How to unblock a drain is one of the most common searches on the internet. And with good reason: drain unblocking issues are time consuming, stressful and inconvenient. So if you have one, you want to learn how to fix it ASAP.
There are a number of potential solutions. From "natural" methods to unblock congested drains, such as the use of common household items, to plumbing gadgets which claim to clear clogs, and caustic chemicals. Then there are the more obvious solutions, like calling a blocked drain plumber.
So without further ado, we’ve put together the definitive list of ways to unblock your drain. We have 15+ years of experience with plumbing and drains. This means we not only know the best ways to unclog a blockage, but we’ll help separate the fact from the fiction, and bust a few myths around blocked drains. Here are a few options most of us have tried...before finally calling the plumber!
With our greater understanding of our impact on the environment, why not try a non-chemical approach to unclogging a drain? Simply reach into most kitchen cupboards and throw a bottle of vinegar in, with some baking soda? Or perhaps a kettle of hot, soapy water? What about a 2 litre bottle of cola?
If you don’t mind the smell and the delay in sorting out the blocked drain, these are often recommended solutions. If only they worked. Alas, not only is any edible item not likely to unclog a drain, but it could also add more mass to the already blocked area, to be eventually cleared. According to Australian Government research, when clearing a congested drain, they strictly advise against the use of such items in blocked areas.
If you're wondering how to unblock a drain, clearing it with a coat hanger sounds easy enough. Take an ordinary coat hanger, usually the metal type, and fashion an implement to poke around the blockage to clear the obstacle.
There are a couple of problems with this method, apart from the fact that many modern coat hangers are made from plastic and could break off in the drain. Even if you have a metal coat hanger lying about, it’s difficult unwinding strongly wound metal to create a pole. This unwieldy wire can easily spring back unexpectedly and catch the eye. If it isn’t unwound, the coat hanger remains short and cannot effectively reach down to dislodge a deeply entrenched drain obstacle. As it was not designed for this purpose and can cause damage to porcelain and scratch metal.
The purpose of this method is to mimic plumbing rods. But of course, real plumbing rods are engineered to glide over the areas they touch; and are super strong and flexible. They can lock together to create any length required and don’t cause any damage. So, they can be inserted to any depth of drain required... unlike a coat hanger.
A good old-fashioned plunger, they’ve been around for decades. It’s a low-cost way of using suction to dislodge a blockage. If you have a plunger, and you have a pair of over the elbow-high rubber gloves in the house it might be worth a try. As long as you don’t mind getting up close and personal with bacteria and other microbes.
If it does work, keep a large bucket handy to place the dislodged blocked item, along with any tissue, hairs and slime into. Remember too, that if you do manage to clear the pipe, the pressure build-up can cause some, "splash back". So protect your face from a potential shower of germs, and wear goggles and a face mask! Also, if the blockage is harder to clear, or inaccessible due to being further down the pipe, this won’t work.
Cleaning implements such as the toilet snake (also known as a flexible auger or plumbing jack), has become another product widely used to try to dislodge a clog in a drain. It's based on the concept of an amateur version of the Plumbing Rods professional plumbers use.
In theory this pipe will travel down pipes dislodging debris. But there are different types of snakes for different types of materials. This is noteworthy if you don’t want to see your porcelain scratched or cracked. Or your kitchen sink is blocked, this will require a different piece of equipment, shorter for this use. These are different to the toilet or shower, requiring their own length of accessories. Also, there will be some wrangling and tightening of the thumbscrew to grab the obstruction itself. If it's unable to grab the offending item, it could move the blockage down even further, causing a bigger plumbing problem.
Then too is the important matter of cleaning and disinfecting the snake device. Since it has been immersed in human waste and germs, handling and storing the pipes and attachments can present a hygiene issue. Especially at this era of COVID-19, when hygiene is more important than ever!
They are sold everywhere, and marketed as a quick, clean solution to any blocked drain: strong chemicals, caustic soda, “Drano” and other chemical drain cleaners. Often emblazoned with hazardous symbols and small print warnings, chemical unclogging agents are seen as the quick and sanitized "fix" for a blockage in pipes.
In fact, they are anything but.
These agents are dangerous, and environmentally destructive, and should be seen as a last option to dislodging a blocked drain. Some of these chemicals are so strong they can cause irritation and even damage the lungs and eyes. Due to the dangerous nature of these chemicals, it’s vital you wear appropriate protective equipment. For example, the Australian Government estimates around 90% of chemical burns to the eye are avoidable by wearing safety goggles, specialist eyewear and face shields, not just prescription glasses or contact lenses. How many people, when handling strong chemicals to unblock a pipe, cover their eyes this thoroughly? It only takes a splash of some chemicals to cause serious problems, even causing chemical burns to the skin!
In terms of your home plumbing, these pungent chemicals can melt pipework too, causing a bigger plumbing problem. Many of these chemicals cannot move a stubborn blockage. But they can cause hazardous chemicals to sit in front of the blockage, until a plumber is finally called. That's when they can cause a nasty surprise for the poor tradesman that has to deal with it. So, in conclusion, the truth about these chemical drain cleaners is that they are damaging to humans (and pets too!), destructive to the environment and discouraged by plumbers.
Wondering how to unblock a drain quickly, with minimal hassle? We believe that, whilst there are many kinds of tricks and tips to the problem of clear pipes and drains, all with varying degrees of success, there is no replacement for a good old, qualified plumber. Obviously, we are biased here. But we do have the experience to back up our recommendation.
Whilst having a blocked drain may be troublesome and unexpected, it doesn’t have to be so time consuming or stressful, if you call a licensed plumber. Calling a qualified Plumber saves time and energy and could even save you money too. Plumbing Inspires us, at Inspired Plumbing. Not only fixing all kinds of leaks, but prevention too. We also offer plumbing safety inspections, and services to clear blocked pipes.
Using the latest plumbing technology, CCTV pipe tracking and trained and insured plumbers, we offer a range of services, and have straightforward, flat rate pricing which allows us to give a total cost upfront inclusive of GST - so there will be no surprises with your bill. We also guarantee all of our work, so trust us to take the pressure and stress of unblocking a drain 24/7.