How to clear a blocked drain

Ok, so you’ve found yourself at home with a blocked drain. It may be the kitchen sink, shower, bath or toilet. Wherever it is, it’s going to need some swift action, otherwise you may soon have a flood on your hands.

Blocked drains can be caused by a variety of different things, and some are simpler than others to rectify. Here are a few things you can try before you call in a plumber.
1. Boiling water
A slow drain can be both annoying and frustrating. For a drain that is taking longer to clear than it should, boiling a kettle and pouring the water down the drain can do the trick. Just note that this will only work on light, small blockages. Anything more serious will require a different method. It is also best used on metal pipes, as boiling water can soften and damage PVC pipes.
2. DIY drain cleaner
It may surprise you that drain cleaner is easy to make and can be very effective – particularly for clearing a build-up of grease in the pipes. All it takes is some vinegar and bicarbonate soda.

Here’s what you do:

Drop half a cup of bicarb soda into the drain. Then, pour in half a cup of vinegar. The chemical reaction will cause it to bubble and fizz, so to ensure that the fizzing action is directed down the drain, place some sort of cover over it. Let it sit for 30 minutes before flushing with fresh water. When used in a toilet, give it a flush as soon it starts fizzing. A couple of applications may be required here.
3. Plunger
No doubt you have a cup plunger sitting in a cupboard somewhere. If not, they’re readily available at any hardware store. Plungers are a time-honoured method of loosening up blockages by using nothing more than suction.

The trick here is to get a clear seal around the entrance to the drain to maximise the suction, and then plunge away, putting some serious elbow grease into it.

For a blocked toilet, a round cup plunger isn’t the ideal shape to get a good seal for maximum suction. Instead, you’ll want to use a flange plunger. Once again, these are available from just about any hardware store.

Remember to always get a good seal before you start plunging. Otherwise, using a plunger is a bit of a waste of time.
4. Drain snake
A drain snake is simply a length of flexible metal or rubber that you simply insert into the drain in an attempt to dislodge or pull out any items that may be causing a blockage. This method can be very effective if you think the drain is clogged up with matted hair.

You can pick up a drain snake from a hardware store, or make your own with a wire coat hanger. Just be careful that you don’t damage the pipes by getting too vigorous with your actions.
5. Chemical drain cleaners
If you’ve had no luck so far, then a chemical drain cleaner is another option. Just be careful as these can do more harm than good. They can be quite toxic, can damage the pipes, and they won’t clear every type of blockage. Another word of caution: if it doesn’t work, you may be left with a drain full of toxic drain cleaner.

Of course, if none of the above have worked, and that blockage just won’t budge, then you need it seen to safely and professionally. That is when it’s time to call in a licensed plumber.