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How can you unblock an external drain?

How to unblock an external drain

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The following options should give you an idea as to the possible methods and the order to approach the unblocking of an external drain.

Drain rods

drain rods Drain rods are specialised tools for unblocking external drains. They are used by professionals but are easy enough for most people to master. They consist of short sections of rod which can be screwed together and fed into a blocked waste pipe.

Along a drainage system there will be manholes, specific rodding points and clean outs where drain rods can be used, these are all above ground access points to drain pipes.

blocked and clear drain To use a set of drain rods, you will need to uncover the manhole closest to your property. If the manhole is filled with water, then you have located your blockage. If clear, move on to the next manhole.

There will be a pipe leading away from the manhole, which you feed your drain rod down; extending as you go. You must remember to twist the rod in the same direction it is screwed, so they don’t come undone.


snaking a drain A drain auger can be inserted in a similar way to drain rods; via a manhole or access point. However, they will be more difficult to manoeuvre through a manhole.

A powered auger is the most suitable tool for use in external drains because of its added power.

Gully grabbing

gully grab in use A gully grab can be used to retrieve blockages in gullies, manholes and other external drains. They are designed more for removing leaves, stones, silt and other natural build-ups.

However, they are quite expensive tools if they are only going to be used once or twice.

Call an expert

call the plumber If the above methods are unsuccessful or you are unsure about external blockages, and even if they are your responsibility to clear, then it is best to call an expert drain cleaner or plumber.

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