It’s happened again. Your sink’s been draining at a snail’s pace. Or, your shower has been damming up during ablutions, pooling nastily around your feet.
And now the day has come when that irritatingly slow drain refuses to let any water out at all.
What was a household annoyance has now turned into an emergency. Doing the dishes or taking a shower is pretty much impossible until you get the drain fixed.
Fortunately, there are various ways you can effectively (and swiftly) deal with a blocked drain. Read on to discover what to do when your drain is blocked so you can get the better of this pesky plumbing issue.
Locate the Source of the Clog
The first step towards a free-flowing drain is identifying the location of the clog. A clogged drain could result from food, fat, hair, or soap scum buildup in the pipe directly below your sink, bath, or shower. Small objects can also cause blockages.
If only one drain is blocked in your house, then the clog is probably in that pipe. If multiple drains aren’t flowing properly, it could be your outside drain that’s to blame.
If your outside drain is clogged, you can try most of the tips listed below, except for the suction methods such as plunging and using a wet/dry vacuum. Outside drains have larger outlet pipes, which can make it hard to get a good seal and create enough suction.
Take note, if the problem is in your lateral drain, this should be handled by your water company.
Clogs that are located close to the start of drains are usually easier to reach and dislodge. The further down the pipe they are, the harder it is to break them up with suction. Fortunately, clogs from common household things like hair and food particles usually develop closer to the drain opening.
Bust Through Grease With Boiling Water
One of the most basic ways you can unclog a blocked drain is by pouring boiling water down it. This can be effective for clogs that are mainly made up of grease, fat, and soap scum.
Hot water won’t dissolve hair, food particles, or hard obstructions, but it can help to loosen them if they’re being held in place by grease.
All you need to do is boil up a kettle and pour the hot water directly into your drain. For stubborn clogs, you can first pour half a cup of salt into the drain, pour in the hot water, and let it sit overnight. If your pipes have a lot of fat buildup, you may have to boil a couple of kettles to completely clear them of the grease.
If it works, have a victorious cup of tea. If it doesn’t, have some tea anyway, and move on to our next tip.
Blast Out the Blockage With Bicarb and Vinegar
When combined, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda create a fizzy reaction. The fizzing can help physically budge drain clogs.
Pour a generous amount of baking soda into your clogged drain (roughly half a cup) followed by a cup of vinegar. If you can, plug the drain and let the mixture fizz for a while. Once the fizzing has stopped, you can also pour hot water into the drain to help melt away any remaining fat or scum.
If things still aren’t flowing the way they should be, you can repeat the process a couple of times. Depending on the size of the clog, you may need a couple of “rounds” of bicarb and vinegar to completely break through it.
Pull Out Your Plunger
If you haven’t already brought your plunger into the fray, now is the time. Plungers work best on sink and bathtub drains. Make sure there is enough water to cover the plunger’s suction cup, get a good seal going, and vigorously pump the plunger up and down.
If nothing happens the first few tries, don’t give up immediately. Stubborn clogs can take a lot of “plunging” to finally break free. If you’ve been plunging for a few minutes to no avail, you can also double up your methods by first using one of the above tricks and then going at things with the plunger.
For instance, you can use bicarbonate of soda and vinegar to help loosen some of the clog, add hot water to try and melt any grease, and then energetically apply yourself to the plunger handle to dislodge whatever’s left.
Try a Biological Cleaner
Chemical drain cleaners can clear clogs quickly, but they can also be very harsh on your plumbing system and aren’t good for the environment. If you want to try a drain cleaning product, we’d recommend a biological cleaner.
Biological cleaners aren’t as hardcore on clogs, but they’re a safer option and won’t damage your plumbing.
Almost one-third of Brits admit to calling in a plumber in the past to fix a DIY disaster. A chemical drain cleaner might not cause an instant issue with your plumbing, but over time, these harsh products can eat away and corrode metal and plastic pipes.
This can result in leaks, which can lead to far more costly and damaging problems than a simple pipe clog. The money you save on buying a drain cleaner is not worth the long-term risk.
Both biological and chemical cleaners tend to work best on slow-running drains, rather than full-on clogs.
Use a Wire Hanger
Got a trusty old wire coat hanger lying about? You can try straightening one out to form a makeshift plumbing snake and prod at clogs that are farther down the pipe.
Just be careful not to poke up against the walls of the pipes too hard, as you don’t want to damage any fitting seals.
Shell Out for a Plumbing Snake
If you can’t commandeer a coat hanger, you can also invest in a proper plumbing snake. Plumbing snakes are long, flexible metal cables that are designed to “snake” down drains and break up clogs.
They are ideal for most types of clogs, especially ones that are hard to reach. A drain snake can even help you tackle clogs from tree roots, something that the above tips won’t be very effective against.
Some drain snakes also feature a curved head, which can allow you to hook onto the clog and pull it out. Out of all the DIY methods for unclogging a drain, a plumbing snake probably has the highest chance of success.
Plumbing snakes aren’t all that expensive, and they can be a handy tool to have around anytime you encounter a slow-running drain. You can also use a drain snake as a preventative measure to stop clogs from forming in the first place.
Besides being cost-effective and easy to use, drain snakes are also far more environmentally friendly than harsh drain cleaners.
Get Suction on Your Side With a Wet and Dry Vacuum
If you own a wet and dry vacuum, you may be able to use it to suck out the drain blockage. Try to get a seal between the vacuum’s nozzle and the drain hole, say a quick prayer, and suck!
Just be warned, this can turn into a messy business if you don’t keep a perfect seal on the drain opening.
What to Do When Your Drain Is Blocked and Nothing Works
If none of these measures have any effect on your clogged drain, it’s time to call in the pros. But, before you pick up the phone, here’s a crucial tip. You need to call the right plumber, one that will come out swiftly and restore your drain to its free-flowing glory as quickly as possible.
You do not want to hire a plumber who’s going to schedule you in for (horrors) next week, come do an initial call out, give you a quote, and then come back again to complete the job.
Unclogging a drain is usually a fairly simple job for a professional plumber. Provided they have the right tools, they should get things unclogged in an hour or so.
If you pick us for your plumbing crisis, you can also reach out any time of the day or night via our 24/7 emergency call centre. After informing one of our knowledgeable agents of your problem, they’ll schedule a free call-out for the same day.
Do You Need Emergency Plumbing Services?
If you’re staring a blocked drain in the eye, you can try the boiling water trick, bicarb and vinegar, or attempt to suck out the clog with a plunger or wet and dry vacuum.
Now that you know what to do when your drain is blocked, it’s time to roll up your sleeves. Or, you can give us a call.
We can bust that blockage and restore order to your household in no time. Our highly trained teams are ready to handle your emergency right away. We won’t charge a call-out fee, and small jobs have a low, set price.
Call us on 0808 250 4203 or fill in the form here to get your clogged drain fixed by a skilled PM247 plumber (UK wide service).