Blocked drains can occur in your bathroom, kitchen and laundry and blockages can be caused by a number of issues. These include ageing or broken pipes, large amounts of hair in the shower drain, fats and oils being disposed of down the sink, and sanitary items and excessive paper being flushed down your toilet. There are usually a number of signs that will become apparent that will alert you to a blockage, including overflowing drains, unpleasant smells, gurgling sounds and water levels rising or falling below normal levels in your toilet.
As any sudden influx of water can damage your property, it’s important that you deal with the issue as early as possible, but how do you unblock drains? Here are some expert tips.
Flush with boiling water
One of the easiest, fuss-free methods of unblocking a drain is to flush your drains out with boiling water. It is not a guaranteed method of unclogging bigger blockages, however if you have a slow drain that might have a minor blockage, a good flush out with hot water may just do the trick.
However, be careful. Flushing with boiling water works well with metal pipes, however too-hot water in PVC pipes can cause the softening or melting of joints. If you’re not sure, make sure the water’s not too hot – use water that’s a similar temperature to what your hot water tap normally produces.
Try a drain cleaner
There are a variety of commercial drain cleaners out there, however some of them are only effective on certain types of blocked drains, and most plumbers will also advise that using a commercial drain cleaner should be a last resort.
However, if you suspect your blocked drain is due to a minor issue, it’s worth being a little environmentally conscious about it, and using natural ingredients to make your own! You just need a couple of pantry staples (baking soda and vinegar) and some boiling water, and it’s a relatively simple process that takes a minimal amount of effort.
Simply pour a cup of baking soda down your blocked drain followed by two cups of boiling water and then wait a few minutes. Next, pour another cup of baking soda down the drain followed by a cup of white vinegar and then plug the drain immediately. Eventually you should hear a sizzling noise coming up from the drain and see bubbles foaming up. When the bubbles have died down, add another two cups of boiling water and repeat the process if necessary.
Use a plunger
There are two types of plungers you can use when unclogging a drain, and the first one is called a cup plunger. These have a flat rubber suction cup on the bottom, and are designed for baths, sinks and shower drains (where the surfaces are generally flat) and ensure a smooth fit with a broad enough surface to cover the drain hole.
Plunging a drain uses the forces of both suction and compression, so when you pull up on a plunger, it pulls water in the drain upward as well helping to loosen whatever’s clogging the drain. When you push down on it, water is forced downward forcing the clog in the other direction.
When using a cup plunger, make sure you place the plunger over the drain so it covers the opening fully, and keep the seal between the rubber plunger cup and the sink’s surface intact. Using a push-pull effect will hopefully break up the clog, and you may actually be able to feel the moment the clog loosens as the handle should get easier to pump. After about six pumps of the plunger, see if the water drains away – if it does, you have been successful at unclogging a drain! If not, repeat the process. After the clog is cleared, run some hot water down the drain in order to flush any debris into the main drain line, which can help prevent a new clog from forming.
A toilet plunger is the second type of plunger and these come in two basic types, but both have longer handles and rubber bottoms in order to match the shape and size of the trap opening inside your toilet bowl. Compared to a cup plunger, a ball plunger has an additional piece of rubber called a flange that helps it form a proper seal, and a bellows plunger has an accordion style cup and a flange.
In order to unblock a toilet, give the plunger a few good up and down strokes and then flush your toilet. If the water clears, then you’ve successfully unclogged it. If it starts overflowing again, close the flapper to stop water from entering the bowl, then repeat the plunge and flush sequence until the clog has gone!
Buy a Drain Snake
If you believe your drains are clogged due to hair or other smaller clogs caused by things such as bits of soap, hardware stores sell tools known as ‘drain snakes’. To use, remove the drain protector, clean out any blockages you can reach with your fingers, then slowly push the drain snake down the drain until you encounter resistance. Slowly bring it back up, remove as much of the clog as you can and then flush the drain, repeating the process as many times as you need to.
Again, be careful! Drain snakes are designed for light drain unclogging duties only, and excessive force or using it for the wrong job can lead to the inadvertent damage of pipes or the drain itself.
When All Else Fails
When it comes to unblocking drains, of course small maintenance jobs can be attempted at home, however if you have a bigger issue, then it’s best to call in the professionals. At Yarrow Plumbing, we have over 30 years of industry experience and a range of specialised equipment that enables us to address drain blockages efficiently, effectively and with the minimum of disturbance.
Noticed a blocked drain that needs attention? Contact Yarrow Plumbing today on (07) 3277 5742.