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Don’t let blocked drains drain your finances – drain care tips and tricks

  • 5 min read

Written by Domestic & General

Whether you hop out of bed and wake yourself up with a hot shower or you like to finish the day with a relaxing bath, most of us rely on our routines running smoothly. A blocked drain not only disrupts your schedules but can also prove costly to fix.

A blocked drain, a clogged toilet or a blocked sink can happen because of bad practices you may be doing that accumulate over time. Even just throwing a random cotton bud here and there into the toilet basin could come back and cause problems in the future.

Read on for all the latest tips on keeping drains clear and what to do if you have to unblock drains around your home.

Drain problems

First, it’s important to realise the extent of the potential damage poor drain care can cause:

  • Blockages
  • Flooding
  • Expensive pipe repairs
  • Contaminated water
  • Bad odours
  • Rising damp, in extreme cases

How to clear blocked drains

It’s imperative you keep your drains working functionally and effectively. Fortunately, if you notice your shower is taking longer to drain or there are issues with your toilet, there are steps you can take before having to call out a plumber.

Cleaning drains with vinegar and baking soda  

There’s a DIY hack that helps you get rid of blockages in your shower – most likely caused by a build-up of hair - using ingredients you likely already have in the kitchen.

All you’ll need is a kettle, one cup of baking soda and one cup of vinegar.

  1. To unblock a shower drain, pour some boiling water down your shower sinkhole. This should remove more of the easy debris.
  2. Next, pour the baking soda down there and quickly follow it up with the vinegar.
  3. Let the mixture sit four around 15-30 minutes before flushing that through with more boiling water.

There are also special chemical products you can buy from most supermarkets and DIY stores if this cheap trick doesn’t work.

How to unblock a toilet

There are a few ways you can attempt unblocking a toilet.

How to use a plunger

The first step, and one many may be familiar with, involves using a plunger. Using a plunger, you create enough suction by pushing and pulling that blockages may come loose.

How to unblock a toilet with washing up liquid

If the problem doesn’t get fixed this way, you can try unblocking a toilet with washing up liquid.

Pour some washing-up liquid directly into the bowl. This helps lubricate the waste outlet. After about 10 minutes, pour hot water straight into the bowl. You should try to pour in a large quantity of water all at once, as this will put pressure on the blockage, similar to the pressure that comes from flushing a toilet normally.

Unblocking a toilet with an auger

The auger is often called a plumber's snake and is available from most supermarkets and DIY shops. It is a long, flexible tool that can be pushed into the toilet as far as the blockage.

Depending on the type of blockage, the auger can perforate it and move it along or you can jab it and extract it.

How to unblock a bathroom sink or kitchen sink

You can reuse similar methods to unblock a sink. Filling a pan or large bottle with hot water and quickly pouring it down a sink could put enough pressure to blast it through.

Alternatively, plunging a sink hole could help dislodge a blocking.

However, some sink blockages might need a bit more effort to unblock because of the U-bend shape that many sinks have. Because of the U-bend shape, you might have to unscrew it and remove the blockage by hand.

To do this, you’ll need:

  • A small bucket
  • Coat hanger

First, look under your sink and locate the U-bend, it’ll be the first bend in the pipe immediately below the plughole.

Placing your bucket under the U-bend to capture any escaping water, unscrew the section of pipe. Once the flow of water has stopped remove the U-bend and use the wire coat hanger to clean out the inside of the pipe.

Once clear, put the U-bend back and run the tap to check you’ve made it airtight.

Who’s responsible for unblocking drains?

If you are a homeowner, you are responsible for maintaining or repairing any drains inside the boundaries of your property – these are often referred to as private drains.

You don't have to maintain or repair lateral drains that you share with your neighbour - your water company is responsible for these.

For renters, as stated in the Landlord and Tennant Act 1985, it is a landlord's responsibility to maintain their drainage, pipes and general plumbing. However, if a drain becomes blocked through tenant misuse, the tenant will be responsible for either fixing the issue or covering the cost of repairs.

The most common causes of blocked drains

It’s always worth knowing what sort of things are most likely to block a drain.

These include:

  • Wet wipes
  • Fat, oils and grease
  • Coffee grounds
  • Non-degradable toiletries (like cotton buds)
  • Hair
  • Nappies
  • Sanitary items
  • Tree roots and leaves (effecting outdoor drains and pipes)

General drain care tips and advice

You don’t have to wait for a drain disaster to start implementing better drain care tips and maintenance. The following evergreen tips should help lower the chance of blockages or other issues.

  • Not everything should be flushed

A drain isn’t a dustbin. Don’t just assume you can throw cotton buds, plastic or other small bathroom bits into the toilet. Anything that doesn’t naturally break down should be put in the rubbish or a septic tank, and never enter your drainage system.

  • Keep an eye on grease and fat

It’s all too easy to let grease and fats from your latest culinary masterpiece trickle down the drain when you’re clearing messes away. Whenever possible, you should let these cool and throw them in the trash. Grease and fats can thicken when cooled and cause major blockages. If it’s not possible to throw the grease or fat away, run plenty of hot, soapy water through the drain to help break it up.

  • Keep track of less used rooms or properties

If you have spare rooms, summer homes or temporarily vacant properties, you should plan to have someone regularly flush the toilets and run the taps on a semi-regular basis. This prevents the water going stagnant or the traps in the drainage systems developing mould.