How to clear a blocked drain - 6 DIY tips
Updated: Feb 10
Have you noticed that your sink or toilet is taking longer to drain? Is there water pooling around your feet in the shower, or unpleasant smells wafting around your home? These are just some of the symptoms that mean you probably have a blocked drain.
Choosing the right method to clear a blocked drain will depend on where the blockage is located and what caused the blockage in the first place. Learn how to pinpoint the blockage, identify potential causes and take action with 6 simple home remedies or with the aid of a professional plumber.
Signs of a blocked drain
Drain odor can be caused from blockages and bacteria in your drainpipe. Common blockages consist of household waste matter such as hair, paper, food, fat, grease and other debris. As it festers it blocks the water flow, causing a bad smell.
An overflowing toilet is a serious issue since a blockage can potentially cause raw sewage to end up in your home. Overflowing sinks are often just as serious; even though the water is clean, the overflow can cause extensive damage to your home. You can check outdoor drains and manholes for overflow signs to report to your local blocked drain plumber.
If you are experiencing an overflowing toilet or sink we recommend you call us today and we can assist you further.
Do you hear strange gurgles coming from sinks, pipes, showers or bathtubs? This can indicate trapped air as water tries to flow around a blockage in the drains.
Slow to drain
If water in sinks, showers, baths and toilet bowls is slow to empty, pools or forms bubbles and backwash, there is a blockage. The bathroom sink is commonly afflicted with this problem, as they tend to collect a lot of hair, soap and debris on a daily basis. All of this can slowly collect in the drain pipes, causing a natural build up over time. If several fixtures are affected, for example the water level changes in the basin as well as the toilet bowl upon flushing, it suggests the blockage is located down the main sewer drain.
Common causes of a blocked drain
Tissues, wipes, sanitary products and excess toilet paper can cause severe blockages. Sanitary products expand when they are placed in the toilet, causing major issues. Wet wipes cause similar issues, even the ones that say ‘flushable’ on the packaging.
Kitchen oil, fat and grease that has been tipped down the sink can coat pipes and harden into enormous obstructions, also known as ‘fatbergs’.
Food waste can block sinks, especially things like coffee grounds and tea leaves as these don’t break down. A clear giveaway of a food obstruction is a smelly odor coming from your sink. This happens when the food blockage starts to fester inside the drainpipe and stops the water from flowing.
This one requires no explanation – it’s clear that kids’ toys and other foreign objects can cause expensive blockages.
Be aware when planning and looking after your garden that roots from plants and trees commonly break into hairline cracks in older pipes. Old clay pipes are also particularly vulnerable to tree root damage.
Soaps bars are made with fats and oils which can thicken inside drains and bind dirt and debris into a clump. Consider switching to soap-free alternatives that don’t contain fats and oils.
Mineral build-upMinerals such as limescale or calcium build up over time in pipes and drains. Descale regularly or install a water softener to prevent excessive buildups.
Hair is a common culprit for shower and bathtub blockages. It is best to remove as much hair as possible from the drain after showering and put it in the bin instead of washing it down the drain. If you wash your dog in the bath this can also contribute to blocking pipes and drains.
Garden gutters and grill fill up with leaves, soil and other natural matter. Regular cleaning of outdoor gutters, drains and drainpipes can help reduce blockages.
How to clear a blocked drain at home – 6 DIY tips
If you decide to clean your blocked drain yourself, we’ve put together 5 methods that you can try at home. If you find that you are unable to clear the drain yourself, give your local blocked drain plumber a call.
Simply boil a kettle of water and pour it down the drain. Boiling water is useful for shifting blockages caused by grease, conditioner and other kinds of toiletries. This method is great for the environment as no chemicals are used.
Plungers work by forming a seal around the plug hole, followed by a vacuum effect that removes the blockage. Before plunging cover the overflow with a damp cloth to ensure a drain seal. If you have a double kitchen sink make sure you block off the second drain for good pressure.
Baking soda and vinegar
This DIY drain clearing remedy is a great way to naturally clear your blocked drain in the sink or bathroom. It’s as simple as pouring hot water down the drain, followed by one cup of bicarbonate soda and one cup of vinegar in that order. Let this sit for 10 minutes, then follow up with one cup of hot water.
Caustic cleaners such as Drain-O, Hydrochloric Acid or Caustic Soda are commonly used and available at most hardware stores. The general process is to pour the substance down the drain, leave for 20-30 minutes (as per instructions) and follow with cold water afterwards. Never pour hot water down immediately afterward the chemicals as it may spray back up in your face. Always follow the instructions on the packaging, wear gloves and a breathing mask and ventilate the room before starting.
DIY Drain Snake
This method is most effective for blockages like hair found in shower drains. You can make a DIY drain snake our of any thin metal wire, such as a coat hanger. Insert the wire into the plughole and try using the hook to fish out the blockages.
Check the U-Bend
You may be surprised to find that the blockage is only in the u-bend of the sink. Place a bucket under the drain to catch any water or waste, unscrew the two connections and unblock the U-shaped pipe and give it a quick clean. Oftentimes this will solve your food blockage problem.
DIY hasn’t worked? Time to call Ferguson Walker Services.
If your blockage simply won’t go away, give your local blocked drain plumber a call. Our plumbers are fully licensed professionals with all the equipment required to efficiently assess and unblock your drains.