We’ve all been there. That’s dreaded moment when you remove the plug and the dirty water just… sits there. Or the shower basin starts filling up as you’re using it; or the bath takes too long to empty and leaves a scummy mess around the edges.
You know it’s time to tackle that plughole (because that’s what grown-ups do, right?) but the temptation to call a plumber and let them deal with the mess is always there.
Don’t. It’s tempting because it’s easy, but you know you’ll regret paying the extortionate call-out fee. Unblocking a plug really is one of those everyday household jobs which sound a lot harder than it is. So before you start searching for local plumbers, give these tips a try.
Even if you buy everything we suggest – and there’s no reason to do so once you know what you’re doing – it will still cost a fraction of what you would spend on a plumber.
Why Do Plug Holes Get Blocked?
The most obvious cause of a sudden blockage is that something has been pushed down the plughole. If the hole is big enough, consider bottle lids, plastic toys, or stones.
Hair and Skin
Shower and bath plugs often get blocked over time by a mixture of long hair, skin and body oils which can get trapped in the pipe.
Fat and Oil
Kitchen sinks can build up a layer of grease and food scraps which slowly grows until the pipe is completely blocked.
Bath Salts and Soaps
This might come as a surprise but the ingredients in a lot of bathroom products can also cause blockages. Toothpaste, bath salts which haven’t dissolved properly, and silicone and sulphate (often found in shampoos, conditioners, and liquid soaps) can all cause problems.
Storms can cause blockages as dirt and debris get washed down into drains and pipes systems. Unfortunately, this is not something you can easily fix yourself; unless you have a badly blocked drain on your property, this is something you will just have to wait out.
First: Try To Unblock Your Plug With A Plunger
If you don’t already own a plunger then you’re not alone. Once an essential piece of kit, they’re now seen as a slightly quirky item, and somewhat outdated. But the truth is that plungers really do work, and they’ll often be enough to clear a plug blockage on their own. They do need to be well made to work well; if you have a serious blockage then the cheap and flimsy model you might find in a supermarket probably isn’t going to cut it.
Enter the Monument Master Plunger Sink and Waste Pipe Unblocker. It’s not just the name which is impressive; this large capacity master plunger will be able to tackle almost any job. The concertina sides of the oversized cup give this plunger an extra boost of power and one or two ‘plunges’ should be more than enough to clear all but the most stubborn blockage.
At 5”(12.5 cm), the mouth of this plunger is big enough to cover most drain holes. It also works well on toilets (it’s quite powerful so use with care). The only real negative of the size is that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to use this on very small hand washbasins, especially if the tap is centred over the drain hole.
How to Use a Plunger
- Block any overflow holes and connected plugholes before you start. This will help you to create suction when you begin to use the plunger.
- Place the mouth of the plunger carefully over the blocked plughole. It is important to create a tight seal here so make sure your plunger is correctly positioned. Run a few inches of water to help create the seal around the plunger.
- Now for the fun part! With firm, forceful movements, push the plunger down and up a few times. This creates suction to dislodge the blockage.
- Move the plunger away after a few tries and, if you have managed to clear the pipe, the remaining water should drain away. Pour a little extra water down to clear away any remaining debris.
Congratulations! You have manually unblocked a drain, and not a plumber in sight!
Next: Unblock Using Drain Gel
The powerful plunger recommended above should be more than enough to clear most household blockages. But if you have tried and failed then don’t despair. Now it’s time to bring out the big guns.
Mr Muscle ‘Max Gel Unblocker’ is exactly as powerful as it sounds so take care to read the instructions on the bottle before you begin.
It’s really simple to use: just pour into the plughole (even through standing water if you really can’t get it to drain away) and wait. After five minutes, flush the drain out with hot water from the tap. Sometimes a little longer will be required for stubborn blockages.
This is powerful stuff and usually effective with just one use. If it doesn’t clear the drain completely the first time, it’s definitely worth another try (or two) before giving up. Getting the pipes completely clear now will help to prevent a new build up in a few weeks.
Finally: Waste Pipe Cleaner
If the options above have been tried and failed and you’re still wondering how to unblock your sink or bathroom plug hole then don’t fear… you’ve got one more option before having to pay that £200 plumber call out charge.
If the hands-off approaches so far have not worked then it might be time to get hands-on with the actual blockage. This is a 3mm, flexible wire with a ‘corkscrew’ shaped section at the end. It is designed to push through the plughole and into the drain until it meets the blockage. You can then prod, push and twist until you break up the clump.
This device is especially useful for hair blockages as the corkscrew section twists around and ‘grabs’ the hair; you can then pull the wire gently towards you and remove the obstruction by hand. It won’t work on everything but is a very effective solution for some kinds of blockage, and cheap enough to be worth a try.
How to Prevent Future Blockages
Now you’ve unblocked your drain once, you will probably be keen to avoid the need to do it again! The good news is that there are several steps you can take to help prevent any bad blockage in the future.
A plughole cover is the ideal solution for kitchen sinks and baths; it captures small items of food debris and hair so that you can scoop them out easily and stop any build up or debris in the first place. We recommend the KitchenCraftStainless Steel Kitchen Sink Strainer.
Grease, oil and bathroom products are more difficult to deal with so the best solution is to avoid getting them into the drainage system in the first place. Never pour oil into your sink, and flush out the drain with hot water after washing anything greasy.
Due to the products we all use on a day to day basis, it might not be possible to completely eliminate any form of drain blockage without rethinking all of your purchasing decisions. But if you spot the signs early you can prevent the problem getting worse; if water is taking longer to drain than usual a preventative gel treatment could fix the blockage early.