Unblocking a drain

3 minutes

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Getting a blocked drain can cause serious problems for homeowners. From flooding to structural damage, unblocking a drain quickly can prevent further problems. 

  • How can you spot tell-tale signs that your drain is becoming blocked?
  • Understand the simple methods that can help you in unblocking a drain
  • Use tips to prevent blocked drains from happening again in your home

Whether the drain is outside or inside your house, a blockage can be inconvenient, unpleasant and unhygienic. While it may look like an intimidating task to tackle, knowing how to unblock a drain may allow you to fix it without having to call in a professional. 

Fixing a blocked drain

If you think you have a blocked drain, you should address the issue as soon as possible to prevent it getting worse. 

The moment water starts to take longer than usual to drain away, you should take measures to deal with it. Though it may be an unpleasant job, dealing with it promptly will prevent further damage to your home. Look out for the below signs that indicate that your drain could be blocked. 

Unblocking a drain outside can be possible by yourself but the drainage systems tend to be more complex. This means you may need to call a professional or the council.

Signs of a blocked drain

Usually, you’ll get blockages in the narrower pipes of your home, such as those in sinks or toilets. However, debris can build up within outside drains too. Look out for these give away signs that occur with all types of drains that can indicate that there may be an issue with your drainage.

Slow draining water

When the water in your shower, sink or drain starts to drain away more slowly, it’s  likely that you have a blockage. If the blockage is really bad, the water may not drain away at all.

Drain smells

Food waste, grease and debris can build up in pipes and drains can start to smell if the blockage has been there for a long time. Even if water is still draining, you may want to tackle the cause of the smell before a bigger issue develops. Not only are the nasty smells unpleasant but they can also be unhygienic.

Unusual gurgling noises

Blockages in drains can prevent water from draining away effectively and can trap air bubbles. This will result in unusual gurgling noises coming from your drains and can be a sign that there’s a blockage further down in your plumbing.


Unblocking a drain yourself

Examine the drain

Wearing a pair of rubber gloves to protect your skin, feel around the plughole and drain cover to see if you can safely remove any obstructions. If the drain is outside, leaves or other garden debris may have become stuck. Remove this manually and dispose of the blockage appropriately.

Reach for a plunger 

If you can’t feel the blockage, a plunger can help dislodge obstructions that may be just out of reach. By creating an air-tight seal around the edge of the plunger, you only need to vigorously plunge it up and down to move whatever may be blocking the drain. This method may take a few tries. Run a small amount of water to see if you’ve fixed the issue. If it drains away easily, you’ve solved the problem but it’s important to use preventative measures in the future to stop it happening again.

Go with a natural method 

You may want to avoid using chemical drain unblocker and go with a natural, friendlier solution than some of the harsher methods listed below. Firstly, running hot water down the sink can melt away a blockage if it is caused by grease. You can also use a plastic bottle to flush away softer blockages. Simply fill it with water and squeeze the bottle to force water down the drain and see if it removes the obstruction. You can also use a water hose if you have one.  

Or, mix of baking soda and vinegar poured down the drain causes a fizzing chemical reaction and can dissolve blockages.

Use a chemical drain unblocker

Where manual methods may not have worked, a chemical drain unblocker may work to dissolve the obstruction.

How to prevent a blocked drain

Prevention is cheaper – and easier – than the cure. Be mindful of what you wash away and take these steps to reduce the risk of a blocked drain.

Clean drains on a regular basis

Making sure any food or waste is removed from your sinks is one of the easiest ways of preventing problems. Outside drains can become blocked with garden waste like leaves and twigs. How often you need to clear these drains – and your guttering  – will vary depending on the season and weather. A good pair of rubber gloves will make the drain clearing process much more pleasant.

Use drain covers

Try using drain covers to catch debris before it gets washed down the drain. These drain covers can be easily cleaned and will stop blockages from moving further into your plumbing, where it becomes more difficult to tackle.

Be mindful of what you wash away

As a general rule, only wash water soluble liquids down your drains or sinks. Letting grease or oil go down drains runs the risk of it solidifying and eventually stopping water flowing. Further debris can then get stuck too, creating an even bigger problem.

And finally... 

Knowing how to unblock a drain outside can be manageable with basic DIY techniques. However, outside drainage systems tend to be more complex outside so may be trickier to deal with than your usual sink blockage. If the above methods don’t work, don’t panic. Damaging your drainage systems can be costly and a require complex repair work. Call a professional plumber to help fix the issue.

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