How To Clear a Blocked Drain?

unblocking sink drain

Clearing blocked drains is rarely at the top of the day’s to-do list, however often there are signs there is an issue for some time before your drain becomes completely blocked. The main indicator your drain is blocked is the water will not flow as freely down the drain as it once did. You may also hear some gurgling or notice a bad smell coming from the affected drain. 

What Are the Main Signs of a Blocked Drain

Blocked drains will not fix themselves and in most cases, there would have been blockage signs leading to the day that the drain is totally blocked and then requires clearing. 

Bad Smells

This is an obvious one. It's not uncommon to have bad smells in your bathroom, however if they are not going away you can be sure you have issues in your drainage system.

Flooding Surcharging 

You’ll find that the water in the sink isn’t going down or is pooling before it drains away. This can be a major issue as it can cause flooding from your bathroom to surrounding areas.


This happens when the water is not flowing freely down the drain. This can be due to a blockage in the main line or an issue with the vent pipes on your system. 

What Causes a Drain To Get Blocked?

Here are some of the most common causes of drain clogs and blockages that we come across.

1. Tree roots

Do you have an abundant garden or a nice large shady tree in your yard? Whilst this may look harmless from above, the tree roots below ground can wreak havoc on your drains. As roots are attracted to water, they can enter through the smallest of cracks or separated joints and grow rapidly inside the pipe, consistently causing blockages. 

Tree roots often cause more frequent problems during Spring, but can cause problems year-round.

2. Broken or collapsed pipes

Tree roots, ground movement, structural issues or additional load from above ground can lead to pipes collapsing or breaking. This type of issue will cause recurring blockages until the problem is diagnosed and repaired.

3. Flushable wipes

Are you guilty of purchasing and using wipes marketed as “flushable”? You’re not alone, but it’s time to put an end to them. Wipes are one of the leading causes of sewer blockages in Australia. It’s important to know that even if the packaging claims it is a flushable product, it will still cause damage and blockages in sewer systems and the environment. Any wipes or foreign objects should always be disposed of in the bin and not the toilet.

4. Sanitary products

Like wipes, female hygiene products should be disposed of in the bin and not flushed down the toilet. If there is a crack or section of pipe with inadequate fall, the sanitary products can get caught or sit in one area causing the drain to become blocked.

5. Hair and soaps

Hair and soaps can often cause blockages, more commonly in hand basins, showers and floor waste gullies, amongst other bathroom fixtures.

6. Kitchen waste

Food scraps, including oils and grease should never be washed down the drain as they can solidify in the pipe and cause it to block up. Naturally, not all food and grease can be completely removed from your dishes before washing them. Even if you are careful with what goes in the drain, over time small amounts of grease can slowly build up and cause the pipe to block. This more commonly occurs in the s-bends or in sections of pipe that are flat or back falling.

7. Foreign objects

Products such as cotton buds or cotton balls can find their way into the drain at times. Unfortunately, as these products are made of materials that don’t break down, they can often conglomerate and cause blockages. On the other hand, objects such as toilet sanitisers and toys can sometimes find their way into the drains also. Use caution with toilet sanitisers and ensure if anything is accidentally dropped in a drain or toilet that it is removed rather than flushed.

Home Remedies To Unblock Drains

You don’t necessarily have to call a plumber the minute you notice any of the above signs of a blocked drain. Some of the options below can work well to clear minor drain blockages. So, what can you use to unblock a drain at home? 

Natural Drain Cleaner - Baking Soda/Vinegar

A mix of baking soda and vinegar is a tried and true home remedy for clearing minor drain blockages that are related to a build-up of grime, rather than an actual physical obstruction in the pipe. The water and acetic (acid) in vinegar combined with sodium bicarbonate to create carbon dioxide that eats through materials to break up the obstruction which can help to clear the drain blockage.


Plungers seal the opening of a drain. When you push down, the pressure in the pipe increases, pushing water downwards. The sudden burst of pressure can dislodge small blockages and get your drain flowing freely again.

Detergent and Boiling Hot Water

Boiling water and detergent can help with blockages caused by grease, hair products like shampoo and conditioner build-up, or other similar toiletry items. These are easy to melt away and this option should help to break it up and remove the blockage to your drain. 

Wire Coat Hanger

Maybe less conventional, but still pretty effective! You can DIY a ‘drain snake’ by unwiring a wire coat hanger, keeping the hook intact. Insert the hanger, hook first, into the drain opening and fish out the obstruction if possible. This is most effective for pulling out clogged hair in your drain.

Caustic Cleaner

Caustic cleaners are strong and can be bought from your everyday grocery store. It is typically most effective in dissolving oils, greases, and fats. Just open a window or door first! The fumes aren’t pleasant and can be dangerous. You must read the instructions and follow any safety recommendations that are noted on the product.

Clearing a Blocked Drain Professionally

It’s certainly more cost effective to be able to clear out the blockage on your own, but some blocked drains require the specialised equipment and knowledge of a licensed blocked drain plumber.

High Pressure Drain Cleaning

This is a system that uses high pressure water to push through blockages and remove them from the drain. This is the most effective way to remove root or paper blockages in most drains.

CCTV Drain Inspection Camera

CCTV inspection plays a major role in most drainage repairs carried out by Enviromate. After the drain is unblocked, we insert the small camera down the sewer line. This gives the customer a good look at the issues within their drainage system. It also allows us to locate the issue which in turn allows us to provide an accurate quotation to repair the issue. If issues are identified, repairs are carried out by excavating and renewing the pipe or in some cases the pipe can be relined.


Once the pipe has been unblocked and inspected, we may need to excavate and repair the pipe to prevent a recurrence of the issue. This is normally required when pipes have been damaged by ground movement or tree root infestation.

Pipe Relining

Like excavation, pipe relining is normally carried out after the drain has been unblocked. Relining is normally more expensive than a standard repair but can become economically viable when the damaged pipe is located under your bathroom, driveway or a retaining wall. In some cases the restoration costs associated with the excavation of these areas will be more than the reline cost in total. 

Having issues with a blocked drain and need an expert? Contact our friendly Enviromate team today.  


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