How to clear a blocked drain
You may have noticed recently that the water in your sinks, basins, bathtub and/or shower is not draining as it should. You may have also experienced the water in your toilet rising rather than receding after flushing.
These are all clear signs that you have a blocked drain that needs to be cleared. Such drainage issues not only impact on your day-to-day life, but can become a much greater problem if left alone. While a professional plumber may be needed to rectify plumbing issues in many cases, there is the possibility that you can remove the clogs that are blocking your drain yourself. Here are some DIY home remedies for unblocking a drain that you can attempt when you first suspect that your drain is blocked:
- Flushing the drain with boiling or hot water. If the blockage is only a minor one, there is a chance that it can be cleared with the use of hot or boiling water. If you know your pipe are made from PVC, then boiling water is not recommended as it can effectively melt the joints of the pipe. However, hot water is safe to use. If you know your pipes are made from metal, then go ahead and use boiling water. When in doubt, always go for hot water, just to play it safe. To use this method, wait until water has drained from the sink, tub etc, and then pour the hot or boiling water down the drain. If your blockage is small, doing this may rectify the problem.
- Make your own drain cleaner. Whilst chemical drain cleaners are readily available (most large supermarkets and hardware chains will sell it), they are not ideal as they are abrasive and therefore can cause damage to your pipes. Also, they are not environmentally friendly. This point is something that you may want to consider before pouring toxic chemicals down your drains. An alternative to using a store-bought chemical drain cleaner is making one at home. All it takes is a couple of pantry ingredients: bicarbonate of soda and vinegar (white vinegar is best). First, pour half a cup of the bicarbonate of soda down the blocked drain, then pour one cup of the vinegar down. If possible, leave the bicarbonate of soda and vinegar in the drain overnight to let them do their thing. Otherwise, repeat the process until your drain is unblocked (hopefully).
- Use a plunger. Plungers are simple to use and can sometimes bring the debris causing the blockage to your pipe to the surface of the drain hole. Here are the steps you need to take when trying the plunger option:
1. Remove the plug in the sink or basin if there is one in it. Some modern day plugs need to be turned to be removed; others simply pulled out.
2. Cover the drain hole with your plunger. When you plunge, the rubber part of your plunger should be half covered in water. If not, add some water to the sink and ensure that the plunger is upright for a firm seal.
3. Pump the plunger, pushing it up and down. Take care not to disrupt the seal.
4. After several plunges, pull the plunger out swiftly. If the blockage seems unmoved, repeat this process a few times. If there’s still no apparent change, it’s likely you’ll need to use another method of drain clearing. If the plunging has been successful, you’ll notice that some of the debris that has clogged your drain has surfaced (e.g. clumps of hair), which can be removed by hand.
5. Plumbing snake. Another option is to use a plumbing snake (or drain auger). These can be purchased (and sometimes hired) from your local hardware chain. Unlike a plunger, the ‘snake’ is inserted as far into the pipe as possible in the interest of reaching the clog and breaking it into pieces, rendering it flushable.
If none of these methods seem to work, the last resort may be trying a chemical drain cleaner. If even a chemical drain cleaner doesn’t prove effective, then it’s time to call a plumber who will be able to rectify your plumbing issue with the use of professional tools and equipment.