How to clear a blocked drain
Having a blocked drain in your home is one of the most common plumbing problems you can have, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating or annoying. Whether it be a blocked pipe in the kitchen, the bathroom sink needs unclogging or the sink in the laundry just won’t drain, the ability to clear a blocked drain is a necessity of life. But, when can you do it yourself and when should you call in the professionals? Remember, if in doubt always call your local drainage plumber to assist, as it is better that they complete the job properly than you cause more damage through an incomplete DIY attempt. But there are a few options you can try yourself at home.
Before you try any of the below, check out the U-turn of the sink. If there is a food blockage, a lot of the time it doesn’t make it past the U-bend just under the sink itself. To check, place a bucket under the sink and unscrew both the U-bend connections. Take a look, clean out any blockages, waste or water into the bucket and give the pipe a bit of a clean. This may solve your problem in a quick and easy manner!
The ‘Natural’ Way
It is possible to try and unclog your blocked drain through the use of natural products, so give these options a go if you prefer a more eco-friendly approach.
If you are thinking that the blockage in your pipe is either soap, grease or fat, pouring straight boiling water down the drain is a great place to start. This can melt the blockage but only use on ceramic or metal pipes, as heat can loosen PVC pipe joints. If your pipes are PVC, just use hot water from the tap and this should be enough.
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If straight boiling water doesn’t seem to be doing the trick, you can try natural enzymes such as salt, bicarbonate soda (otherwise known as baking soda) and/or vinegar as an alternative. Four approaches you can try are :
- Pour ½ cup of salt down the drain, followed by ½ cup of bi-carb soda and then 1 cup of vinegar (make sure it is in that exact order). Finish with 1 cup of hot water and, if necessary, repeat as many times as needed. This is an environmentally-friendly concoction that can be utilised many times without any harm to you, your pipes or the environment.
- Pour a whole pot of boiling water down the drain, followed by ½ cup of bi-carb soda and let it sit for a few minutes. Then pour a mixture of 1 cup of vinegar and 1 cup of very hot water on top of the bi-carb and cover with the plug for 5-10 minutes. Finish up with another pot of boiling water.
- Mix ⅓ cup of bi-carb soda with ⅓ cup of vinegar and put it down the sink immediately. Let sit for at least an hour (if you can let it rest overnight that is ideal) then flush with hot water.
- Mix ½ cup of bi-carb soda with ½ cup of salt and pour down the drain. Leave for 10-20 minutes then pour boiling water down the drain.
The ‘Traditional’ Way
Thinking a more old-fashioned way may work for your clogged drain? Check out your option below.
This is the method that most people will be familiar with and for good reason - it is reported by a lot of people to be the most effective DIY option when it comes to blocked drains. Remember, it is the force of the push that thrusts air into the pipe to clear up the blockage, so adjust your pressure accordingly. Before you start, cover the overflow with a dampened cloth for drain sealing and to ensure the air is forced out through the drain clog. Make sure you give the plunger a go at least a few times before you give up, as it doesn’t always work first up.
*Handy Tip - if you have a double sink, make sure you have blocked off the second drain to ensure proper plunging pressure!
The ‘Chemical’ Way
The use of chemicals to unblock a drain is not a new one, and a lot of people are of the opinion that it is the only thing that works. There are a few options in this regard, but remember to always follow the instructions and be very careful when handling them.
A common option that households turn to when they have a block drain is Drano, a liquid drain cleaner that uses chemicals to unclog a drain. It is supposed to be safe to use on all kinds of pipes and you merely pour the liquid down the drain (the amount depends on your circumstances), wait 15-30 minutes and then flush the pipe out with hot water. This is not a hugely eco-friendly option though, so consider this if you are regularly using it.
Caustic soda can be purchased from hardware stores and some supermarkets, and are used to mostly dissolve food, grease and other blockages. It is not good for the environment, so should not be your first choice if possible, and does not work on solid clogs like tree roots.
Drain Cleaning Crystals
There are also drain cleaning crystals, which are available at grocery stores and some hardware stores. These work in a very similar manner as the chemicals listed above, however they are in crystal form (instead of liquid). A majority of them are to be used on non-metal pipes only, and must not be used in toilets. The crystals get placed down the drain, followed by water (usually cold) and then the drain is to sit for a period of time (around 15 minutes or so). This can allow for the crystals to break-up the blockage, then the drain will run clearly.
The ‘Plumbers’ Way
If you fancy yourself a little bit of a DIY expert, these options may be for you. We highly recommend that you hire a professional though, as they know exactly what they are doing and have the appropriate equipment for every job.
A plumber’s snake, otherwise known as an electric eel or drain auger, are pretty common items that can be found in your local hire facility… but, this does not mean they are easy to use. They require quite a bit of skill to wield and can be quite dangerous if not used properly. They can unblock just about anything, however they can scratch ceramic surfaces at times. You must also be super careful when it comes to handling drain fluids, so ensure you have protective gear on at all times!
Hydro-jetting is a relatively common way used by plumbers to unclog a drain or pipe, as it is a much safer option than a plumber’s snake (but not as efficient with solid blockages). It uses a forceful stream of water to clear blockages, with the pressure forcing out the clog. It is something you can do yourself, however it is highly recommended that you hire a professional to complete the job - they will likely do the job a lot quicker and easier than you do, as well as having the experience to do it properly.
The ‘Simple’ Way
Give a plumber a call! Your local professional will be able to sort out the blockage quickly and efficiently, and will have all the proper tools to ensure the problem is likely sorted a lot quicker than a DIY job. The experienced and qualified team at Everyday Plumbing can assist with any piping or drainage problems you may have, so give them a call on 0406 400 200 or complete an online enquiry form today.