6 Ways To Clear Your Blocked Drains

If there’s one plumbing problem that can be particularly inconvenient and unpleasant to deal with, it’s blocked drains. From clogged kitchen sinks to slow-draining showers, they have an uncanny ability to play havoc with your day to day routine. Perhaps more importantly, they can also cause costly damage to your drainage system.

Luckily, there are numerous approaches that you can take to tackle even the most stubborn of blocked drains. Many of these methods use items you’ll likely find in your home already! Let’s explore them further, so you’re armed with a collection of approaches you can choose if and when the need arises.

The Most Common Causes of Blocked Drains

Before we look at the various ways to clear blocked drains, it’s important to understand the ways in which a blocked drain can happen in the first place. This can potentially determine the best approach for you to deal with the situation.

Among the most common causes of a blocked drain are:

  • Tree roots
  • Fats, oils and grease (FOG)
  • Hair
  • Food scraps
  • Flushable wipes
  • Small solid objects (such as kids toys)
  • Soap sludge

Though you’ll be able to deal with some drain blockages using simple DIY home remedies, others will likely require professional assistance to get the job done. So let’s take a look at them.

1. Boiling Water

One of the most easy and effective ways to clear blocked drains is with simple boiling water! It’s most useful when the clog in the drain is relatively mild, such as a build-up of soap scum, grease, or other forms of organic material. Boiling water can break down the blockage and flush it away through the pipes, enabling water to flow readily once again.

All you need to do is put the kettle on – perhaps add some extra if you want a coffee – and once boiled, carefully pour the water down the drain. For added cleaning power, you might want to add some salt to your boiling water as well.

One thing to be mindful of – if your pipes are made of PVC, this method will NOT be suitable for you. Boiling water can cause damage to PVC pipes, which will only add further $$$ to your plumbing bills.

2. Baking Soda + Vinegar

The winning combination of baking soda (also known as bicarbonate of soda) and vinegar can also be an effective tool in the battle against blocked drains. Baking soda boasts mild abrasive properties that aids in loosening buildups accumulating inside your pipes. Meanwhile, the vinegar boasts acidic properties, and is able to break down organic matter.

If you want to give this approach a red-hot go, all you need to do is:

  • Pour one cup of baking soda into your drain.
  • Follow it up by slowly pouring one cup of vinegar down the drain as well.
  • Immediately cover the drain with a plug or a rag to stop the combined ingredients from bubbling out and everywhere.
  • Wait a few minutes, then flush the drain with hot water.

If you wish, you can repeat this method a few times. It’s a process for clearing blocked drains that might not be as effective as harsh chemical drain cleaners. However, it is a safer and more environmentally-friendly alternative.

3. A Plunger

When people think of the various tools and ways to fix blocked drains, the humble plunger is one that most commonly comes to mind. Plungers work by using suction and pressure to dislodge the blockage and force it through the pipes to allow water to flow freely. What you need to do with this method is to:

  • Remove any remaining water from the sink, or bathtub before placing the plunger over the drain.
  • Make sure that the plunger is completely covering the drain hole, and has formed a tight seal.
  • With some force behind your action, push and pull the plunger numerous times. Make sure you maintain the seal at all times; doing so will help to create the necessary suction and pressure.
  • Repeat as often as needed to get the water draining freely.

This approach is most suitable for clearing blocked drains caused by a buildup of organic materials, such as food particles in the kitchen sink or hair in the shower drain. For more stubborn or hard-to-reach blockages, you may need something a little stronger.

4. Drain Snake or Plumbing Auger

Whichever name you best know it by, the drain snake (or plumbing auger/drain auger), can be a highly effective tool in dealing with blocked drains.

The DIY drain snake is a long, flexible cable that is best suited to stubborn and hard-to-reach clogs located deep in your pipes. To use the drain snake:

  • Insert it into the drain hole, being sure to hold on to the handle at all times.
  • Turn the handle to push the drain snake through the pipe.
  • Once you can’t go any further and have reached the site of the blockage, twist and turn the auger to dismantle the clog.
  • Keep twisting and turning the snake until you’ve completely dislodged the drain blockage and you’ve got the water flowing once again.

Drain snakes come available in a variety of lengths and types, so choosing the right one for your needs is crucial. It’s important to note that this method can be more physically demanding than others. It may also damage your pipes if you don’t approach it correctly, so if in doubt, leave it to a licensed plumber.

5. Chemical Drainage System Cleaners

Chemical cleaners are particularly effective at dissolving drain blockages. However, as effective as they can be in dealing with blocked drains, chemical cleaners do have their drawbacks. Due to their harshness, they can potentially be hazardous, so you must take all essential safety precautions. Wear gloves and eye protection. Certainly do not pour hot water down the drain after using the chemicals. Take the utmost care with chemical-based cleaning products, and follow the instructions to the letter.

Chemical drain cleaners also have the potential to damage your pipes over time. Some products are incompatible with particular pipe materials like PVC. Pipe damage can be costly and time consuming to repair. There is also the factor that regular use of chemicals can be damaging to the environment. This option is certainly one to file under “last resort”.

6. Call A Drain Blockage Plumber 

Of course, if you find that none of these methods quite do the job – or you just don’t have the time or inclination to go DIY with your blocked drains – the best approach is to call a licensed plumber. As trained experts in these matters, plumbers have a special set of tools and equipment to locate the blockage, diagnose the problem and repair any clogged drains safely and effectively.

A plumber can also offer a variety of measures, ranging from hydro jetting to pipe relining, to prevent blocked drains in the future. So if you’ve tried the other five methods, you don’t have the time, or you don’t want to risk further damage to your pipes, call a plumber to get the job done for you.

Blocked Drain Summary

Though blocked drains can certainly be a hassle to encounter and try to fix, there are numerous ways to safely and effectively deal with the situation. They include:

  • Pouring hot water down the clogged drain
  • Baking soda and vinegar
  • Plunger
  • Drain snake
  • Chemical cleaners

These are some simple DIY approaches using tools and items you can find in your home or locate easily at your local supermarket. The best approach will likely come down to the nature, location and severity of the drain blockage.

Of course, if none of these approaches get the job done, then your first point of contact should be a licensed blocked drain plumber. With the combination of their expertise and their specialist tools and equipment, they can take on any blocked drains-related matter with total effectiveness and efficiency. And you’ll have your water flowing freely once again in no time!

Please note: This information is provided for advice purposes only. Regulations differ from state to state, so please consult your local authorities or an industry professional before proceeding with any work. See our Terms & Conditions here.

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