How to … clean a drain

Some household maintenance issues can be put off until tomorrow – a blocked drain isn’t one of them.

How to … clean a drain

If your drain is clogged, you’ll have to unclog it before it can be properly cleaned. Plungers are just as good at clearing sinks and shower drains as they are at clearing toilets – although we recommend you use a different one for your sinks. Fill the blocked sink or tub with water, enough to cover the drain. Press the plunger over the drain mouth, pressing down until you feel it seal over the surface of the sink or tub. A few quick pumps should pull blockages free.

If clogs are less serious or closer to the mouth of the drain, then a barbed plastic cleaning tool can be used to pull them out. Simply slide your drain snake or similar drain unblocking tool down the drain. As you pull the tool back out, the backward angled barbs along its length will snag on blockages such as hair and pull them out of the drain.  

If the clog is more serious, use a water or gas-powered drain cleaner. Choose a cleaner that fits over the mouth of your drain or you may need to use an adaptor. Water-powered drain cleaners usually attach to a garden hose and use pressurised water to clean out residue and blockages. Gas-powered drain cleaners use compressed gas or air to do the same thing.

Grease, organic residue and bacteria can build up in drains, causing them to smell. To eliminate smells and clean out this residue, pour half a cup of baking soda down your drain. Next, pour half a cup of white vinegar down your drain and cover the hole with a plug. Allow this to sit for at least 15 minutes, then pour a kettle of boiled water down your drain.

If a blockage is serious and you are unable to remove it yourself, it’s best to call a plumber. If you don’t have a regular or trusted plumber ask your family, friends and neighbours for a word-of-mouth recommendation.

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    To make a comment, please register or login
    8th Mar 2020
    Use a sink strainer and collect all the bits and pieces that would normally go down the drain. Prevention is better than the cure.
    8th Mar 2020
    Hope you didn't mean after drain is blocked!
    Golden Oldie
    8th Mar 2020
    How do you clear drains when all are blocked. ie. toilets, shower, sink, and laundy trough. Not completely blocked, but very slow. eg. 3 hours for the water to drain in the toilet.
    I called in the plumber, they called in Yarra alley Water. Have heard of other stories where the builders for new houses stick all sorts or rubbish in the drains, or where the pipes are damaged and not fixed before a new owner moves in, not expecting drain problems.
    8th Mar 2020
    Why boiled water? Doesn't unboiled water work as well?
    Why baking soda? I thought it should be used for baking. Why not washing soda which is used for cleaning drains etc.
    8th Mar 2020
    MR. MUSCLE - $12.95 - Woolies/Coles!! :))
    10th Mar 2020
    Bathroom drains are usually clogged by hair, here is a quick and east way to remove the hair using a cable tie. I have tried it and it works.
    Big Kev
    12th Mar 2020
    I've heard you cant use most bathroom cleaners on poly pipe as the chemicals can damage the pipe and the glue that seals the pipe. Can anyone advise us.
    31st Mar 2020
    Sometimes if people have gone away for a few weeks because some water is still in the drain pipe if somebody else goes into the house to check it you can put a small amount of vanilla essence down the drain. You don't need to use water and don't need to heat water. Some people turn off the hot water service if they are going to be away for a few weeks.
    1st Apr 2020
    Couple of tips if you live in an area where main sewer lines don't exist and you are required to use a septic system.
    with a septic system, the amount of effluent (no.1 and No. 2) is limited by several factors.

    Firstly the septic tank needs cleaning at least every five years. It depends on bacteria breaking down the solids into liquid form which then migrates to a sand filter where the black water from the main tank comes out almost clear which then goes into a chlorination pit, and from there into the stormwater drains in the streets. The chlorination pit is not actually used, as it is more dangerous to discharge chlorinated water into the drainage system and ends up in creeks and rivers.

    Secondly, chemicals must not be used. This can kill the living bacteria that do the conversion of solids into liquids.

    Thirdly, the number of occupants determines how often the tank is used, with a 750 litre capacity tank, it will just manage to treat this volume of water/effluent with 3-4 year cleaning cycle. Two people (when the kids leave home) will stretch the cleaning cycle up to 4-5 years.

    Fourthly, the sand filters are actually pool size holes dug in the soil (on the property) and filled with agricultural pipes and various grades of sand, from coarse to fine. These are suitable for land that has little absorbing top soil in clay soils and shale rock areas. Trees can siphon water from the walls of the sand pits, so three or four fir trees help to reduce discharge into street drains (SW).

    There are also various combinations of full flush septics or for smaller blocks, a septic (for Nos. 1 & 2) and for laundry, kitchen and shower waste a grease trap filter then out to SW drains. Not as good as a full flush system as grease traps must be emptied at least once a month or up to 6 months depending on volume of waste. They are small and quickly fill up. You either need to bury the semisolid grease from the traps or have a septic guy call and drain the traps clean. Not a good option.

    Quick lesson: try to avoid buying a property not on main sewer.. Keep in mind however you don't pay sewer rates, so you're better off with a septic over many years.

    Tags: how to, drain,

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