Excess water on your lawn, a gurgling sound coming from your drain, or a toilet backing up are all possible signs that you might need to unblock a drain.
While a blocked outside drain usually requires the help of a professional to give it a good clearing and cleaning, a minor indoor drain blockage can usually be taken care of all by yourself.
All it takes is a few supplies from your local hardware store and a willingness to get your hands dirty. Keep reading to learn how to unblock a drain.
Table of Contents
How Does a Drain Get Clogged?
A drain gets clogged for usually one of four basic reasons:
- The accumulation of debris (such as soap and hair) on the inside walls of the drain
- Foreign objects that cause obstruction (such as toys, baby wipes, tampons, cat litter, or fibrous foods)
- The use of too much toilet paper (some brands don’t disintegrate quickly or efficiently)
- A break in a drain that allows tree roots or clay and mud to block the flow of water
Watching what you put down your sink, toilet, and shower drain is a key way to avoid a clogged drain disaster for indoor drains. For outdoor drains like a sewer line, tree roots are generally a big problem.
Sometimes, these things are unavoidable, but a conscious awareness of what goes into your plumbing system can stop a clogged drain in its tracks.
Tools You’ll Need to Unblock a Drain
Unblocking a drain will be difficult without the right tools. Here are the two most common tools used by DIYers and professionals:
A plunger is a homeowner’s best friend when it comes to minor blocked drains. This simple tool can easily clear clogs from most fixtures such as sinks, tubs, and toilets. Here’s how to use a plunger correctly (you’ll be surprised how often it’s done wrong).
2. Drain Snake or Auger
For blocks and clogs farther down the pipe, a drain snake is ideal. It’s a long, thin cable designed for snaking out drains and fitting through tight curves. A hand crank allows you to manually unclog a drain up to 100 feet away.
How To Unblock a Drain
There are numerous methods — from natural to chemical to mechanical — for unblocking a drain. Here are 4 common methods that people use all the time. Read carefully, as one of these methods — while popular — is NOT recommended.
1. The Plunger Method
If you have a sink clog, place the plunger over the drain completely. Run the water for a second while placing the plunger on the drain to make sure you get a good seal. Begin plunging with a small but fast up-and-down motion. Do this for about 10 seconds or until you feel the sink unclog. You may have to repeat this cycle several times.
2. Wire Clothes Hanger
The most common cause of a blocked shower drain is the buildup of hair (I’m talking to you, long-haired ladies). A quick and easy solution can usually be found right in your own closet.
Straighten a wire hanger. Place the hooked end (the U-shaped part) into the drain and try to grab or fish out the clump of hair. Once you remove as much as you can, immediately run hot water down the drain to flush any other hair or debris that you might have loosened.
This method can also be used for stuck food in your sink.
3. Chemical Drain Cleaners
A run to your local grocery store can also do the trick when it comes to a clogged drain. Just make sure to buy some protective eyewear and a long pair of rubber gloves.
When using chemical drain cleaners (such as lye- and sulfuric acid-based cleaners) follow the exact directions to remove the blockage. These chemicals can burn or blind. And splashing is a real issue.
But this is not only for safety reasons. Different types of blocked drains require different solutions to be effective. For example, a standing water blockage in a kitchen sink should be treated differently than a slow-draining bath clog.
4. Dish Soap and Hot Water
If you want to avoid harsh chemical cleaners that can sometimes harm your drain, try a simple solution of hot water and soap.
For sink drains that are clogged due to grease, bring water to a boil and mix in a few tablespoons of liquid dish soap. Use Dawn dishwashing soap (other brands won’t work as well to cut grease and loosen the debris). The hot water solution will heat solidified grease in your sink trap allowing the grease to be washed away.
- Quick Guide: the best safe toilet paper
- Are chemical drain cleaners safe?
- How to unclog a double kitchen sink
- How to unclog a shower drain with a garden hose
- How to use a plumber’s snake (drain snake, drain auger)
- 5 ways to clean hair out of your shower drain
- How to clean out a drain trap
- Can bleach unclog drains?
- How to naturally unclog a drain
- Can you flush cat litter down a drain?
- What causes a broken sewer line?
Don’t hesitate to contact us here or call us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237) if you’d like us to unblock a drain. We will immediately handle any emergency plumbing, drain, and water damage problem, including excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines.