We’ve all experienced it. Stepping into the shower, to only realise the water isn’t leaving the bathtub or shower base. Instantly, your shower is ruined. This is usually a disaster of a situation. Showers are meant to be relaxing, and well clean – which is something a blocked drain is not!
Keeping on top of your drains is the key to avoiding a ruined shower due to a blocked drain. Of course, it does mean some hard work, but the reward of avoiding a drain that is too blocked to unblock yourself is worth the effort.
This post looks at a variety of methods you can use to unblock drains and answers how to unblock a drain at home. Some of the methods are more effective than others, but all are tried and test methods of getting the job done.
Each method can be used on all types of indoor household drains – the kitchen sink, bathroom sink, bath and the shower.
If your blocked drain is past the point of return and you simply do not know how to unblock the pipes, get in touch with your local plumber. A local plumber has the tools and experience to make sure the pipe is unblocked safely, preventing any damage. But it is worth trying out the below methods before going to a plumber.
Before starting any of these different unblocking methods, it is advisable to wear a good pair of rubber gloves to protect your skin from chemicals or grime.
- Boiling Water
A great place to start is with boiling water. This is a cost-effective method, and if it works you will have saved yourself the expense of tools or drain cleaning products. Simply fill the kettle, boil then slowly pour the boiling water down the drain intermittently – waiting a few seconds before each pour. The boiling water will travel through the pipes. If effective, the boiling water will dissolve any obstructions (such as hair and soap residue) and with a bit of luck will free the pipe and return it to its original fully functioning state. Be aware that boiling water can have a negative impact on plastic pipes by melting them, so be sure to assess your pipework before pouring boiling water down the drain. This method is better to use when the drain is still emptying slowly, rather than complete blockages where the sink fills.
- Vinegar and Baking Soda
If boiling water doesn’t work, you can attempt an unblock by using basic kitchen ingredients. The mixture of vinegar and baking soda creates a chemical reaction that removes gunk from within the pipe. It is advisable to measure out how much vinegar and baking soda you use before putting it down the drain to avoid damaging the pipes. A mixture of 1/3 of a cup of baking soda with 1/3 of a cup of vinegar will be more than enough to get the job done. Whilst vinegar is unlikely to clear a large blockage, it will work effectively on slight blockage, such as gunk within the pipes.
- Salt and Baking Soda
Like vinegar and baking soda, salt and baking soda creates a chemical reaction that removes dirt and grime from the pipes. All you need to do is mix half a cup of salt with half a cup of baking soda, then pour the solution down the drain. It is recommended that you leave the solution in the pipe for 10-20 minutes. Once the solution has been in the pipe for the suggested amount of time, pour boiling water down the drain to flush away any gunk that remains in the pipe.
- Purchase drain cleaning solution
If these basic household solutions fail, it’s time to try using a drain cleaning product that you can purchase from a supermarket. These can be quite costly and set you back around £5. Most will have what it takes to unblock the drain, so it is money well spent in the long run. These solutions typically require you to pour the liquid down the drain, leave it for 5-10 minutes then pour water down the drain. Simple but effective. Popular brands in the UK include Mr Muscle and Buster.
If the purchase of a drain cleaning solution fails, it is time to bring in some manual work. The old, faithful plunger usually has what it takes to unblock a drain. This is a simple case of plunging the tool up and down over the drain to produce suction and pressure within the pipe. It does take continuous effort and a bit of patience, but it will most likely unblock the drain if you keep with it. It is a method worth trying before removing any pipes or calling a plumber. If you’re unsure how to use a plunger, it is worth asking for some advice, or doing a bit of research before you start.
- Wire pipe unblocking tools
Whether the plunger does or does not work, it is always worth using a wire pipe unblocking tool. These are long metal wire pipes that you insert into the drain. You then use a rotation wheel to lower the metal pipe further into the drain. When the metal pipe meets the blockage, it will push the dirt out of the piping system and therefore relieve the pipe, removing the blockage.
- Cleaning the pipe
A more advanced method that may be best leaving to a plumber is cleaning the pipe. This method requires you to unscrew the slip nuts using a spanner or wrench. If you are confident, it is a method that really works as it allows you to completely clean the pipe, removing any gunk that is found inside. Make sure that you are confident and that you know what you’re doing before removing the pipes. Before removing the pipes, make sure you remember how the pipes go back together. It’s worth taking a picture before you start to remove pipes.
If the drain proves to be too difficult to fix yourself, you need to contact a professional to unblock the pipes. Most plumbers will have the equipment and know how to unblock a drain, so it is worth contacting a local plumber. Most should only charge a fair call out fee. The bill shouldn’t be too high either, unless the blockage proves to more problematic than first expected.