

      With that being said, here are some easy steps you can follow to get paint out of drain pipes at home: 

      Step 1: Dissolve the Paint

      This is your first line of offense. Depending on the kind of clog you are dealing with, whether it’s small or big, you can simply dissolve the paint using paint thinners. However, you need to ensure you use a chemical or drain cleaner that is safe for PVC pipes.

      If the clog is small enough, pouring just a bit of paint thinner down the drain opening should do the trick. However, this process isn’t as simplistic as it sounds. There are a lot of variables to consider. 

      • Is the paint already mixed in with other materials such as hair and dirt?
      • Are there any environmental issues to consider in your area?
      • What kind of regulations (environmental or otherwise) govern your exact location?
      • Will this be safe for your type of pipe material?

      If all the lights are green, then pouring some paint thinner down the drain will get the job done (make sure to follow this with a pot of boiling hot water to clear any excess paint). The problem is this only works for a very small amount of paint clog. 

      To find out just how much paint is clogging your pipes, you might need to use a flexible camera sewer locator to survey the clog. It might be possible to use a plumbing snake to break up the clog if it’s not too deep. If you don’t have these and don’t wish to buy them, you can hire a professional drain cleaning service. Of course, this beats the whole purpose of doing all this yourself. 

      The logical thing to do would be to try using some paint thinner to see if the issue is resolved. If not, go on to the next step. Warning: Understand the risks with your pipe materials, and confirm this is legal to do in your municipality.

      Tip: if you don’t have a paint thinner, then try baking soda and vinegar. It’s not as effective but still might do the trick if the clog isn’t very large. 

      Step 2: Physically Remove the Paint

      In some cases, you might have to physically remove the paint from your PVC pipe that it’s clogged in. This could occur in one of two ways: you could simply physically remove the paint with your hand or scrape it off if it’s right there on your drain pan. 

      In this case, all you have to do is scrape it off carefully, pick it up with your hand and dispose of the paint. Once that is done, simply wash off the remaining bits of paint using a paint thinner. 

      However, life isn’t always that ideal, and your paint problem might be deeper down the drain than your hand can get to. In this case, you would have to undo most of the drain pipes. This involves unscrewing the P-trap, which isn’t as complicated as it sounds.

      If it’s a plastic drain, then you can simply do it by hand. If it’s a metal drain, you might need a few tools, such as a pair of pliers or a wrench. Once you have unscrewed the P-trap, you have better access to the pipes. 

      All you have to do now is look down the line to see where the clog is; if you find it, see if you can scrape it off. If not, you would have to use tools such as a drain snake to try and scrape it off or, at the very least, knock some of that paint loose. You can see how quickly this can get rather complicated.

      Final Thoughts on Removing Paint from Drain Pipes

      The best option for removing paint from your pipes is to let a plumbing professional handle it using chemicals they confirm are safe for your drain pipes. This kind of issue really needs professional attention to avoid further damage. Don’t pour bleach down your drain as this will not resolve the issue, and lead to other problems.

      While you could very well get rid of some of the paint that might be clogging up your drain pipes, the chances are that you are only scraping the surface of the problem (no pun intended), which means that you are only postponing the inevitable clog down the line a few days or weeks later. 

      To ensure that this doesn’t happen, hire a professional drain cleaner. It would be a bit costly, but they will get the job done and even give you a better diagnosis of your future clogging problems. They will use camera inspection to identify the problem, and have professional experience to resolve it without additional harm.

      FAQs on How to Get Paint Out of Drain Pipes

      How do you remove paint from drain pipes?

      If immediate, try a cleaning solution, such as vinegar, to break up the paint and then remove any remaining large pieces by hand. If it’s dried paint, use a dissolving chemical but confirm it’s safe for your pipes.

      Is it OK to rinse paint down the drain? 

      No. Avoid pouring paint down the drain. 

      What other items should you not put down the drain?

      Besides paint, avoid putting the following down your pipe or garbage disposal: 

      • Food waste from fibrous vegetables
      • Grease 
      • Cooking oil
      • Coffee grounds

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      About Plumbing Navigator

      We write about "all things plumbing," helping you navigate common questions, repairs, and the best plumbing products on the market.

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      We write about “all things plumbing,” helping you navigate common questions, repairs, and the best plumbing products on the market.

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