Blocked drains are one of the most common plumbing issues your home or business will encounter.
Drain blockages can happen because of several reasons – including foreign materials causing an obstruction or tree roots finding their way into your pipes – but the signs pointing to a blockage are often the same.
If you have noticed a pungent smell, outside drain overflows, slow draining sinks, or gurgling sounds emitting from the pipes – Houston, you have a problem.
But not every blocked drain or flooded shower points to a complete plumbing emergency. Here are ten tips on how to clear a blocked drain:
1. Boiling water to loosen or dissolve the blockage
For a simple fix, try pouring a kettle or pot full of boiling water down the drain. This could be enough to loosen the obstruction without having to attempt more drastic measures, especially if the problem area is in the kitchen. This is because a common cause of blocked kitchen pipes is a build-up of fat, oil, or grease, which may have been disposed of when hot, but quickly solidified when it hit the cold water.
This method should not be used on PVC pipes, as the addition of heat can loosen the joints in the pipework, but is suitable for ceramic and metal drainage systems.
It’s worthwhile to regularly flush your drain with hot water to prevent these food particles from clotting together inside your plumbing in the first place.
2. How To Clear A Blocked Drain Using A Plunger
It’s time to roll up your sleeves and give the old-fashioned plunger a go. Plungers are useful for solid blockages (such as toilet paper or baby wipe build-ups) but are not as successful for grease or mineral deposits.
While plungers may be more typically associated with blocked toilets, they are also successful when it comes to clogged drains. It is also important to note there are different types of plungers to choose from. While the “flange” style (a rubber cup with an extra, more narrow ring) is useful for toilets, the simple “cup” plunger (consisting of a wooden handle attached to a rubber cup) is the most effective on flat-surface drains.
Before working up a sweat, ensure you have a strong seal by covering any overflow spouts with a damp cloth, which ensures the air is pushed through the problem area. It is also a good idea to seal off any nearby drains in sinks or tubs to ensure better results.
Gently push down on the handle to force the air out initially, then continue plunging with quick and deliberate thrusts, directing the pressure down the drain without lifting the plunger enough to break the seal.
If the clog has cleared, ensure you flush the pipes to wash away any remains. Be careful not to use this method directly after pouring harsh chemicals down the drain.
3. How To Clear A Blocked Drain Naturally Using Baking Soda And White Vinegar
A natural and environmentally-friendly drain cleaning option is the combination of bicarb soda and white vinegar. First, pour the bicarb down the drain and follow with the vinegar, before covering the drain. Oxygen will be produced from the chemical reaction occurring inside the pipe, which helps to scour and clear the blockage.
These steps may need to be repeated to fully clear the blockage. Once satisfied with the results, be sure to flush thoroughly with water.
4. Store-bought Caustic Chemical Drain Cleaner
For a more heavy-duty approach, head to the local supermarket or hardware store and search for caustic chemical drain cleaners. These are not only capable of dissolving food and grease blockages, but also hair and other common culprits.
These will not work on solid masses, such as tree roots and small household items, and should be used conservatively, as they are harmful to the environment. As with the natural alternative, be sure to thoroughly rinse your pipes with hot water to remove the remaining chemicals.
Be sure to follow the safety instructions on the packaging and protect your hands and face when using your chosen product.
5. How to Clear A Blocked Drain Using A Bent Metal Coat Hanger
Head to the wardrobe and fish out a regular wire coat hanger and straighten it out as best you can. Once this is done, bend one end into a “U” shape to create a small hook.
Manoeuvre your coat hanger hook down the drain and use it to discover and remove items that may be causing the issue. Be careful not to push the gunk further down the drain – as this will only further clog up the plumbing system. Once you feel you have removed most of the obstruction, run hot water through the pipe to give it a final flush.
6. Use Dish Detergent
For blockages caused by built-up grease and oils deposits – a simple (yet generous half cup) of dishwashing detergent down the drain can be the miracle you’re hoping for. Pour down some hot water and leave for a while to allow the chemicals to work their magic. The detergent should break down oils and fats and also act as a lubricant for other bits and pieces like food particles.
7. Blast It With Water
If your hose reaches into your kitchen and you’ve got control over the pressure, stick it down the drain hole and give it a blast. This pressure can help to dislodge even the most stubborn blockages. Another alternative to this method is grabbing an empty milk bottle or large water bottle and filling it with water and squeezing it tightly so the water shoots down the drain.
8. Wet & Dry Vacuum
Using a wet and dry vacuum can prove very effective, especially if what’s blocking your drain is easily dislodged and light enough to get sucked up by a wet/dry vacuum. (do make sure your vacuum is 100% a wet/dry vacuum before proceeding). Simply turn on wet mode and press the nozzle of the vacuum to the drain opening – ensuring it’s as air-tight as possible and crank that baby up. You’ll know pretty quick whether this has worked or not – either nothing will happen or you’ll feel the gunk being sucked up and away.
9. Use The Zip Tie Method
If you’ve got a few spare zip ties lying around connect a couple together to form a “drain snake”. Next, cut small notches into one end so it forms a mini harpoon-like device. Lower this down the drain and try wiggling it around – ideally, you’ll catch some gloop and draw it back up. Try again and see if any more comes out. You may be onto something here. Or you might not, in which case we highly recommend you invest in our final tip:
10. Call The Plumbing Pros
Still blocked? We highly recommend residents and business owners call a professional plumber to get the job done properly and ensure minimal disruption and damage.
With no call out-fees and obligation-free quotes, our Perth plumbing team will use specialist equipment and years of experience to swiftly diagnose the problem and advise an effective solution.
With an arsenal of heavy-duty equipment at the ready, such as automated drain cameras and high-pressure sewer jetters, our team will have your water flow returned to normal in next to no time.
For further information, flick us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.