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How to unblock sinks and toilets!

Before you get started

Cleaning products can be corrosive, so follow any manufacturers' guidelines. Never use a chemical cleaner with a plunger. All precautions must be taken when using a chemical cleaner. Check and double-check usage recommendations.

Chemical cleaners may need to be left overnight to clear a significant blockage in a pipe.

Drain rods or professional help may be necessary if blockages are only accessible through an external manhole.

Bath and shower waste systems tend to block if there is a build up of hair. Try to clear plugholes regularly to prevent hair slipping into the trap and obstructing the waste pipe system.

Fat and oil can accumulate in kitchen waste pipes if you pour excess down the sink. These can then settle, solidify and cause problems that are easily avoided if you recycle fats in another way.

When using a drain cleaner (also known as a drain auger), take care not to allow the steel coil to scratch the surfaces of your fittings.

Rodding eyes are access points fitted throughout a household waste pipe system for quick and easy access whenever and wherever it is needed, allowing a drain cleaner in to clear a blockage.

Regular blockages could be caused by an inadequate 'fall' (slope downwards) in the pipes in parts of the drainage system. This might require adjustment by a plumber.

Check gullies outside regularly to make sure that they are not getting blocked with leaves or any other debris.

Waste disposal units easily block if not operated exactly to a manufacturer's guidelines. Pipes must be flushed through as recommended to keep them clear.

A dishwasher will work more efficiently and the pipes will stay clear if dishwasher filters are regularly cleaned.

Different plunger designs are now available. The traditional rubber cup design works well, but a hydraulic design will clear blockages faster.

Prevent blockages by not washing DIY tools in the sink unless all excess material has been removed. This is especially the case with adhesives, fillers and plasters, as they can all easily settle and solidify in the waste pipes and cause blockages. It is much better to wash up in a bucket in the garden.

Unblock toilets

1 Chemical cleaners can be poured into waste traps to clear them. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines as they can be dangerous if used incorrectly.

2 An alternative technique to clearing a blockage is to use a drain cleaner (a drum auger is shown in this example, but the technique similar). Pull a length of auger from the drum – a 1m length is normally long enough.

3 Tighten the retaining nut on the body of the drum auger so that the length you will be pushing through the waste system is held firm.

4 Push the coiled auger end into the toilet U-bend and turn the handle so that the end can twist through, dislodge the blockage and break it up.

5 When the blockage has been cleared, disinfect all equipment used with a household disinfectant. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines carefully.

6 Soak the tools as directed, rinse thoroughly and allow to dry before packing away. Allow the auger coil to dry thoroughly before winding it in.

Unblock sinks

1 Where water is not draining away in a sink, position a plunger over the plughole of the sink or basin and hold a rag over the overflow.

2 Move the plunger up and down and at the same time keep the overflow covered. The vacuum you create should dislodge the blockage.

3 If the plunger fails, unscrew the sump section of the basin trap underneath the sink. Make sure there is a bucket below to catch the overflow.

4 Remove any debris that has been causing the blockage from the trap and reposition, making sure that any rubber washers are positioned correctly.

5 If you don't find a blockage in the sump, you will need to dig deeper, so unscrew the main part of the trap, to give access to the waste pipe.


Use a drain cleaner or drum auger to burrow into the waste system using the same technique as when unblocking a toilet. Reassemble the trap and disinfect equipment.

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