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How to unblock a sink, bath or shower

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blocked sink When faced with a blocked or slow-draining sink, bath or shower, there are several methods to try to fix it. The following options should give you an idea as to the possible methods and the order to approach the unblocking of a sink, bath or shower.

1. Clearing the trap…

types of plumbing trap All fixtures with a waste pipe will include a trap. A trap is a bend in the pipe (U-bend) which prevents a small amount of water from leaving the pipe, to prevent odours, bacteria and insects from travelling up the pipes and into your home.

There are three main types of trap: P traps, S traps and bottle traps.

The nature of traps means that they are a target for blockages.

unscrew plumbing trap on sink However almost all traps can be unscrewed. This means that you can access the most likely place of a blockage with ease.

Simply unscrew the trap by hand or with an adjustable spanner (making sure you have a bucket underneath) and clean out the pipes. You can also run water through the now open pipe, from the fixture, to clear blockages there.

2. Plunging…

sink plunger The correct type of plungercan be used to slowly force blockages through the pipes, by the suction of water. It is important that it is water, and not air, being moved by the plunger, because water does not compress.

Plungers are relatively cheap and widely available. However, if you are aware of an object obstructing the pipes then the plunging method should be bypassed to stop it being pushed into the sewer.

plunging a sink To plunge a bath, basin or sink you will need to cover the overflow hole with a rag to stop airflow. Then fill with water before and after you place the plunger over the plughole.

Move the plunger slowly up and down to force blockages along the pipe.

3. Snaking…

barbed drain unclogger in use

With a barbed drain unclogger

Hair in the first section of pipe is the most common cause of blockages, especially in baths and showers. The barbed drain unclogger will clear this.

It is cheap and easy to use – one of the best things to try without wasting time and money.

snaking the drain

With a drain auger

Drain augers will clear a long way down the waste pipe. They are effective for both dislodging general blockages and retrieving lost items, like jewellery.

4. Hot water…

pour hot water down drain Hot water should be poured down waste pipes after you have cleared them. The water will further help dissolve any residue throughout the pipes.

It is advisable to pour hot water down the pipes every couple of months to maintain and discourage blockages.

5. Bicarbonate of soda and vinegar…

baking soda and white vinegar equals clean drain When the bath, sink, basin or bath is cleared of major blockages using one or more of the other methods, the pipes can be further cleaned by the use of bicarbonate of  soda and white vinegar.

Simply sprinkle in bicarbonate of  soda and wash it down with vinegar. These substances react when mixed and will help clean the walls of the pipes.

6. Chemicals…

drain unblocking chemicals Chemical drain cleaners should be a last resort, as they are harmful to the environment and can damage the pipes.

If you do choose to try a chemical cleaner, make sure that you follow the instructions on the packaging carefully.

7. Calling the plumber…

call the plumber If the fixture is still not draining correctly after using these methods, then it may be that your blockage is further down the system.

In this case, the best solution is to call a drain cleaning expert or a plumber. They can also look for any underlying problems that are causing blockages.