How often have you wasted hours pumping away at a clogged toilet with a plunger or desperately running a short snake down your sink trying to clear a blockage? Plumbing obstructions always seem simple, but they can quickly become massive headaches. Even worse, it's possible to make the problem more severe by using the wrong tools or methods to clear them.

Still, attempting to solve these problems on your own is understandable. Calling a plumber out can be expensive, and it may even feel like a waste of money if it's something simple. However, relying on an expert is often the quickest and easiest way to clean a clogged drain. If you're facing any of these three issues, it's time to throw in the towel and call a plumber.

1. The Water Smells Foul or Looks Dirty

There's no question that toilet clogs are messy, unpleasant business. If you have a toilet that's overflowing and won't stop, you will require professional help. Still, it's important to remember that all the drains in your home flow to the same place. A clog deep in your drains or sewer line can cause contaminated water to backflow into sinks, showers, and bathtubs.

If you're fighting with a clog in one of these "clean" areas and notice that foul-looking or smelling water starts backing up, you will want to call for help. This contaminated water indicates a blockage deeper in your home's drains or sewer lines, and it's unlikely you'll be able to clear it with basic homeowner's tools.

2. Multiple Drains Are Running Slowly

Many homeowners ignore slow drains until they begin to back up. A well-functioning plumbing system should run quickly and smoothly, and you should never notice water backing up with normal fill rates. If running your shower fills the tub basin, or doing your dishes leaves an inch of slow-draining water in the sink, that's a good sign that something is wrong.

A single slow-running drain running may be a minor issue, such as a clog in a P-trap. On the other hand, you should never ignore this symptom when it appears in multiple drains. Multiple slowly running drains are a surefire sign that the problem is beyond the scope of typical do-it-yourself solutions. You'll likely need a plumber with more comprehensive tools and experience to clean your drains.

3. The Clog Won't Budge

When dealing with a clog, you should always avoid chemical cleaners that may damage your pipes. Instead, rely on simple tools such as plungers and snakes. These tools are effective and can also provide a good yardstick for drain problems that are too severe to handle on your own. If the basic tools from a home improvement store can't clear your clog, it's probably not a do-it-yourself problem.

Fighting fruitlessly with a clog will waste your time, may damage your pipes, and can cause more water to flood into your drains. Instead, contact a plumber for residential drain cleaning to get your drains flowing again.