I’m sure that we can all agree that blocked drains are easily among the most frustrating of plumbing problems to fix, particularly to a plumbing novice. So how do you do it? Let’s start at the beginning.
What causes a blocked drain?
A drain blockage occurs when some kind of obstruction happens within the pipes, preventing the correct flow. Common bathroom or kitchen sink blockages include build-ups of hair and grease, though may also be caused by foreign objects or other issues within the pipes.
Left untreated, a blocked drain can turn into a disaster, with stagnant and unsanitary water overflowing from your sink. Aside from being smelly and disgusting, this is a huge public health issue, with a number of serious diseases transmitted through dirty water. For this reason, it is critical that your blocked drain is fixed properly and in a timely manner.
How does a household drain work?
Before you start looking for a DIY fix, it’s important to understand how your drain works. For bathroom and kitchen sinks, like we’ll be discussing today, when you run water, it flows down the drain and enters the p-trap. The p-trap is attached to a drainpipe, which passes through the wall along with a vent line, then lead to the soil stack. Every waste line also has a Y-shaped component known as a cleanout, which can be utilised by a plumber when clearing major obstructions.
6 Ways to Unblock a Drain
So down to business – you have a blocked drain. You could just call a plumber, but if you’ve decided that you want to give the DIY thing a go, here’s our guide to 6 ways that you can unblock your drain.
Disclaimer: Use common sense when trying any of these methods. Wear appropriate protective equipment such as rubber gloves and breathing masks to prevent inhalation and burns when using chemicals and boiling water.
Depending on what’s clogging your drain, you might be able to remove the blockage without using any nasty chemicals or force. If you can unblock your drain naturally, it’s the best for you, your pipes, and the environment. The the natural method usually works best for blockages caused by soap or fat, which tend to be easier to shift.
One of the most popular natural methods is pouring half a cup of salt, half a cup of bicarbonate soda, one cup of vinegar, and one cup of hot water down the drain. When added one after the other, the natural enzymes should have an unblocking effect on minor blockages.
You can also use three quarters of a cup of dry baking soda and half a cup of vinegar, left for half an hour before pouring boiling water down the brain.
Dish washing liquid and boiling water or a cup of hydrogen peroxide and a tablespoon of baking soda are other alternatives.
You can repeat these natural methods as many times as you like for maximum effectiveness.
There are also a number of pre-mixed, commercial, natural cleaning products on the market that don’t contain nasty chemicals like other drain cleaners and blockage clearing products.
The old tried and true plunger is another good way to try to force the block out of your drain. Use a damp cloth or towel to cover the overflow, which will create a seal, so that when you plunge, the air will be forced through the pipe, hopefully unblocking the clog. The key is to pump slowly, as plunging too quickly might break the seal.
An alternative to the traditional plunger is a wire coat hanger. If you straighten it out, it can be used in a similar manner as the plunger by forcefully pushing down into the blockage to try and remove it.
Chemicals such as caustic soda and hydrochloric acid are readily available at most home improvement or hardware stores, and can be used to clear drain blockages.
There are also various brand name chemical products on the market designed to clear drain blockages, such as Draino and Dissolve.
The usage instructions vary from product to product, so check the packaging, but you generally pour the chemicals down the blocked drain, leave for half an hour, then pour cold water down to rinse. This is important – never, ever use hot water, or the chemicals might spray back up in your face!
The chemical unblocking method is easily the most dangerous, so always follow product instructions to the letter, and wear gloves, safety glasses, and a breathing mask to prevent horrific burns and inhalation.
Snake and CCTV
If you have a drain snake or auger handy, this can also be used to break up the blockage with a high success rate. Please bear in mind that this is quite a specialist piece of equipment, and can be dangerous or have disastrous (and messy!) results if not used properly, so proceed with caution.
A high-pressure water jetter uses a motor to pump water at roughly 5000 psi through a flexible, long-reaching hose. The hose is fitted with a specialised nozzle that comes with a variety of fittings that are designed for cleaning all types of blockages, including tree roots.
The pressure that is created then forces the blockage through the pipes and out so that water can flow through once more. Jetting is dangerous and it is likely better to leave this task to a professional plumber who will have the experience necessary to do the job properly.
Call a plumber
Remember that a blocked drain can be symptomatic of a much larger problem, such as other plumbing issues within your house or the greater sewerage network. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so a licensed plumber can give you peace of mind.
Your licensed plumber may utilise a number of methods to clear the blocked drain, such as a drain snake or auger. However, consulting a professional is the best way to ensure that you do not cause damage to yourself or your pipes.
Have a blocked drain in Newcastle?
You could do all this, or you could just give us a call at Manariti Plumbing on 0401 093 520. We have all the equipment, industry expertise, tricks of the trade, and know-how to solve your plumbing dilemmas in a flash.
Chris served several years in the Australian Defence Force and since leaving went on to complete his mature age apprenticeship in plumbing and having been in the industry for many years, has gained a wealth of knowledge in the plumbing industry.