Top tips for clearing a blocked drain

06 August 2020

Blocked drains are one of the most common reasons you may need to find a professional plumber and have it fixed right away. When water cannot drain or is slow to drain, you will find your home is filled with foul odours and your sink may become dangerously close to overflowing. Fortunately, there are one or two things you can try yourself.

Signs your drains may be blocked

It’s usually pretty clear when there may be a problem with a drain being blocked. The first thing you’re likely to notice is the unpleasant smell, usually similar to sewage odour. You may also notice that the water pools for a longer period of time and is slower to drain, and this will probably become worse over time as the blockage grows in size.

Other signs of a blocked drain may include a gurgling sound or water being pushed back up with your sink or bath becoming filled with dirty water which cannot get past the blockage.

What causes a blocked drain?

Blocked drains can be caused by a number of things. In kitchen sinks the most likely explanation is food waste building up in the pipework, including cooking oils which are too viciousto flow freely and tend to clump together. In toilets, it could be other foreign objects such as sanitary products, baby wipes or toys inadvertently dropped in and flushed.

Hair can also build up and create blockages, particularly in baths and showers. Scraps of soap bars can clump together over time, and if they don’t break down quickly enough, then other deposits can latch onto them and increase the volume of the blockage. Further along in the pipework, tree roots can breach external pipes and damage your main sewage system.

Top tips for getting rid of blockages

Before you call an emergency plumber, there are a few tricks you might like to try for yourself.


A plunger is often the best way to unblock a drain in your home. Plungers work by forming a seal around the plug and creating a vacuum effect which breaks up or dislodges the blockage, allowing the water to drain freely again.

Boiling water

Things such as toiletries and grease have a low melting point, so the extreme heat of a kettleful of boiling water may be enough to dissolve them. You may need to do this more than once to fully clear the blockage.

Caustic chemical drain cleaners

Caustic or chemical drain cleaners effectively dissolve anything in their way, and they’re readily available in many cleaning supply stores. These are brilliant for tougher or larger blockages, but always follow the instructions and make sure the room is well-ventilated before you begin.

Natural cleaners

If you’re not a fan of chemicals, then there are natural alternatives you can use. Try pouring a kettleful of boiling water down the drain, followed by one cup of vinegar and one cup of bicarbonate of soda. Leave it for ten minutes and then follow it with another kettleful of boiling water. Together, these may be enough to break up the blockage.

Home-made drain snake

You can craft your own drain snake by unravelling a metal coat hanger. Leave a hook at the end and you can try to hook out any blockage further down the pipe. This is particularly effective in baths and showers, as it’s good for catching blockages formed by clumps of hair.

Blockage still not fixed?

If none of these tips have worked, it’s time to call in a drain cleaning plumber. An expert will have an arsenal of tools which they can use to unblock your drain for you, including the use of a hydro jet. This uses a powerful blast of water to break through any blockage and is almost always effective.

Other tricks they may use include inserting a camera into the pipework and moving it through the system to identify how far along the blockage is. They may also need to use pipe relining techniques if your pipework has been damaged by a long-standing blockage. While that may mean some short-term disruption, they can remove the blockage and it’s more cost-effective than replacing pipework.

Blocked drains can be an unpleasant experience, but one which you may be able to tackle yourself if you follow the above tips. If you can’t manage it yourself, a specialistdrain cleaner will have the right tools to get your sink back up and flowing again.