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How To Unblock a Sink & Drain

How To Unblock A Sink & Drain 3 Sep 2014

If you end up with blocked pipes in a kitchen or bathroom, you'll know about it soon enough. Water can back up in your basin. Scum can accumulate and start to smell. A pipe can even spring a leak, causing bigger problems. You can clear a blockage yourself, saving the cost of a professional plumber.

Safety First

You should read the manual before using any drain unblocking equipment. Use the appropriate safety equipment, including a pair of rubber gloves. Never put your hands into a drain when you can't see into it. Remember - prevention is always better than cure, and less messy! Take care when flushing objects down plug holes and drains. It is also advisable to regularly clear leaves and other foliage from outside drains. Covering the drains in mesh or netting to prevent blockages from occurring.

How To Unblock a Sink or Drain

Use a Plunger

  1. Drain the water. If you can't drain the water because of the blockage, scoop or draw it out. You can use a cup, baster, or large syringe, for example!
  2. Block the overflow hole. Dry up any water in the area. Seal the hole with some tape, a plug, or stuff it with a cloth.
  3. Put down towels. Chances are you're going to make a splash. Put some towels or paper towels down on the floor, or around the bottom of the basin.
  4. Clean the strainer waste. Unscrew and remove the waste thoroughly. You'll also have a better view down the drain to see if the blockage is obvious. If there is something lodged down there, you might be able to pull it out.
  5. Plunge! Place the suction cup over the plughole and run a little water around the seal. Holding the handle with both hands, pump the suction cup up and down. If you can dislodge the blockage, the suction might pull it up out the drain, or push it down.
  6. Check the plumbing. Run some water to see if it drains properly. If it does, give yourself a pat on the back. If the sink or drain is still blocked, it's time to explore other options.

Unblocking Drains With Household Products

Some blockages that you can't remove with a plunger can be shifted with household goods. Some products that are designed to cut through grease and fat are great for the job!

  1. Use bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar. Put a few teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda or baking powder down the drain. Pour a cup of white vinegar down the drain after it. After five minutes, pour some boiling water down the drain to see if the blockage has gone.
  2. Use washing powder. Put a few teaspoons of washing tower down the drain. Pour a full kettle of boiling water on top of it, and see if the obstruction washes away.
  3. Use Alka Seltzers and white vinegar. If you have Alka Seltzer in the medicine cupboard, you can try them. Drop a few tablets down the drain and then pour a cup of white vinegar down after them. Next, rinse with boiling water from your kettle.
  4. Use bleach and hot water. Bleach is corrosive and might unblock your drain. Pour some down the sinkhole, and then slowly pour hot water down after it. Make sure you wear gloves, and try not to splash any bleach on your clothes or on your skin.

Use a Natural Drain Cleaner

If you don't use bleaches or caustic sodas, natural products are available. You can find enzymatic drain cleaners that are better for the environment from some retailers. 

Use Drain Rods

  1. Insert your drain rods. Screw together two or three rods and add the plunger head. Push the end into the pipe opening, towards the blockage. Slowly rotate the rods clockwise to make it easier to push them forward. Never twist them anti-clockwise or the rod connectors may unscrew and come apart in the drain.
  2. If you need to send the rods further into the drain, keep adding extra sections. Push them further into the drain until you feel the resistance of the blockage in the pipe. When you can feel the blockage, move the plunger quickly back and forth to try and dislodge it. If this doesn't work, remove the rods and fit the screw attachment and try again. Keep twisting and pushing the rods until water flows. Try to pick out any loosened debris as it comes to the inspection chamber.
  3. Run the hot taps in the house and add a detergent to dislodge any fat and clean through the pipes. Leave the taps running for at least five minutes and check that the water flows away as normal. Once the water flow seems normal again you can place the cover back over the drain. If this has not cleared the drain and the water still doesn't flush away, you should call in a professional.
  4. Before packing away the drain rods, clean them with plenty of fresh water and leave them to dry.
  5. If you don't have drain rods, you can find something from the house to use. Coat hangers make a good DIY option.

Unblock the Trap

  1. Set yourself up. Put down some towels on the floor and put a bucket or bowl under the u-bend. Make sure you're wearing some suitable clothes. Wear something you don't mind getting wet or dirty - it's going to happen.
  2. Remove the trap (U-bend). Unscrew the nuts from either side of the trap and pull it from the straight sections. Taking the trap to a bathtub or outside, flush it with water. You can also soak it or wipe it down with an antibacterial spray.
  3. Refit the trap. Put the U-bend into place and screw the nuts tightly. You can pour water down the drain slowly to check for any leaks. If you've attached the trap properly, you can remove the bucket and towels.
  4. Run your taps to test if the drain is unblocked.

Common Blockages

  • Fat.
  • Baby wipes.
  • Tissues, paper, plastic & cardboard.
  • Cotton wool & cotton buds.
  • Hair.
  • Food scraps.
  • Bath salts.
  • Coffee ground.
  • Bars of soap.
  • Objects like jewellery or small toys.