Blocked drains are a common household problem and can be challenging to avoid. You will likely experience a drain blockage at some point, whether you’re a renter using someone else’s older pipes or a homeowner managing your own plumbing.
The good news is that a few simple DIY steps are all that stand between you and managing blockages. You might even save yourself the cost of a professional plumber.
Our comprehensive how to guide can help you eliminate blockages and reduce the likelihood of future blocked drains. These methods can be applied to the kitchen, bathroom, laundry and even the stormwater drain that feeds into the sewer. The methods are easy to follow, with solutions available for all skill levels and budgets. Let’s take a look.
Signs of a Blocked Drain
A blocked drain is typically noticeable or becomes so over time as you start to experience the undesirable effects. Here are the signs to look out for:
- Water is slow to drain
- Gurgling sounds when draining
- Foul smells emanate from the drain
- The toilet water level is rising
- Water pools in the yard
Notice any of these across the house or yard, and one or more of your drains is likely blocked. However, water pooling could also be the sign of a burst pipe, so a plumbing professional should investigate.
Low water pressure is also a sign of a blockage, but the debris would be found in a pipe leading to the tap or faucet and not the drain. Follow this helpful guide for low water pressure solutions.
Common Causes of Blocked Drains
Blocked drains are common and bound to arise every now and then. Most causes of blocked drains arise after disposing of problematic waste in the toilet or sink when it should be placed in a bin. Here are the most common items that cause a blocked drain:
- Cooking oil
- Food scraps
- Food grease
- Coffee grounds
- Wet wipes
- Cat litter
- Tree roots
- Corroded plumbing
- Mineral build up
Of course, the last three items on the list are different from the rest. Tree roots can spread across your property, bursting pipes and causing a blockage. Steel and iron pipes can rust and corrode, flaking off to form a blocked drain. Water also contains salts and minerals that can solidify, causing drain blockages. If you believe any of these to be the source of a blocked drain, call a local professional service to cover pipe relining or perform another suitable plumbing fix.
There are plenty of ways to complete the job DIY. So, let’s take a look at how to clear a blocked drain.
8 Tip to Help Clear a Blocked Drain
Tip 1: Prevention
The absolute best way to stop blocked drains from disrupting water flow is to avoid depositing problematic items in the first place. Food scraps, oil, grease, coffee grounds, hair, wet wipes and even tissues are all notorious for blocking drains and should be considered foreign objects.
Don’t flush any of these, and be sure to plug sinks before use. Then, collect all of the scraps and dispose of them in the waste bin. This should reduce the likelihood of sinks, toilets and the shower drain becoming blocked.
Tip 2: Boiling Water
Cooking oil and grease are two of the biggest causes for a blocked drain in the kitchen sink, while it’s often hair and soap scum that block in the bathroom. Before you take drastic measures to unblock the pipes, attempt to remove blockage using boiling water.
Slowly pouring a kettle or jug of hot water down the blocked drain is a simple solution, as the materials forming the blockage are more soluble at high temperatures. The boiling water may clear the blocked drain or make the following DIY drain cleaning tips more efficient.
Tip 3: Drain Cleaner
The usual course of action involves purchasing a chemical cleaner and pouring it down the blocked drain. Feel free to go ahead with this, but GMW Water reports that the caustic nature of these chemical cleaners can degrade your PVC pipes, not to mention give off toxic fumes.
We suggest starting with a homemade natural cleaner. A natural product is free from harmful chemicals, and by making it yourself, you could save up to $10 each time you experience a blockage.
A natural cleaner is easy to make, and there’s a good chance you already have all the ingredients in your pantry. Here are 7 simple steps for creating a natural drain cleaner and using it to unblock a drain:
What you’ll Need: Kettle, 1/2 cup Baking soda, 1 cup White vinegar, sink plug or electrical tape
Timeframe: 35 minutes
Skill level: Beginner
Note: Mixing baking soda and vinegar creates a reaction that gives off small levels of carbon dioxide. It’s essential that the room is well ventilated and a mask is worn when using the natural cleaner.
Note: When combined, the ingredients can foam and bubble back up the pipe away from blockages. Using a plug or tape will stop the cleaning product from escaping instead of remaining focused on blockages at all times.
And that’s all it takes for a homemade, natural cleaner to clear a blocked drain. Word on the street is white vinegar can be replaced with lemon juice and cream of tartar can replace baking soda, while always flushing with boiling and then hot water. This concoction isn’t always effective on blockages, but it’s better than a caustic cleaner producing further plumbing problems. Plus, there are still five other tips remaining.
Tip 4: Wire Coat Hanger / Plastic Strip
This step involves straightening a wire coat hanger, making a handle at one end then inserting the other into the blocked drain. Remove the drain stopper if required, and then twist the hanger in a clockwise motion. Continue twisting while quickly moving the hanger up and down. This can help break up the blockage. Slowly remove the hanger so no caught debris falls back down the drain.
You can also purchase specially made plastic strips for around $5. These strips feature burs which are great for catching debris and breaking up severe pipe blockages. You can find these at most hardware stores, including Bunnings.
Tip 5: Old School Plunger
The plunger is another cost effective method used to clear a blocked drain. Use this comical hand tool in the bathroom, toilet, shower or kitchen sink drain. First off, you will want to fill the tub or sink with enough water to reach the plunger’s rubber seal. This helps form a vacuum seal between the plunger and drain. The toilet already has water, so you’re good to go.
Next, put pressure on the plunger and continue working it down and up until the pressure causes the blockage to loosen and flush down the drain or wash back into the toilet bowl.
Tip 6: Drain Auger
A drain auger is a handy tool to have on hand and is excellent for clearing blockages in toilets. A drain auger comprises a long shaft with a steel cable and a boring head at the end. The cable is inserted into the toilet bowl and then extends into the u bend section of the trap. Turning a handle at the end rotates the boring head, which breaks up the blockage. Some models even have an attachment for an electric drill for faster, more powerful rotations.
Augers will typically extend around two or three metres, and can be purchased from good hardware stores with prices starting at around $30.
Tip 7: Hydro Jet Drain Cleaning
If you’ve reached Tip 7, then it’s time to pull out the big guns. A hydro jet cleaner runs on an electric or petrol engine that powers the ultra high pressure water hose. The hose can reach further into pipes than a drain auger, and the high pressure hose can thoroughly clean out plumbing systems instead of just breaking up blockages.
Hydro jet cleaners are also used to remove tree roots that move into pipes under the property. You can hire one of these cleaners to manage a blockage or request a professional plumber who carries one in their vehicle.
Tip 8: Garden Maintenance
Just like Tip 1, carrying out garden maintenance is all about prevention. Grass clippings, leaves and branches, even mud all have the potential to block the stormwater drain. And so it’s essential to clean up after mowing, gardening and heavy storms. A stormwater drain on your property is not the responsibility of the local council. So dispose of green waste appropriately to save yourself from unnecessary drain blockages.
Tip 9: Call a Plumber
Plumbers can always get to the bottom of your drain blockages – whether it’s a particularly severe blockage or you just don’t have the means to investigate for yourself. A plumber will typically deploy a CCTV camera into drains to pinpoint the exact location of the blockage before using a combination of hydro jet and drain snake to clear pipes. A drain snake is similar to a hydro jet cleaner but features a plumbing safe drill attachment.
If tree roots have encroached on the pipes, a plumber can perform a pipe reline that breathes new life into damaged pipes without excavating the property.
And that’s what you need to know about how to clear blocked drains. Of course, Mr Emergency is available around the clock for swift plumbing service. We have local plumbers available in your area for a CCTV investigation before completing drain cleaning services. Contact us today, and we can be at your door within 30 minutes*.