So your sink is blocked – now what? Simple ways to clean and unclog drains
Whether we’re washing our hands, scrubbing vegetables or rinsing pasta – we use our sinks every day without giving a second thought to the water we use. It’s only when a sink gets blocked and the water lingers that we finally think about drains. Here are a few tips on how to keep your drains clean, and how you can prevent future blockages.
Find the culprit
Did you know that it’s not only leftover food that can lead to blocked drains, but fats too? Butter, margarine and even coconut oil turn to liquid when warmed, so are often poured down the sink. But many people don’t know that once these fats cool, they solidify again and can settle in pipes. It's then only a matter of time before other deposits settle at these bottlenecks and block the sink entirely. Limescale, fluff and hair are also common culprits of clogged drains.
So, what to do? First you need to find out what has caused the blockage and how serious it is. This will enable you to clean it as effectively as possible. The simplest way to do this is with an inspection camera that you insert into the pipe. Take a photo, view it on the display in black and white or colour, then decide on the next steps. If you’re unsure what exactly is blocking your drain, you can show the photos to an expert and ask for their advice.
Use household items rather than corrosive chemicals
Chemical cleaners are generally corrosive and definitely not environmentally friendly. A better alternative is to use items you find around the house – which are usually all you need to clear a blockage. So there’s no need to buy in anything extra.
- For straightforward blockages: hot water is usually enough to clear straightforward blockages caused by fats. Simply pour around one litre of hot water down the sink immediately after cooking. With a bit of luck, that should do the trick.
- For more stubborn blockages: if the water still isn’t draining properly, try using baking powder and vinegar. Tip three to four tablespoons of baking powder and one cup of vinegar down the sink. It will fizz/bubble quite a lot at first, but don’t worry – that’s normal. The two should react with one another and unblock the drain. As soon as the fizzing/bubbling stops, pour down some hot water and see if that has solved the problem.
- For severe blockages: is your drain still clogged up? Then it’s time to bring out the big guns and retrieve your trusty plunger again. If the sink isn’t already full of water, fill it up now so that the end of the plunger is completely submerged. Then move the plunger up and down slowly. This will generate opposing pressures that should unblock the drain. But bear in mind this will only work for leftover food, hair, fluff or old fats – not for limescale. You’ll need a professional for that.
Some websites recommend using coke or coffee to clean drains. We wouldn't recommend trying this as usually they only make blockages worse.
How to prevent blocked drains altogether
By taking a few simple steps, you can soon make blocked drains a thing of the past.
- Rinse your drains with hot water every now and again. This will remove any deposits and avoid blockages from occurring in the first place.
- Put a strainer in the sink to catch bits of food and hair.
- Wipe down fatty frying pans or saucepans before rinsing them off in the sink, to prevent liquid fats from solidifying in the pipes.
- From time to time, insert an inspection camera into the drain to check if everything looks okay. That way, you can act quickly to resolve any issues, preventing more severe blockages.