How to Fix Blocked Drains

by RobertKeith

Learn the best techniques for unblocking a drain or pipe, both DIY and professional.

While blocked drains can be a very nasty surprise, there are no shortage of efficient ways to deal with them.

Whether you're inclined to call a plumber at the first sign of trouble, or roll up your sleeves for a DIY approach, the following page will guide you through the best technologies and techniques for the job.

Are there any helpful hints not covered in this leaf? Share them in the comments section below!

DIY Sink, Pipe & Drain Unblocking

(As with all DIY maintenance, try these at your own risk!)

Try these steps in order.  If one fails to work with a couple of tries, move on to the next.

  • If the obstruction is visible, some needle-nosed pliers might be able to remove it before the trouble starts.

    (Alternatively, anything long and capable of a tight grip can work.  In one emergency situation, knitting needles worked particularly well for this author!)
  • Try a dedicated chemical sink cleaner (although you'll need to take note of the type of plug hole and read the label carefully, ensuring the chemical won't cause any damage).

  • Try the good old fashioned plunger.  If there is any overflow, place a cloth over the plug hole (which creates a vacuum and prevents the plunger forcing overflow back down) and plunge for at least 1-2 minutes.

  • Look under the sink.  Remove the trap with a bucket underneath to catch accumulated water.  Check for blockages.  (See "Additional Resources" below for a detailed guide on how to deal with different varieties of trap.)

If none of these steps work, the problem might be much deeper, it's time to call in a professional.

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Professional Drain Unblocking

The following list, courtesy of Blocked Drains Brisbane, covers the more advanced ways a plumber can help.

  • Drain Cameras (CCTV Locator)
    Think of this as surgical photography; a camera that can be lowered into the inner workings of your household plumbing to identify the problem.  This can save significant time and money, as it eliminates guessing.  You won't need to resort to digging up pipes unless you absolutely have to.

  • Electric Eel (a.k.a. Sewer Snake)
    This hefty device allows the user to lower a drill down the pipe, spinning a coiled metal corkscrew around to either scoop up hairs and debris, or break up harder blockages.
    While these are available for commercial hire, they aren't recommended for amateur use.  In untrained hands, the process can cause damage to copper or plastic pipes.  However, it remains very popular and effective for many plumbers to this day.

  • Jet Rod (a.k.a. Jet Blasting)
    For particularly tough blockages, this is an ideal alternative.  A jet rod will send a high-powered blast of water through your pipes, forcing along any obstruction, and rinsing away any slime or grime stuck to the sides.

Preventing Further Blockages

Eager not to resort to the above?  The following Plumbing DIY tricks will minimize future risk.

  • Install a plug hole strainer.

  • Periodically pour boiling water or a dedicated disinfectant down all sinks in your household.

  • If fat from cooking has solidified, consider putting it in the bin rather than down the drain (where it could re-solidify).  Failing that, was it down the drain with a liberal amount of hot water and detergent to keep it dissolved.

More Plumbing & Water Saving Tips

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Plug Hole
Source: "winnond",

Additional Resources

Useful links for further reading.

DIYnot: Clearing a Blocked Waste Pipe
How to distinguish and deal with Brass / U Traps, Plastic U Traps and Bottle Traps.

Operating an Electric Eel
A helpful instructional video

Tips for Preventing Blocked Drains
A detailed list of tips to keep your plumbing functioning intact.

Updated: 03/19/2013, RobertKeith
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katiem2 on 11/23/2012

Very useful tips, thanks I needed this with three long haired people in our house drains get blocked and clogged often. :)K

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