How to unblock a drain

24 April 2023

Blocked drains can be a pesky problem in any home. Fortunately, identifying and unblocking a blocked drain is often something you can do without having to call in the professionals.

Common signs of a blocked drain

  • Slow-draining water. If water takes longer than usual to drain from your sink, bathtub or shower, it could be a sign of a blockage.
  • Foul odours. Blockages can cause unpleasant smells to come from your drains, especially if food waste or other organic matter is involved.
  • Gurgling sounds. If you hear gurgling noises coming from your pipes when you use your sink or flush the toilet, there is likely a blockage somewhere in the system.
  • Water backing up. If water starts backing up out of your sink or shower drain when you run the tap, this is another clear indication of a blockage.
  • Puddles on the floor. A blocked drain can sometimes cause water to overflow from sinks and toilets, which can lead to puddles forming around them.

If you notice any of these in your home, it's important to address them as soon as possible to prevent further damage or more serious plumbing issues down the track.

What might be blocking my drain?

Many things could be blocking your drain – from common household items to more serious issues. 

  • Hair. This is one of the most common causes of blocked drains, especially in bathroom sinks and showers.
  • Soap scum. Over time, soap can build up in your pipes and cause blockages.
  • Food waste. Cooking oil, grease and food scraps can all clog up your kitchen sink if they aren't disposed of properly.
  • Tree roots. If you have trees growing near your pipes, their roots can sometimes grow into them and cause blockages.
  • Foreign objects. Children's toys or other small items can accidentally be dropped down a drain and cause a blockage.
  • Broken pipes. In some cases, broken or damaged pipes can lead to blockages as debris collects in the damaged area.

If you’re not sure what’s causing the blockage in your drain, it may be best to call a professional plumber who can diagnose the issue and recommend an appropriate solution.

If you have a home emergency of a blocked drain and have added optional Suncorp Home Assist cover to your home insurance policy, we’ll send out a plumber to get things sorted as quickly as possible – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Suncorp Home Assist covers you for home emergencies which are sudden and unforeseen incidents that occur at your home, and require urgent attention from plumbers, electricians, locksmiths and carpenters. It includes:

  • 3 emergency excess-free call-outs during your policy period, with no call-out fee.
  • Repair materials covered up to $50.
  • Up to 2 hours emergency assistance per call-out.
  • Access to a trusted list of tradespersons.

Please note that Suncorp Home Assist can't be used in the first 24 hours after being added to your policy. An emergency call-out will be deducted from your entitlement if our tradesperson attends your insured address but is unable to assist because there is no home emergency. Other terms and conditions apply, so read the PDS for more information.

Get a Suncorp Home Assist quote  

How to unblock a drain

There are several methods you can try to unblock a drain, depending on the cause and severity of the blockage. Here are some common solutions:

  • Plunger: A plunger is a simple and effective tool for dislodging minor blockages in toilet, sink and shower pipes.
  • Boiling water: Pouring boiling water down your drain can sometimes be enough to break up small blockages caused by grease, soap or hair.
  • Baking soda and vinegar: Mix baking soda with vinegar to create a fizzing reaction that can help break up blockages. Pour this mixture down your drain and let it sit for about 30 minutes before flushing with boiling water.
  • Drain snake: A drain snake is a long, flexible tool that can be used to manually remove blockages from your pipes. 
  • Chemical cleaners: There are many chemical drain cleaners available that can dissolve stubborn blockages. However, these products can be harmful if not used correctly, so be sure to follow all instructions carefully.
  • Call a professional: If none of the above methods work, it's best to call a professional plumber who can safely and effectively clear your blocked drain.

How to avoid future blockages

Preventing a blocked drain can be much cheaper and easier than fixing one. Here are our top tips to avoid one:

  • Dispose of waste properly: Avoid pouring oil, grease, coffee grounds, or other food scraps down the drain.
  • Use a drain screen: Place a small mesh screen over your drains to catch hair, soap scum and other debris before it enters your pipes.
  • Regular cleaning: Regularly cleaning your drains with baking soda and vinegar can help prevent blockages from forming.
  • Fix leaks promptly: Leaks can lead to water damage and mould growth, which can make drainage problems worse.
  • Tree roots: If you have trees growing near your pipes, consider removing them or installing root barriers to prevent roots from growing into your pipes.
  • Professional inspection: Scheduling a plumber to perform regular inspections can help to identify any potential issues before they become major problems. 

By following these simple tips, you can help keep your drains and pipes clear and flowing freely for years to come.

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*Subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions of your policy. We do not cover loss or damage caused by wear, tear and gradual deterioration.

Insurance issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as Suncorp Insurance. Limits, conditions and exclusions apply. Read the Product Disclosure Statement before buying this insurance. The Target Market Determination is also available. This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it's appropriate for you before acting on it. 

The information is intended to be of general nature only. Subject to any rights you may have under any law, we do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss or damage, including loss of business or profits or any other indirect loss, incurred as a result of reliance upon the information. Please make your own enquiries.