Whether it’s in the kitchen, the bathroom or outside, no one likes a blocked drain. When the water starts to rise, so does the panic, and it can be hard to know what to do in a crisis.
There are a few steps you can take to identify the problem and find an appropriate solution. Depending on the size or severity of the blockage, you may be able to sort it yourself, or you may have to contact the specialists.
Here’s what to do when you’re faced with a blocked drain, with some essential tips for long-term drain care and maintenance.
How to spot a blocked drain
The solution to a clogged drain depends on where the blockage is. Bathroom drains and kitchen drains become blocked in very different ways, and water pouring out of your main drain pipe outside is a whole other problem.
Bathroom drains are most likely to be clogged by hair, kitchen drains are typically blocked with food and fat build up, while clots in main drains can be a combination of the two.
Look into the drain using a torch to see if you can see the blockage. If the water is draining slowly or not at all, you most likely have a clogged drain. In addition, if there are raised water levels, or water appearing where it shouldn’t, you may have a blocked drain on your hands.
If your drain is blocked, you might also experience an unpleasant smell or gurgling noises from pipes and plug holes as air trapped in the system is trying to escape when the water runs.
How to unblock a drain yourself
Supermarket shelves are full of products that claim to be the best drain unblockers. But which ones actually do the job? Figuring it out comes down to understanding exactly how the drain cleaners work.
Caustic cleaners are alkaline and cause a chemical reaction with the blockage. The heat of the reaction turns the blockage into a soap-like substance that can wash through the pipes more efficiently.
Oxidising cleaners are best for organic blockages, such as food. The reaction causes heat and gas that shifts the solid mass.
Acid drain cleaners are harder to get hold of as they’re powerful and potentially dangerous if mishandled. They effectively melt a blockage, and so it’s an ideal cleaner for grease.
The problem with using chemical drain cleaners is that they can damage your pipes. Common side effects of cleaners’ chemical reactions include melting PVC pipes or corroding old metal pipes. To avoid this, you need to follow the directions carefully or contact a specialist to do it for you.
Additionally, if a blockage is too severe, chemical cleaners may not be helpful. A snake, a rod, or other tools suitable for poking down your drain will usually be more effective and less likely to damage your pipes.
Just make sure you buy a dedicated drain unblocker tool, like a plunger, rather than using something homemade, or you may end up pushing the blockage further down and making your problem worse.
Is my blocked drain now clear?
If it seems like the problem is fixed, it’s time for a tentative test. You don’t want to go full throttle straight away.
Send water going slowly at first and see how long it takes for the pipes to fill back up. If the problem still isn’t fixed, give it another go with the drain rod or chemical cleaner. If it seems the blockage still hasn’t cleared, consider contacting the drainage specialists.
Bringing in a drainage specialist
The worst thing about a blocked drain is that you never know exactly how successful you have been. Sure, the flooding on your driveway may have stopped, or the water may be disappearing down the plug hole again, but soon enough the problem may be back.
Often, the best solution is to hire a drainage specialist. Even though you may be able to clear your drains well enough to get the water running again, it’s likely that within a few days, weeks, or months it will block back up again.
A professional can thoroughly assess the situation and take the appropriate measures to make sure your drains stay fit and running in the long run. Bringing in the pros is often the most cost-effective option.
Avoid the problem in the first place
Blocked drains are an inconvenience, and with the appropriate drain maintenance, you’ll help keep your pipes in excellent working condition.
Food residue, heavy liquids that can solidify, and hair often cause blockages. Always try to dispose of food and oily liquids in the bin, and invest in a sieve or strainer that covers the plug hole to trap leftover residue and waste.
Scum, dirt, and grease naturally coat drain pipes over time, so it’s also best practice to regularly flush your drains with hot water. This action helps clear any trapped material and even improve any funky smells — it’s a simple solution for clean, functioning pipes throughout your home.
Want to talk to a specialist about drain care or hire a pro to clear a blockage? Chat with our dedicated team at Drainage Services today.