Is your drain all clogged up? Do you have absolutely no idea how to unblock it? You’re not alone. Unblocking drains is one of the most common call-outs for any plumber, and it’s always a joy to see the faces of homeowners just like you when we are able to drop a great bit of blocked drain DIY advice that can then be used over and over again in the future!
But first, we need to tell you how to prevent drain blockages! All too often, we’re asked how to unblock a drain, only to discover that someone has been flushing barbie dolls, tea towels or household paint down the drain. And that can not only cause damage, but you might also find yourself ankle-deep in a stinky and unhealthy mess that leaves you with a big bill.
So here at Gold Coast Plumbing Experts, we’d love to help you out. How to fix a blocked drain? Follow along with our 6 easy tips that could save the day:
1. Don’t overflow the drain
First thing, Don’t continue to flush a blocked toilet, the water will just build up in the bowl and possibly overflow. This applies to clogged sink, bath or shower drains as well, continuing to add more water will just make the problem worse.
2. Grab the kettle
No, you don’t deserve that cuppa yet! Rather, flick the switch and pour the boiling contents down the drain. It’s an easy, chemical-free solution that really can unblock drains in less than a minute! If repeating this twice doesn’t clear the blockage and get your drain flowing again, move to the next step.
3. Now grab the baking soda
The kettle didn’t do the trick? Let’s go to Phase 2, and pour half a cup of baking soda down there too. If you’ve got some vinegar handy, treat your drains like fish and chips and try that as well.
This method is natural, avoids the use of harsh chemicals and can be very effective on soap scum and hair clogs which often occur in the shower or bath tub drain. Carefully slowly pour a kettle full of boiling hot water down the drain, followed by a cup of baking soda and a cup of white vinegar. Wait for at least 15 minutes, reboil the kettle and wash the drain though with another run of hot water.
This process can be carried out every few weeks or as often as needed to maintain your drains.
4. Chemical drain cleaner
Be very cautious with any chemical drain cleaners and follow the usage and safety instructions on the bottle or container. Use in moderation and avoid using on totally blocked drains. If other measures have to be used after the chemicals fail to clear the blockage you or the plumber will be dealing with a toxic chemical slurry, not just a blocked drain.
5. Time for the plunger
If our magical ‘unblocking drains recipe’ didn’t work, we’re very sorry – you’ll have to use some elbow grease. Every functioning household should have a $10 plunger in the cupboard, and all you need to know is that you need to create a great seal. Now it’s time to work those muscles.
The plunger is a great place to start because often this handy little tool can move the blockage enough to allow it to break up and flow along the drain with just a bit of elbow grease. A plunger can be used for sink, bath, shower and toilet blockages.
Put some gloves on and clear items from around the drain as it can get messy. Plungers come in all shapes and sizes but as long as the bell covers the drain opening it should do the job. You’ll find different plungers for sinks vs toilets.
Place the plunger over the drain opening making a seal, give it a couple of gentle plunges to remove the air. Tip – don’t go in hard straight away as the contents of the drain can be forced up and out, and all over you. It’s important to keep the seal while plunging as this builds up the pressure which will hopefully dislodge the clog. Give it time and be consistent with your plunging.
Stop and remove the plunger after a few minutes to see if the water is beginning to drain. Yes? Excellent get on with your day, job well done. Wash your hands and give yourself a pat on the back. No? Move on to the drain snake.
6. Welcome to the drain snake
Things are getting real if we’re recommending the drain snake, but don’t worry – it’s not much more expensive than a plunger, but it’s easy to use and very powerful when it comes to unclogging all the gunk that caused all this blocked drain DIY.
A drain auger or drain snake is a long wire coil with a wider section at the tip which is designed to move through and disburse simple blockages. The auger is rotated via a crank as it moves along the drain catching, cutting through, and clearing blockages. Augers are either hand operated or attached to a power drill.
Warning – wear gloves, cover your clothes, protect your eyes, and have a bucket handy when using an auger. The idea is to snag the blockage and pull it back out which means you’re going to have to deal with whatever is in there.
Gently move auger into and along the drain. For sinks, toilets, bath drains, and showers it will need to negotiate a few bends at first. You will usually feel some resistance once it hits the blockage. Keep moving the auger so it passes through the clog and either brakes it up or attaches it to the end. Carefully pull the drain snake back out of the drain, ready to collect anything attached to the end.
Hopefully, you’ve removed the clog and the drain begins to run freely. If you’ve still got a sink/bath/toilet full of water it’s probably time to call the plumber.
7. Dare to confront the U-bend
If ‘confront the U-bend’ sounds way too tricky for your DIY skills and confidence, it’s time to skip to Tip #6! But if you’re feeling adventurous and have a blocked sink drain, you may be able to remove the U-bend under the sink, give it one hell of a clean-out, and stick it back on.
Many blockages occur in the pipe just below the vanity or kitchen sink, often in the p or u-bend. This section of the drain can be easily removed and cleared of food scraps, small toys, or grease buildup.
Place a bucket under the pipe to collect water or debris, unscrew each side, and empty the removed pipe into the bucket and clear any accessible sections of the sink drain. Reattach the section of pipe firmly.
8. Wire coat hanger
We don’t recommend this method as you can damage the PVC pipe with the sharp wire but it can be used for clogs which you can easily spot by looking down the drain. Straighten the wire out and create a small hook on one end. Carefully insert the hook down the plug or drain hole into the blockage moving up and down to dislodge the clog and draw it upwards and out of the pipe.
9. Give us a call!
In many cases, the easy-to-moderately-easy DIY tips listed above will restore your drain to functionality. But in some cases, you really can come across a particularly stubbornly blocked drain. However, fear not – because Gold Coast blocked drains are no match for our plumbing experts! Don’t keep this option as a last resort. Professional plumbers can clear the drain in half the time it takes you, plus they have the experience and equipment to get the the root of the issue quickly so you can get on with your day.