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How To Unblock A Drain

Simple ways to clear a blocked drain

Blocked drains can occur in all homes and businesses, often at very inconvenient times. Many blockages can be cleared using the simple techniques listed here, however, sometimes for stubborn or totally blocked drains you'll need to call in your local plumber.

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Drain clearing tips

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, adding more water will just make the problem worse.

Using a plunger

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.

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 auger.

Using a drain auger

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.

Other options to unclog a drain

Slow draining drains can signal that a blockage is forming somewhere along the pipe. We recommend addressing the issue before it becomes a totally blocked drain. There are a few DIY methods which can be effective at this stage.

Please note: always wear protective clothing such as rubber gloves, glasses, and long sleeved clothing when carrying out any of these drain cleaning methods.

Baking soda and vinegar

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.

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.

Clear the P-trap

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.

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.

Call a plumber

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.

Here’s the number of a great Gold Coast plumber 1300 668 220, just in case you need one.