Formerly Jim's Plumbing

Clear a Blocked Drain

7 Ways to Clear a Blocked Drain

Blocked drains are a common plumbing problem in Australia. They usually occur unexpectedly and can even have an impact on newly installed pipes.

To avoid facing severe consequences such as leaks and flooding, it is essential to be prepared and to learn what the tell-tale signs of a blocked drain are. There are also a number of dos and don’ts when it comes to drain maintenance and items you should never allow to be put down your drains.

To start with, it’s important to be able to recognise when you’ve got a blocked drain and when you might need to call in a qualified plumber.

What are the Signs of a Blocked Drain?

Just to clarify, your home has two drainage systems – stormwater and sewerage. Anything that goes down a drain inside goes into the sewer and eventually ends up at a treatment plant. Outside water flows into your stormwater drains and is not treated.

That means there are different types of drains and different signs to look out for. Here’s a few indications that you might have a blocked drain.

  • Bad smells – If you notice unpleasant odours while you’re washing dishes, it could be food stuck in the drain. Make sure you never wash leftovers down a drain. Food scraps and grease can get caught in your drainage system.
  • Blocked toilet – This can be one of the worst problems when it comes to blocked drains. You’ll know immediately if you’ve got a blocked toilet. Make sure nothing goes down a toilet other than human waste and toilet paper.
  • Slow-draining water – If you notice water is draining slowly in a kitchen or bathroom sink or shower drain, it’s almost certain you’ve got a blockage. It could be caused by food scraps, hair or a buildup of grease and soap. And it’s likely to get worse.
  • Flooding – When your drains start flooding, you’ve got a major problem. That means there’s no way through the blockage and water’s going to start coming out the wrong end. This can even be caused by tree roots invading one of your drains in search of water. It could be time to call a professional.
  • Noisy pipes and drains – Gurgling sounds coming from your drains is not good news. Water is still moving and finding a way through, but the downside is that you’ve got a blockage which is going to get worse.

So, there are just a few signs you’ve got a blocked drain. How do you fix it? Here are seven tips for remedying blocked drains.

1. Try Using Boiling Water

The first solution to try is pouring boiling water down the blocked drain. This is the most basic of remedies, but it has been known to work.

While boiling water is not a completely reliable method it can be effective with minor blockages. It’s a good place to start before you’re forced to up the ante.

However, keep in mind that it’s not advisable to pour boiling water down polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or plastic pipes as it may soften them.

2. Make Your Own Drain Cleaner

Alternatively, you can create a natural cleaner using bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. Both are typically available at the supermarket, if not already in most household pantries. This method is most effective at clearing drain blockages caused by grease and other organic matter (e.g. food scraps).

The simple ratio is a half-a-cup of bicarbonate and two cups of vinegar. And then:

  • Pour the bicarbonate of soda down the drain, aiming to get it deep down as possible. A plastic funnel might be useful.
  • Pour half the vinegar down the drain – it will react with the bicarb and fizz.
  • Cover the drain with plastic or a plate so that the fizz goes down the blocked drain.
  • Pour the remainder of the vinegar down the drain and let it set for an hour or longer.
  • When the time is up, pour a kettle of hot water down the drain to clear the natural cleaner and whatever’s left of the blockage.

3. The Old-Fashioned Plunger

The old faithful plunger is useful for clearing clogs caused by the accumulation of waste. Most people already have a plunger but, if you don’t happen to have one, they’re easy to find at a hardware store.

Plungers are simple to use. It’s just a matter of placing the plunger’s rubber flange over the mouth of the blocked drain, then pulling it back slightly to create a seal. Then pull the plunger in and out vigorously for several minutes or until you hear a gurgling sound.

Always keep the rubber flange covered in water to ensure it remains sealed. Try to keep some old towels nearby because it could get messy.

4. Store-Bought Chemical Cleaners

Another possible solution is to buy a chemical drain cleaner from a hardware store. These are generally easy to use and usually come with detailed instructions.

They can be diluted by water or poured straight down a drain. A store-bought drain cleaner works in a similar way to bicarb and vinegar and is best used for blockages caused by organic waste.

Sometimes they may need to be used several times to work, but if you’ve still got a blockage after that it might be time to step up the attack.

5. Do You Need a CCTV Drain Inspection?

If the issue is more serious than a simple clog, a CCTV drain inspection can identify more complex problems such as damaged or collapsed pipes.

It could be a case where there is more than one blockage or that the problem is further along than expected. Whatever the reason, using a CCTV drain camera will reveal exactly what is causing your blocked drains.

This removes any guesswork and will lead to the exact location of the blockage and an effective solution.

6. Cutting Edge – Hydrojet and Electric Drain Machines

After identifying the cause of the obstruction, a hydrojet drain cleaner or an electric drain machine will destroy even the hardest of drain blockages.

This is the cutting edge in drain cleaning technology and must be operated by a qualified plumber. With a reach of up to 100 metres, a hydrojet can blast highly pressurised water through pipes and drains to clear extremely stubborn blockages.

An electric drain machine uses a flexible cable with a versatile cutting edge which can slice and cut through difficult obstructions. However, it has a shorter reach than a hydrojet.

7. You May Need Drain Excavation

It has to be said that drain excavation is a last resort and is only used when other methods have been exhausted. This is necessary when a drain has been completely destroyed by whatever has caused the blockage.

Such destruction is often caused by invading tree roots, while shifting and compacting soil can also cause drains to collapse. While drains can sometimes be repaired using pipe relining, if it has completely collapsed it will probably need replacing. That means digging up the yard and installing new pipes.

While this is the most expensive and invasive solution, the upside is that you’ll have new pipes which should have a very long lifespan, particularly if you use PVC drain pipes.

The Pros and Cons of DIY Drain Cleaning

DIY drain cleaning can be a tempting option when you’re faced with a drain blockage. It has its advantages, but there are also a few downsides to consider.


  • Cost-effective: One of the major benefits of DIY drain cleaning is that it can save you money. You won’t have to hire a professional plumber to clear a blocked drain, which can be costly.
  • Convenience: With a variety of DIY drain cleaning methods available, you can tackle the issue at a time that suits you. You don’t have to wait for a plumber to arrive, potentially minimising any inconvenience caused by the blockage.
  • Empowerment: Successfully clearing clogged drains on your own can give you a sense of accomplishment and empowerment. It allows you to take control of the situation and solve the problem independently.


  • Limited effectiveness: DIY methods may not always be as effective as professional techniques. Stubborn blockages may require specialized equipment and expertise that only a plumber can provide.
  • Potential damage: If you’re not familiar with proper drain cleaning techniques, there’s a risk of causing damage to your pipes. This can lead to more significant issues down the line, resulting in higher repair costs.
  • Safety concerns: Some DIY drain cleaning methods involve the use of chemicals that can be hazardous if mishandled. It’s crucial to follow safety guidelines and use protective gear to avoid any accidents or harm.

While DIY drain cleaning can be a viable option for minor drain blockages, it’s essential to assess the severity of the problem and your own capabilities before attempting it.

Know When to Call in the Professionals

There’s nothing wrong with using DIY methods when you need to clear blocked drains. That’s usually the first step most householders take, and it will often get your water flowing again.

But the key to dealing with blocked drains is knowing when to call a fully qualified plumber. When a blockage is really tough, you’re experiencing flooding or a pipe has completely collapsed, you’ll need a professional.

The main benefits of calling a plumber are clearing the blocked drain so that your household can get back to normal and, best of all, achieving a long-term solution.

Please note: This information is provided for advice purposes only. Regulations differ from state to state, so please consult your local authorities or an industry professional before proceeding with any work. See our Terms & Conditions here.