Sometimes, drains clog. It is inevitable that at some point in your life you will have to deal with a clogged drain in your home and to save yourself some money it is helpful to know all of the ways you can unblock a drain.
Why do drains clog?
A completely clogged drain could be caused by any number of things, some of which depend on where in your home the clogged drain is. For example, kitchen sinks tend to clog due to residue from fat and cooking grease, dish detergent, or dish soap, as well as leftovers getting caught in the drain pipes. Kitchen sinks with a garbage disposal are even more likely to clog, as food is regularly pushed through the drain. Alternatively, bathroom sinks are more likely to clog from too much cosmetic product, hair clogs, and possibly foreign objects like toothpaste caps and interdental brushes. Bathtub drain clogs are usually caused by product residue, soap scum, foreign objects, and hair clogs.
Regardless of whether it is your bathroom sink, exterior drain, or your shower drain, a drain clog can be really irritating. It can lead to a slow drain, which can cause mold and mildew in your bathroom and kitchen, and it, if left alone, despite being an unseen part of the home can produce a truly foul odour. However you dont always need to find a plumber.
Natural ways to unblock a drain
There are lots of ways to unblock a drain, but many people prefer to use natural methods over the alternative. This is often due to cost as well as ease, but it can also be better for your pipe system to use less corrosive, natural methods of unblocking.
This method works best for organic clogs like grease, fat, food and soap scum. It is unlikely to have much of an effect on clogs caused by foreign objects or unsettled ground.
To fix your drain clog, pour boiling water down the drain. This will flush the drain and pipes with water, and should work to melt and then rinse away any oil, small debris, soap scum, or fats caught in your pipes. You can use either hot water from your tap for this, or you can use boiling water from the kettle.
It is recommended that you use boiling water or very hot water from your sink rather than boiling water in a kettle to use on your drain if your pipes are made from PVC. If you pour boiling water from the kettle down a drain and into PVC pipes, the boiling water can deform them. The hot water can lead to the pipes reshaping, which can then result in pinhole leaks within the pipe and restricted water flow. If left, these can further develop into long-term issues within the pipe.
Flushing the system with boiling water regularly, even when your drain is not clogged, can help to avoid getting a clogged drain.
Baking soda and vinegar
The baking soda method is one of the easiest and most popular ways to clear out a drain. It involves using a mixture of baking soda and vinegar. The method works by mixing the two, filling your drains with a fizzing solution that breaks up anything in a clogged bathroom drain or any other organic clog.
You will need about two cups of baking soda, and the same amount of vinegar. Pour the baking soda first, and then add the vinegar in and leave the vinegar and baking soda to soak for a while. The two ingredients will begin to fizz and bubble in a chemical reaction and will work to dissolve oils and residues in your pipes.
After a few minutes (or for the best results, overnight) pour boiling water down the drain to flush away the vinegar and baking soda and the residue left after the chemical reaction.
Salt and boiling water
A less common cleaning method for clogged drains is simply table salt and boiling water. First, empty your sink. If you’re struggling with a slow drain this can be done using a bucket or a jug. Then, pour half a cup of table salt down your drain and leave it for 5 to 10 minutes.
After letting the salt sit, pour some very hot water or boiling water down your drain to flush away any debris, the hopefully now broken up clog, and the salt.
If you’ve tried all of these homemade drain cleaners and your blockage is still bothering you, it is time to break out the drain snake, comments waste expert Luke Hancock. This is one of the last things you should try before admitting defeat and calling a professional plumber. A drain snake essentially does what baking soda and vinegar do – it breaks up the clog in your clogged drain, letting water past it and washing away whatever the clog was.
To make your own drain snake, you will simply need a wire coat hanger. Unwrap the head of the hanger and bend it into a straight line. Then bend one end of the hanger to form a small hook.
Using either your DIY drain snake or a purchased one, push the snake into your drain opening or toilet, and use it to break up the drain clog. You can then pull out whatever is clogging the drain using the hook.
This method is particularly useful for toilets, long drains, and blocks caused by hair clogs.
Clean out the P trap
If you’re dealing with a blocked kitchen sink or a bathroom sink drain, you can always try a more technical approach to your clogged drain. Rather than using drain cleaner or sodium bicarbonate, you can try to clean out the P trap. This is the U-bend pipe underneath the sink, and it is particularly likely to clog as it is where a lot of hair, grease, and food collects.
To clean out the P trap, you’ll need tools and gloves, and a bucket. Turn off your water first, then loosen the P-trap and take it outside to clean it out. Reinstall when done, and turn your water back on.
When to call a plumber
If you’ve tried all of these methods to clean out your drains and unclog a blocked drain, it is time to call a plumber. If you don’t, the blockage might grow and you might begin to notice drain flies and a foul smell.