Blocked Drains: How to Clear


Dealing with blocked drains can be a frustrating and messy experience. However, before you call in the professionals, there are several do-it-yourself (DIY) methods you can try to clear the blockage. This article explores a variety of these methods, evaluating their effectiveness and providing step-by-step instructions to help you tackle common drain clogs. Read on to discover which DIY solutions can help keep your drains flowing smoothly and when it might be time to seek professional help. And if none of these methods to clear clogged drains work, there are also professional services that are discussed below that you may consider as well.

Do-It-Yourself Methods

There are a lot of DIY methods that you may consider if you want to clear blocked drains. In this section, we weigh on these options to see if these can really help you address your clogged drains.

Boiling Water

Pouring boiling water down the drain can help dissolve small accumulations of fat, grease, and soap scum, which can cause blockages.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Mixing baking soda and vinegar creates a chemical reaction that can help break down and remove blockages. Pour ½ cup baking soda into the drain, followed by ½ cup vinegar, and let it sit for a few hours or overnight before flushing with boiling water.

Wire Hanger

Using a wire hanger to fish out objects stuck in the drain can be effective for minor clogs. Bend the end of the wire to create a hook and carefully push it into the drain to dislodge the blockage.

Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds are not a recommended method for clearing blocked drains. In fact, they can cause significant problems and clogs in pipes. Here are some reasons why:

  • Coffee Grounds Do Not Break Down. Only about 30% of ground coffee beans dissolve in water, leaving the remaining 70% intact and capable of accumulating and clogging pipes over time.
  • Clumping and Accumulation. Coffee grounds tend to clump together in pipes, leading to partial blockages and delayed drainage. If left unchecked, these clumps can eventually cause total blockages.
  • Garbage Disposal Issues. Pouring coffee grounds down the garbage disposal can cause problems as well. The grounds can dry out and collect between impellers or in drain pipes, making it difficult to remove them.
  • Odours and Foul Smells. Clogged drains caused by coffee grounds can lead to unpleasant odours and foul smells due to the accumulation of other waste and debris.
  • Long-Term Damage. Repeatedly flushing coffee grounds down the drain can lead to long-term damage and costly repairs. It is recommended to avoid using coffee grounds for drain cleaning and instead opt for more effective and sustainable methods.

Dishwashing Tablets

Dishwashing tablets can help clear blocked drains in certain situations, but their effectiveness is limited. Here are some ways they can be used:

  • Breaking Down Grease and Food Particles. Dishwasher tablets contain powerful cleaning agents that can break down grease, food particles, and other debris that may be clogging the drain. These agents work by dissolving and dissolving the blockage, making it easier to flush away.
  • Enzymatic Action. The enzymes in dishwasher tablets are particularly effective at breaking down organic matter, such as food particles and grease, further aiding in the unblocking process.
  • Fizzing Action. When a dishwasher tablet is dropped into a drain, it starts to fizz and dissolve in contact with water. This fizzing action helps dislodge the clog and clears the drain.
  • Preventive Measure. While dishwasher tablets are not intended as a regular preventive measure, they can help prevent minor build-up in drains by breaking down grease and food residue.

However, it is important to note that dishwasher tablets are not a guaranteed solution for all drain blockages. They are best used for minor clogs and should not be relied upon for severe or stubborn blockages. For more serious plumbing issues, it is recommended to seek professional help from a licensed plumber

Dishwashing Liquid and Boiling Water

Applying dish detergent to areas prone to clogging, such as shower drains, can help lubricate the drain and break up residue. Use a plunger or your hands to remove the blockage.

Toilet Paper

Toilet paper can actually contribute to blocked drains rather than help clear them. When excessive amounts of toilet paper are flushed down the drain, especially in combination with other materials like grease, hair, or foreign objects, it can lead to clogs. These clogs can obstruct the flow of water in the pipes, causing blockages that may require professional intervention to clear. Therefore, it is important to be mindful of the amount of toilet paper being used and to avoid flushing excessive quantities to prevent drain blockages.


Bleach is not an effective method for clearing blocked drains. It does not dissolve or break down common culprits of household drain clogs such as hair, food scraps, and grease. Instead, bleach can cause harm to the integrity of pipes and drains, leading to further problems.

  • Ineffective Against Common Clogs. Bleach does not dissolve or break down hair, food scraps, and grease, which are common causes of clogs.
  • Corrosive and Damaging. Bleach is corrosive and can damage pipes, especially those made of metal, copper, or PVC. It can also discolour sinks and damage garbage disposals.
  • Toxic Fumes and Health Risks. Bleach is an eye and respiratory irritant, and its fumes can cause breathing problems, skin irritation, and other health issues.
  • Mixing with Other Chemicals Can Be Hazardous. Bleach can react with other household cleaners, such as ammonia, to create toxic gases that can cause serious health problems.
  • Not a Long-Term Solution. Bleach may temporarily clear a clog, but it does not address the underlying issue. The clog can return if you haven't addressed the cause.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil cannot help clear blocked drains. In fact, coconut oil can actually contribute to the blocked drain causes if poured down the sink.

Here's why:

  • Coconut oil solidifies at room temperature, so when it cools in the pipes, it can harden and stick to the sides of the drain, slowly building up and causing a blockage over time.
  • Pouring coconut oil down the drain, even when mixed with other substances like shampoo, can still lead to clogs.
  • Coconut oil is similar to other fats, oils, and greases (FOGs) that are known to cause major drain blockages and fatbergs in sewer pipes.

Washing Soda

Washing soda, also known as sodium carbonate, is a natural and effective DIY drain cleaner. Pour a cup of washing soda down the sink, followed by boiling hot water, and let it sit for five minutes before rinsing with tap water.


Using a plunger can be effective for minor clogs. It can help clear blocked drains by creating suction to loosen and remove blockages. Here's how it works:

  • Position the Plunger. Place the plunger over the drain hole, ensuring a tight seal around the edges. For toilets, use a flange plunger, and for sinks and showers, use a sink plunger that fits over the drain hole.
  • Create Suction. Move the plunger handle up and down to create suction, which helps loosen the blockage. For toilets, plunge for 10-20 seconds, and for sinks and showers, plunge for 20-30 seconds.
  • Break the Seal. If the blockage persists, lift the plunger off the drain and reposition it to maintain the airtight seal. This ensures the suction remains effective.
  • Repeat and Flush. Continue plunging until you clear the blockage. After that. flush the drain with hot water to ensure the water flows freely.

Drain Snake

A drain snake dislodges blockages caused by hair and other solids. It is a simple yet effective tool for unclogging drains, especially when plungers are not effective. Here's how it works:

  • Insert the Snake. Insert the snake into the drain opening, ensuring a tight seal around the edges. For toilets, use a flange plunger, and for sinks and showers, use a sink plunger that fits over the drain hole.
  • Push and Twist. Push the snake down the drain until you feel resistance, then twist the handle clockwise to break up the blockage. Continue pushing and twisting until you clear the blockage.
  • Clear the Blockage. Once the blockage is broken up, continue rotating the snake in a clockwise motion to remove any remaining debris.
  • Retrieve the Snake. Slowly pull out the snake to remove any remaining debris. Run hot water through the pipes to ensure the drain is completely clear.
  • Repeat if Necessary. If the blockage persists, repeat the process until the drain is clear.

Using a drain snake can be an effective DIY method for clearing minor blockages in drains, especially those caused by hair, soap scum, and grease. However, if the blockage is severe or complex, seek professional help from a licensed plumber

Enzymatic Drain Cleaners

Bacteria-based enzymatic drain cleaners can help clear blocked drains by using enzymes and bacteria to break down organic matter that causes clogs. Here's how they work:

  • Enzymes Break Down Organic Matter. The enzymes in these cleaners target and break down the complex organic molecules that make up the blockage, such as hair, grease, food particles, and soap scum.
  • Bacteria Consume the Byproducts. As the enzymes break down the organic matter, bacteria consume the byproducts. This process creates more bacteria, which helps spread the enzymes throughout the drain system.
  • Gradual Clearing of the Blockage. Over time, the enzymes and bacteria work together to gradually break down and clear the blockage. This process can take hours, days, or even weeks depending on the severity of the clog.
  • Preventive Maintenance. Enzymatic drain cleaners can also be used for preventive maintenance by regularly introducing enzymes and bacteria into the drain system. This helps prevent future clogs by breaking down organic buildup before it becomes a problem.
  • Safe for Pipes and Environment. Unlike chemical drain cleaners, enzymatic cleaners are safe for pipes and the environment. They do not contain harsh chemicals that can corrode pipes or release toxic fumes.

Professional Services

For more severe or recurring issues, professional plumbers can use CCTV drain cameras and hydro jetting to locate and remove blockages. Professional plumbing methods for clearing blocked drains include:

Drain Auger (Snake)

A drain auger, also known as a snake, is a flexible wire with a spiral tip. Professionals insert it into the drain to remove obstructions. This tool is effective for removing blockages caused by hair, soap scum, and grease.

Hydro Jetting

Hydro Jetting uses high-pressure water jets to remove stubborn blockages and buildup in pipes. This method is particularly effective for removing all types of debris and blockages from drain pipes.

High-Definition Drain and Sewer Line Cameras

These cameras are used to inspect the interior of pipes and detect the location, size, and nature of blockages. This helps plumbers choose the appropriate tool to remove the blockage.

Manual and Motorised Drain Snakes

Professionals use these to dislodge debris and clear minor clogs. They are particularly useful for removing blockages caused by hair and other solids.

Chemical Drain Cleaners

Chemical drain cleaners are commercial products designed to dissolve or break down clogs. However, they should be used sparingly and with caution due to the potential damage they can cause to pipes.

Excavation to Access Pipes

In extreme cases, excavation may be necessary to access and repair or replace pipes. Qualified plumbers typically perform this method.

These professional methods are often more effective and safer than DIY attempts, especially for severe blockages or complex issues that require specialised tools and expertise.

Clear Your Clogged Drains with Ease

At All Needs Plumbing, we understand the frustration of dealing with a clogged drain. That's why we're here to help you clear your blockages quickly and efficiently. Our expert plumbers offer a range of services to suit your needs. We'll provide you with the best possible solution. We offer a $0 callout fee, and we will not charge for the initial visit. 

Our 24/7 same-day service means you can rely on us to address your clogged drain promptly, day or night. Additionally, we provide a 15% seniors' discount to show our appreciation for the contributions seniors make to our community. If you're in need of a new hot water system, we offer a $150 discount to help you save on installation costs. Contact All Needs Plumbing today to schedule your appointment and let us help you clear your clogged drains with ease.

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