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If you have noticed odours coming from drains, gurgling noises, or that sinks are taking longer to empty, you might have a blockage that needs to be addressed.
It is more likely that the blockage is in the pipes in your home, but every so often, blockages in outside drains can cause problems. Not to worry, though. Rather than calling out an expensive plumber, this is usually something you will be able to take care of yourself.
If you are clearing an outside drain blockage, you must make sure you are prepared to get a bit dirty. The following equipment is advised;
- Waterproof rubber gloves
- Waterproof clothing
- Drain Rods
- Protective eye-wear
If you can see what is causing the blockage, you will be able to figure out the best way to unclog the drain. Take a look by removing the drain cover – you can use a screwdriver to do this.
Being able to identify the blockage will let you know whether it is something you will be able to deal with yourself or if you need to seek professional help.
If possible, try to remove the blockage by hand. Make sure you are adequately covered in your protective clothing and eye-wear before starting, and keep your bucket handy to put whatever is causing the blockage into.
Reach into the drain and try to loosen and remove the blockage as best you can. The more you can remove at this stage, the easier it will be to flush and clean the pipe using your drain rod afterwards.
After you have removed what you can reach, use your drain rods to loosen the remaining material.
Using a hose, you can then try to flush the loose debris through the pipe. You can also pour water in to see how quickly the water disperses.
If the water is still slow in moving, use your drain rod again. It is also possible to locate your trap drain maintenance hole cover, remove it and work your drain rods from that end to further loosen debris.
After doing this, pour water and flush the pipe out with a hose until you are satisfied the blockage has been dealt with. Pouring warm water from the kettle down can be a great way to tackle trickier blockages.
Cleaning a blockage, especially a toilet drain pipe, can be dirty work that you would not want to carry out too often, so preventing future blockages is advised.
Always replace the external drain cover after cleaning and make sure you check it regularly and keep it clear of debris. Keeping the surrounding area clean will minimise the risk of debris being washed down.
Try not to wash any solids down your kitchen sink or flush rubbish down your toilet. This can lead to blockages that are difficult to remove and may lead to you having the expense of calling out professional cleaners.
Oils and fats shouldn’t be washed down a drain as they can solidify and cause blockages. If you have accidentally washed some down the drain, run your hot water for a while to help flush it through the pipes.
If you have tried to unblock a drain and it hasn’t worked, or you were concerned about how safe it would be to do so, call a professional. They will have the experience and equipment to deal with more difficult circumstances.
A baking soda and white vinegar mixture poured down the sink and left overnight can help dissolve and remove blockages that can then be flushed away. Other great ways to remove drain blockages include boiling water, salt and baking soda, using a plunger, chemical and biological cleaners, or removing and cleaning the pipe.
Using a combination of these techniques can also be a good idea, with baking soda and vinegar and chemical and biological cleaners helping to break down the blockage, and a plunger helping to create suction to shift or dislodge it. You can then pour boiling water through the drainage system at the end, which is ideal for flushing the excess debris from the blocked drain.
Always make sure you work in a well-ventilated area if you are using chemicals or drain cleaners, and be sure to wear protective clothing and eye-wear as pushing and pulling at clogged drain pipes can cause splashes.
Pipe cleaning tools like drain rods, a drain snake, or even the ‘Zip-it’ can be purchased from hardware stores. The Zip-it is excellent for minor blockages and works by pushing the stick down your drain and pulling it back out. The backwards-facing hooks pull up the debris causing the blockage.
If you are unsure about the items needed to clear your blocked drain, take pictures of the sink, drain, and pipes beforehand and take measurements. You will then be able to ask at the hardware store for advice based on the information you have with you.
Written by Joey Miller
An author at A Better Service, a waste disposal company in the UK.