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How to clear blocked drains

Every home will have waste pipes and traps in the drainage system. If your sink, basin or bath is draining slowly, use the steps below to try to fix it.


Traps are a very important part of your drainage system. They're water seals that stop drain smells from getting into your home through sinks, basins and toilets.

If your sink, basin or bath becomes slow to drain (or stops draining completely) there's probably a blockage somewhere in your waste pipe. Common causes are grease in the trap, or fibres caught below the grid on the plug-hole.


You can buy drain unblocker from most general stores. These generate a strong turbulence that clears drains by agitation or pressure. It'll remove blockages caused by hair, soap build-up, paper, grease and food particles.

Usually you can use these on blocked or slow-flowing sinks, basins, baths or shower trays. And with a plunger, it can even clear blocked and slow-flowing toilets.

However, check the labels on the products for instructions on how to use and what it can be used on.

Blocked Shower?

Does your shower tray keep filling with water and draining slowly? This may be because the shower trap is full. This can be simply checked and cleared, by following the step by step guide below.

  • Lift off the cover - Some showers have covers over the plugs to stop you losing small items. There are many types but usually pop-up. Some pop-up drains cover pull straight up and off, others must be wiggled back and forth or may need unscrewing.
  • Clear the trap - Once the cap has been removed there may be clear signs of water build up, hair or small items causing the blockage. You will need to pull all items from the trap, this can be done with your hand (we recommend wearing gloves). Keep pulling the hair and items from the plug until the water clears and the trap is empty.

                                                 Blocked Shower Trap

  • Place the cover back on - This will go back the same way it came off, either clipped or screwed in.

Blocked Sink?

  • Block up the over flow - this is the small whole, usually found on the side of the basin under the taps. It is best to cover with a towel or cloth.

                                                      Sink Overflow

  • Use a plunger - place this over your plughole, cover with water (this will help you to create an airtight seal) and grip the handle with both hands. Pump up and down to create suction until the blockage is dislodged.

                                                     Using a plunger

How to unblock the sink without a plunger

If you do not have a plunger or the plunger did not work, the following steps may help.

  • Add baking soda and vinegar - Add a couple of teaspoons of baking powder, followed by a cup of white vinegar. Bicarb of soda can also be used in place of baking soda.
  • Pour in biological washing powder - Pop two tablespoons of biological washing powder down the plughole, followed by a kettle of boiling water. This should remove any fats or grease that have built up.
  • Insert a long wire - Get hold of a long flexible wire tool. Feed it into the drain, so it bends around the pipe and clears what’s blocking it.

                              Wire Tool

  • Check the trap - you may have to remove the waste trap. Put a bucket under it to catch any spillage, then unscrew the trap and empty the contents. Put the trap back together. But don't over-tighten it, as it'll be difficult to undo in the future.

                    Checking a Sink Trap


Blocked Toilet?

When you've got a blocked toilet pan, the water rises almost to the rim when you flush, and then drains away very slowly.

  • Try pouring a bucket of warm water into the pan from a height. This can clear a minor blockage.
  • Place a large toilet plunger over the pan outlet and pump the handle up and down.
  • If that doesn't shift it, use an auger designed for a toilet. It’s a probe that extends around the U-bend and rotates as you turn the handle, removing the blockage. But make sure you put on protective gloves and read the manufacturer's instructions before you do this.

With over 30 years experience in letting property, you can have it on good authority that these tips will help you unblock your drains.

What do you think? Did these tips help you? Did we miss anything out? Let us know in the comments!

Don't forget to check out our latest blogs for more helpful tips and ideas!

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