How and What to do When You Encounter A Blocked Drain or Pipes

Reasons for your blocked drain:

Hair- One of the most common, is fast to build up and usually fairly easy to remove with DIY methods.
Food scraps & objects- Also very common, make sure to properly dispose of food scraps before washing dishes, and not flush foreign objects down toilets. Depending on the what the cause of the blockage is, can be more serious, but DIY methods can usually resolve the issue.
Grease- Is a very gradual build up, and can be rather tough to remove. Try to let as little grease down drains as possible to avoid this common issue.
Tree Roots, Plants & Leaves- This is a very common, and very tough issue to tackle. It can be tricky to identify since it is quite deep in the pipes, and are solid. Plumbers are practically essential to clear these out.
Heavy Rain & Storms- Annoying and unpreventable, stormwater will overflow the drains and sticks, leaves, plants and almost anything can build up a blockage. This will almost always require a plumber to resolve.
Broken and Ruptured Pipes- Can be damaged due to tree roots or general wear and tear. This will need a plumber to repair or replace.
Poor Installation- The plumbers who installed the pipes for the house took shortcuts, or probably just did a poor job. This is tricky to identify and will need a plumber to find the cause and replace.

man repairing blocked drains

DIY Methods:

DIY Methods are easy, cheap and should almost always be tried first before calling a plumber, if you want to take a shot at saving time and money. Protective gear (gloves, goggles and mask) should always be worn for your own protection when dealing with chemicals, just incase something goes wrong.

Natural: An easy, safe, environmentally friendly and effective way of clearing weak blockages. You can do this by putting 1/2 cup salt, 1/2 cup bicarb, 1 cup of vinegar and 1 cup hot water. These ingredients are also common in households, so a trip to the store may not even be required. This is very cheap to do, and can save hundreds of dollars instead of hiring a plumber. There is a video attached to show you how to try out this method safely.

Physical: Plungers are an effective tool at clearing a lot of blocked drain issues. It is cheap and relatively easy, and should already be in your house. There are a few methods on how to actually use the plunger, but the most common is making sure that the sink or toilet or whatever drain is filled with water, and there is water around the plunger. You firmly place it over the drain and push up and very gently down for a while, as pushing down does not unclog the drain, only the upstroke does. and when you remove the plunger, the water around it should pour down if it’s resolved. The video attached should give you an idea on how to work around this technique in further detail.

Toxic/ Dangerous: This toxic method is not really recommended, but if you are set on removing the blockage yourself and the other methods did not work, then this is your last resort. Hydrochloric Acid, Caustic Soda or Drain Opener are chemicals/ products that corrode blockages in your drain. They are more effective than natural chemicals, but protective gear MUST be worn in conjunction with these to avoid serious injury. It is simple to use, all you do is pour a medium amount down the blocked drain, and wait 25-30 minutes. AFTER this time period, pour some COLD water down the blocked drain. Make sure to follow these instructions carefully to avoid injury, as the chemicals can spit back up into your eyes if done incorrectly.

Hiring a Plumber:

Hiring a plumber is quick and easy, but can be costly depending on the plumber. Plumbers are essential for blocked drains if DIY methods did not work, as attempting to do their job some common causes, like tree roots. Can save you a lot of time and effort. Plumbers are highly recommended if the DIY methods don’t work, since you can badly injure yourself and damage the drain further if plumbing techniques are used incorrectly.

The Plumber’s methods:

Plumbers use methods that they are highly trained and certified in, so again, do not attempt to do their job.
Drain Auger: The drain auger (AKA electric eel, or the plumbing snake) is probably one of, if not, the most effective method of clearing blocked drains. A CCTV camera is inserted into the drains to identify the blockage, and after it has been found, the drain auger is carefully inserted in the drain and guided towards the blockage. Once the resistance has been found, the plumber turns a crank which powers the helix at the end of the device, which tears through and clears the blockage. If done incorrectly, can badly scratch the ceramic on the pipes.

Hydrojet: The hydrojet is essentially an extremely high pressure hose. It is used to slice through the blockages, including tree roots. Plumbers are trained in using these, and are very careful with their use, as incorrect use has the potential to slice through a finger like butter. That is how powerful these jets are, so you can rest assured that these will clear out a blocked drain. The same method is used with these as the drain auger, with CCTV scouting out the issue, and the hydrojet being inserted and clearing it.

Using a Long, Thin, Tough Wire: This method is more for the people who did not try the DIY methods. It is usually used for weak blockages in sinks that just need a little nudge. It is essentially a weak drain auger, yet still effective, easy, and cheap.

Costs of Unclogging a Blocked Drain

DIY methods: <$20, even free if you already have the common materials that most people should have.

Plumber: $150-$1000+, but this is widely dependent on the blockage, as well as the plumber. A good, trustworthy plumber usually charges about $200 for average blockages, whereas something more serious, such as a broken pipe, can vary depending on the damage, but can expect anywhere from $500 – $1500+. Again, prices are very flexible, so it is quite difficult to determine, so it is recommended to get multiple quotes from plumbers to find a good price.