How To Unblock Drains

  • Posted On: 8 Mar 2024
There are a number of DIY methods you can try to clear the blockage, we’ll talk you through what you need to do.

If you have a drain (toilet, external, kitchen sink, hand basin, bath or shower) that is blocked it is likely the cause is items you are using. Drains are most commonly blocked with foreign objects, wipes, hair, food, grease and soap.

Luckily, it’s usually not too difficult to unblock a drain, toilet, basin, bath or shower waste yourself, so there’s no need to call a plumber just yet.

You need to be sure the blockage has not been caused by your actions or any foreign items belonging to you; for example through day-to-day use with lack of routine cleaning, flushing foreign or unsuitable objects or accidental damage. If the blockage has been caused by you, your Landlord will expect you to pay the cost of the call out. A plumber charges a minimum of £48.00 per blockage for an internal drain such as a sink or shower. The minimum charge for an external drain or blocked toilet is £132.00. The plumber will always take photographs during the visit. See our handy tips below if you want to make sure you’ve got all bases covered.

Clearing Out the Blockage

The first step is to take a look and see if you can spot what’s causing the blockage.

For an external drain, basin, sink or shower, remove by lifting or unscrewing (whichever works for your type of waste) the cover of your waste or pulling out the plug if you’ve got an old school plug and chain variety.

The culprit is usually a build-up of food, fats, oils, hair and soap scum, so if you can spot any of these in the bottom of the drain, see if you can’t just reach in and pull it out, you could also use a wire hanger or pilers. 

For a toilet you could also try to move any blockage along with a wire coat hanger or use some pliers, or whichever form of improvised grabbing tool you can find to pull out the blockage. Quite often toilets are blocked with air freshners that have fallen down or wipes. 

Using a Plunger to Unblock the Drain

The plunger is the next obvious step to clear a blocked drain. You’ll need a ‘cup’ type plunger for clearing a basin, bath or shower blockage. 

  • Make sure you don’t use any chemicals yet, as using a plunger with chemicals is inevitably going to splatter them all over your clothes or skin.
  • You’ll need to have enough water in the bath or shower tray to completely submerge the cup of the plunger. Too much water and you’ll make a splashy mess, so use a bucket or jug to remove the excess if you’re drain isn’t clearing at all.
  • You will get better results if you can block off any outlets (overflow, another basin etc.), so if you can put a wet cloth in these drains then you will have a higher chance of succeeding with this method.
  • Plunge with a vertical up-and-down action, keeping the handle straight and vertical. Tilting at an angle will reduce the force and potentially break the seal you’re making with the cap. Do this for 15-20 seconds and then have a look at the results.
  • If the drain is still blocked after your first plunger attempt, repeat the process a couple more times as you may have simply moved the blockage further down the pipes.

Using Baking Soda and Vinegar to Unblock Your Drain

Baking soda on its own does a decent job of loosening grimy sludge from your drain, and when you add some vinegar as well you get a chemical reaction that should hopefully jolt the blockage loose. 

This isn’t a method that will work for the very troublesome blockages, but for slow-draining bath or shower wastes, this is a cheap, eco-friendly method worth trying.

  • First pour a pot of boiling water down your drain.
  • Pour a small amount (perhaps half a cup) of baking soda down the drain. Let it sit there for a couple of minutes.
  • Follow it up with a cup of white vinegar and a little more hot water. Leave for 5-10 minutes.
  • Flush with boiling water.

Using Chemicals to Unblock Your Drain

Your local supermarket, household store, or online will sell a variety of sink and drain unblockers. Remember these products damage the environment so where possible please try the natural methods above.

Report a Blocked Drain

Please report the issue via the 'repair requests' section and the Landlord will arrange a plumber for you. Please remember if the bloackage has been caused by you (for example through day-to-day use with lack of routine cleaning, flushing foreign or unsuitable objects or accidental damage), you will be responsible for the cost of the call out.


Tips for the future

Make sure you do not flush anything apart from toilet roll down the toilet, as items such as wipes and sanitary products clog up the pipes.

Before cleaning your dishes, remove any fats, oils, or food debris from the plates into the bin. If you have a lot of oil in a pan wait for it to cool and either pour into a container to dispose of or if it cools to solid fat, use a paper towel to remove before putting in the sink. NEVER pour fats and oils down the sink.

If blockages are being caused by a build up of food, we would recommend adding a sink strainer to your kitchen plug hole. This will help to help to sieve out any larger pieces of food debris, which can be removed to a bin after doing the dishes.


If you have any questions at all please do not hesitate to contact a member of staff and we will more than happy to help you.

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