How to Unblock a Drain

Blocked drains aren’t just an annoyance; they can cause flooding and damage to your piping system and appliances. When you find that you have a clogged drain, you may actually be able to clear it yourself so your drain and appliance will work properly and you can avoid extensive damage.

When you do have a blocked drain, you need to take care of it immediately to avoid stenches and things like broken pipes and flooding. Always wear protective gear including PVC gloves, goggles and a face mask.

The key to unblocking a drain is understanding what kind of equipment you will need and knowing how to use it. If you have found a blocked drain in your home or business, follow these steps to quickly and easily clear it.

Step 1: Locate the Blockage

You probably noticed the blocked drain when a sink or other appliance wouldn’t drain properly, so you have a general idea of where the block is. To find out specifically where it is so you can easily remove it, turn the appliance, or garbage disposal, off by disconnecting it from the power source.

With your gloves on, reach into the drain and try to locate the clog. If you are working with an outdoor drain, use drain rods to remove the cover, and then visually inspect the opening and try to find the blockage.

In some cases, if the area is dark or if the block is deep in the system, you won’t be able to see or feel it. Use a compact drain camera to inspect the area and the blockage so you can better understand what you are working with.

Step 2: Determine Which Tool to Use

There are three basic tools you can use to clear a blocked drain and the one you use will depend on your situation.

If the blocked drain is in a kitchen, bathroom or other sink, you will use a drain snake to push out, break or remove the blockage.

Blocks that are in straight sections of pipe, that do not require you to navigate curves or corners to reach, can usually be removed with drain rods.

If you have a very large drain and section of pipes that includes curves and twists, you will need to use a manual drain cleaner to reach and then remove the blockage.

In most cases, you will only need to use one of these tools. But, if you are working on a large, outdoor piping system and drain, you may discover that you will need to use both drain rods and a manual drain cleaner to completely remove the trapped debris.

When you locate the blockage, you will be able to determine which tool is best for the job because you will know how you need to get to it and how it will need to be removed.

Step 3: Use Drain Rods, a Manual Drain Cleaner or a Drain Snake to Loosen the Blockage

Using the right tool for the situation and the job, break up and loosen the blockage. Each tool will need to be used in a specific way, so read the owner’s manual and follow the directions that came with it.

If you are using drain rods, you may need to connect several sections together in order to reach the blockage, depending on how deep it is. Push the rod through the drain until you reach the blockage and then force it through the blockage to loosen it. To do this, you will need to push the rod back and forth and in and out of the drain. If you need to twist the rods, make sure you turn them clockwise so they will not separate while you are using them.

If you are using a manual drain cleaner, follow the directions to insert the flexible metal spiral into the drain until it reaches the blockage. Then use the cutting head to clear the debris away.

Drain Snakes are used similarly to manual drain cleaners, but they can either cut up the debris, push it out of the system or pull it out of the drain. Follow the directions that came with your drain snake for more details about how to use it.

Step 4: Wash Away Debris and Inspect the Drain

Once the blockage has been broken up, run water through the system, or pour water down the drain, to wash away the debris. Then, use the camera to inspect the drain again to see if the blockage has been removed.

If it has, check to make sure the water has adequately washed away the debris. In more severe cases, you may need to use the drain-clearing tools to break up the debris again and then repeat the process of washing out the pipe and inspecting it with the camera.

Remember, when you attempt to wash the debris out of the system, you want to wash it completely out. Use the camera to inspect the area beyond where the blockage was located to make sure the debris hasn’t simply moved further down the system, creating another blockage.

Step 5: Check the Pipe for Proper Drainage

Now, let water flow through the drain and pipes for a short period of time, while you monitor it, to make sure the drain is completely cleared. Make sure the water flows down the drain properly and doesn’t become backed up.

While you are checking this, you may notice the drain still seems clogged. This could be due to loose debris that needs to be washed out or additional blockage that needs to be removed with the drain-clearing tools. You can use the camera to determine if further work is required or if the drain just needs to be flushed out with water.

Unblocking a drain is a matter of identifying where the blockage is, choosing the right tools and then using them to clear the blockage out. Some testing may be required to make sure the job is complete, but once it is, your drains and appliances will once again work smoothly.

Here at HSS Hire we’ve got everything you’ll need for the job, so don’t waste any time… Visit our website to hire the necessary drain clearance equipment online.


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About the Author

Laura Harris

Laura works in our Ecommerce Team, with 6 years of experience at HSS. Speaking to customers on a daily basis, she brings a wealth of product knowledge and is able to give her advice on the right tool for the job no matter how big or small.


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  • Vincent Leonard | 5 years ago

    Thanks for sharing these tips on the drainage system unblocking. I really like the step 4 which you have described and is one of the most important factor that one need to consider while drain cleaning. It is very informative DIY tips for solving blocked drain problem.