Toilets and drains are an essential function for waste removal in the home, and you need to keep both channels flowing freely at all times. From time to time, it's possible for drains and toilets to become blocked, resulting in an inability to use them.
There are a number of instruments or tools you should keep on hand, should the situation occur. Here’s what we recommend:
The oldest trick in the book
This is the classic tool that has been used for unblocking drains and toilets for basically forever! Plungers are a great invention that can be used to force water down through the blockage. Ensure you wet it first under hot water to soften it up which will ensure a good seal is created.
Plungers should be placed over the entrance to the pipe to create suction, before being moved up and down in a pumping action. Fill the bowl up, as the plunger will force water through the drain. You will certainly need gloves and potentially eye protection if you intend to use this method. This should work in most general situations; however for more significant blockages, you will need a different course of action.
What not to use
It is tempting to pour a ton of bleach down a blocked toilet, or to use some kind of cleaning fluid to dislodge the blockage. This is a bad idea! Not only will this not work, but you will then have to plunge your way through the chemicals and cleaning agents to actually unblock the pipes. This essentially creates a danger for yourself or whoever subsequently comes to unblock your problem, so steer clear of pouring any fluids or other chemicals near your blocked drain. At worst, you can purchase an enzyme waste removal product, which has enzymes that liquify waste materials.
There are natural solutions you can use instead; baking soda and vinegar are highly effective. The following sequence is worth a try as it can give you great results. First pour a litre of boiling water into the drain, followed by half a cup of baking soda and leave it for a full five minutes. Follow it up with a cup of vinegar and another cup of boiling water and then cover the drain with the plug and leave for ten minutes. The result can be very effective and quite a cheap solution.
Plunger didn’t work?
If the plunger isn’t dislodging the blockage, a mop covered with a sturdy plastic bag is the next best option. Mops are effective because they have bigger heads than most plungers, and their longer handles provide more leverage to help unblock the drain or toilet. Try to force the mop into the drain or toilet wherever possible, then use a plunging action to force more water through.
A plumbing snake or commonly referred to as an “Auger”, is a flexible wire coil that is odd-shaped and can “snake” through the pipe to unblock the clog. This is achieved by twisting and pushing at the same time.
Try this MacGyver-style hack!
If you don’t have access to a plumbing snake, a coat hanger can be shaped in a way that can be led into the drain and possibly remove whatever is the cause of the blockage. Be careful though, it can be quite abrasive to the surface and cause scratches.
If all else fails
This is pretty much a last throw of the dice, but can be quite effective. A vacuum that can be used both wet and dry is necessary here, as you need to vacuum out the water first. Once that is done, then using the hose without the attachment, place into the hole and surround it with a towel to give better suction.
Harness the Power of Hot Saltwater
In addition to the conventional methods mentioned above, another effective and environmentally friendly solution for stubborn blockages involves using hot saltwater. This method can be particularly useful when dealing with grease or soap buildup in kitchen drains. Here's a step-by-step guide:
Boil a Kettle of Water: Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Ensure it's at a temperature that won't damage your pipes but is hot enough to break down the blockage.
Measure and Add Salt: While the water is boiling, measure out about half a cup of table salt. Pour the salt directly into the drain.
Pour Boiling Water: Once the salt is in the drain, slowly pour the boiling water down. The combination of hot water and salt works to dissolve and break apart grease and other residues causing the blockage.
Let it Sit: Allow the hot saltwater mixture to sit in the drain for 15-20 minutes. This gives it time to penetrate and break down the blockage.
Flush with Cold Water: After the waiting period, flush the drain with cold water. The cold water helps wash away any remaining debris and ensures the blockage is completely cleared.
This method is a simple yet effective DIY solution that utilises the cleaning power of salt and the heat of boiling water. However, exercise caution and avoid using this method on drains with PVC pipes, as hot water could potentially damage them. Always prioritize safety and consider consulting a professional if the blockage persists or if you're unsure about the compatibility with your plumbing system.
Listed above are the most common ways to unblock a drain or toilet. They are all worth a try, before calling a qualified plumber. Some blockages are so bad, that you may be left with little choice, so make sure you have an understanding of how to choose a plumber if the time comes. If you decide to give it a try, ensure you are careful, as further damage to the drain and pipes is the last thing you need!
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