Burns Plumbing

A Guide to Clear a Drain Blockage

Blocked drains are a common and frustrating issue for homeowners and tenants alike. Whether it’s a slow drain in your kitchen sink or a complete blockage in your bathroom, the inconvenience and potential for damage make it a problem that needs immediate attention. This guide will provide you with practical advice on how to clear a blocked drain, identify signs of blockage, and understand the common causes, ensuring your water system remains in top condition.

Signs of a Blocked Drain 

Recognising the signs of a blocked drain early can save you from the hassle and expense of dealing with severe plumbing issues down the line. From slow draining water to the presence of pests, here are key indicators that your home’s drainage system may be compromised:
  1. Slow Draining Water: One of the earliest signs of a blocked drain is water draining more slowly than usual. If you notice water pooling around your feet in the shower or water taking longer to go down the drain in your sink, it’s likely you have a blockage.
  2. Unpleasant Odours: A foul smell emanating from your drains can be a clear indication of a blockage. As food, grease, and other substances build up in your pipe, they can start to decompose, releasing unpleasant odours.
  3. Gurgling Sounds: If you hear gurgling sounds coming from your drains, it’s a sign that air is trapped by the blockage and is struggling to escape through the water in your drain system.
  4. Water Backing Up: When water starts to back up out of a drain or toilet, it’s a strong indication that a blockage is preventing water from flowing through the pipes as it should. This can lead to overflow and potential water damage if not addressed promptly.
  5. Changes in Flush Efficiency: If your toilets are not flushing correctly, or the water level in the bowl is higher or lower than usual, it could signal a blockage in your sewer line affecting your home’s entire drainage system.
  6. Puddles Near Floor Drains: Finding unexpected water or puddles around floor drains in basements or laundry rooms can be a sign of a blockage somewhere in your drain system, causing water to find the least resistant path out.
  7. Fruit Flies or Drain Flies: An infestation of fruit flies or drain flies around your sinks or drains can be a sign of a blocked drain. These pests are attracted to the decomposing organic matter stuck in your pipes.

Common Causes of Blocked Drains in Sydney 

Blocked drains are a frequent issue in Sydney homes, causing inconvenience and potential damage if not addressed promptly. Various factors contribute to these blockages, ranging from everyday activities to natural occurrences. Here’s a deeper look into the common causes of blocked drains and why they pose a problem:

Hair Accumulation

Hair loss during showers and shaves leads to strands collecting in bathroom drains. Over time, these strands intertwine with grease and soap scum, creating a dense mesh-like clog. This hair-grease amalgam is particularly challenging to dissolve because it adheres tightly to the inner walls of pipes, significantly reducing water flow and eventually leading to complete blockages.

Grease and Fat Build-Up

When hot grease or fat is poured down kitchen sinks, it initially flows smoothly. However, as it cools, it congeals and sticks to the pipes’ interior. This sticky residue captures other particulates passing down the drain, such as food particles and small waste, compounding the blockage. Over time, this can lead to severe blockages that disrupt kitchen operations and may require professional intervention to resolve.

Foreign Objects

Drains and toilets are often treated as general waste disposal units, with items like sanitary products, cotton buds, wipes, and food scraps being flushed away. These objects are not designed to break down in water systems, leading to immediate blockages. The issue is compounded in systems with existing build-ups, where these objects can get caught, creating significant obstructions that disrupt the flow of water and can lead to back-ups and overflows.

Tree Roots

Tree roots seek out moisture and nutrients, which can lead them to grow towards and into sewer lines through existing vulnerabilities like cracks or loose joints. Once inside, they can quickly expand, obstructing the flow of water and causing backups. This natural intrusion can be particularly problematic because it not only blocks the flow but can also damage the structural integrity of the pipes, leading to leaks and necessitating extensive repairs or replacement of the affected sections.

Soap Scum Build-Up

Soap scum, a byproduct of bar soap mixed with minerals in water, can adhere to pipes, gradually accumulating and narrowing the diameter through which water can flow. This restriction not only slows down drainage but can also provide a surface for hair and other debris to latch onto, exacerbating blockages.

Mineral Build-Up

In areas with hard water, minerals dissolved in the water can precipitate and solidify inside pipes, creating a scale buildup. This mineral deposition can narrow the interior of pipes, reducing water flow and pressure, and in severe cases, completely block pipes. Mineral build-up requires specialised cleaning to remove the scale and restore pipe function. Understanding the common causes of blocked drains emphasises the importance of regular maintenance and cautious usage of drains to prevent these issues. While some blockages can be managed with DIY methods, the more complex cases, particularly those involving sewer lines or extensive mineral build-up, often require the expertise of a professional plumber to resolve efficiently and effectively.

Effective Ways to Clear a Blocked Drain

Boiling Water

This method is most suitable for minor blockages that don’t require aggressive intervention. To maximise effectiveness, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Gradually pour it down the affected drain in two or three intervals, allowing the hot water to penetrate and work on dissolving the blockage between each pour. The boiling water can melt away grease and soap residue, often clearing the path for water to flow.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Renowned for its efficacy and eco-friendliness, this method harnesses the chemical reaction between baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and vinegar (acetic acid) to dislodge blockages. Start by boiling a pot of water and pouring it down the drain to soften the clog. Next, add half a cup of baking soda directly into the drain, followed by a mixture of one cup of vinegar and one cup of hot water. Immediately cover the drain to contain the reaction below the surface, allowing it to fizz and break down the clog for about 5-10 minutes. Finish by flushing the drain with another pot of boiling water to clear away the loosened debris.

Drain Snake or Auger

For more stubborn blockages that boiling water and baking soda can’t clear, a drain snake or auger becomes necessary. Insert the coil end into the drain and turn the handle to extend the snake down into the pipe. When you feel resistance, you’ve likely reached the clog. Rotate the snake against the blockage to either break it apart or hook it so you can pull it out. This method is particularly effective for blockages too solid for chemical cleaners to dissolve, such as hair clumps or small objects.

Caustic Cleaner

These chemical drain cleaners can effectively dissolve organic matter causing the blockage. Pour the recommended amount of cleaner down the drain, allowing it to sit for the time specified by the product instructions to break down fats, hair, and other organic materials. Rinse thoroughly with hot water afterward. Note: Caustic cleaners should be used sparingly and carefully, as they can damage some pipe materials over time and pose health risks if mishandled.

Professional Plumber

Sometimes, a blockage is too severe for DIY methods or might be indicative of a more significant issue within your plumbing system. Professional plumbers have the expertise, experience, and tools necessary to diagnose and solve complex drainage problems. They can employ drain snakes, hydro-jetters, and even conduct camera inspections to identify and remove blockages effectively without risking damage to your pipes.

Signs Its Time to Call a Professional Plumber in Sydney 

Recognising the signs that it’s time to call a professional plumber in Sydney can save you from the inconvenience and potential damage of a severely blocked drain. Whether it’s your kitchen drain, shower drain, or outdoor drains, being aware of these indicators can help you act quickly:
  • Slow Water Flow: If water flow from your hot water system is noticeably reduced or if water pools around your feet in the shower and takes longer than usual to drain, it’s a clear sign of a blockage affecting your pipes and drains.
  • Gurgling Sounds: Hearing gurgling sounds from your sink drain or sewer drain indicates trapped air pushing through water in your drain system, a common symptom of a drain clog.
  • Unpleasant Odours: Foul smells emanating from your sink or drain are often the result of food particles, grease, and other substances decomposing in blocked pipes.
  • Water Backing Up: Water backing up out of your kitchen drain, shower drain, or any drain hole, especially after pouring hot water down the drain, suggests a severe blockage that prevents water from flowing smoothly.
  • DIY Drain Cleaning Inefficiency: If your attempts at clearing your blocked drain using a cup of baking soda followed by a cup of vinegar or hot water, or even a DIY drain snake, fail to clear the blockage, professional intervention is needed.
  • Frequent Clogs: Constantly dealing with clogged sinks, blocked pipes, or having to repeatedly unblock your drain points to a more significant, underlying issue that DIY tips for clearing blocked drains can’t solve.
  • Overflowing Drains: Outdoor drains or overflow drains that spill water onto your property are far from normal and require immediate attention to prevent water damage.
  • Chemical Drain Cleaners Fail: If chemical drain cleaners or a plunger over the drain opening don’t remove the blockage, it’s time to seek professional drain cleaning services to avoid damaging your pipes further.
  • Water Heater Issues: Noticing changes in your gas hot water system or if you’re contemplating to replace our hot water heater due to inconsistent water temperature, it could be related to blocked drains affecting overall water flow and pressure.
  • Visible Signs of Blockage: Visible signs like water staining around the drain or debris blocking the drain are direct indicators that your efforts to keep your drains flowing smoothly are insufficient, and professional drain maintenance is required.
If you encounter any of these signs, it’s crucial to contact a professional plumber who can efficiently clear the blockage, possibly through pipe relining or a powerful stream of water for drain cleaning, ensuring your drains are flowing smoothly again. Ignoring these signs can lead to more significant issues, like damaged pipes or an overworked hot water system, that only a skilled plumber can diagnose and resolve using tools like a CCTV drain inspection or more advanced unblocking techniques.

For Expert Blocked Drain Services in Sydney Call Burns Plumbing Today 

If you’re experiencing any of the signs of a blocked drain in your Sydney home and need expert assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out. For expert blocked drain services in Sydney, call Burns Plumbing today at (02) 9072 1165. Our professional team is ready to provide you with efficient and effective solutions to keep your drains flowing smoothly.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the signs that my hot water system is affected by a blocked drain?

Signs that a blocked drain is impacting your hot water system include fluctuating water temperatures, reduced water flow, and strange noises emanating from the hot water heater. These symptoms suggest that the blockage is causing pressure changes or obstructions within your water system, potentially affecting the efficiency and operation of your hot water heater.

Can I use DIY drain clearing methods for outdoor drains, or should I call a professional?

For outdoor drains, simple blockages can often be cleared with DIY methods such as pouring boiling water down the drain, using a mixture of baking soda and vinegar, or manually removing visible debris. However, if these methods fail to clear the blockage or if it recurs frequently, it’s advisable to call a professional plumber. Outdoor drains may have more complex issues like tree root infiltration, that require professional drain cleaning tools and expertise.

What are the most effective ways to clear a blocked shower drain?

To clear a blocked shower drain, start with boiling water to dissolve soap scum and grease. If the blockage persists, a combination of baking soda followed by vinegar can create a reaction that helps dislodge the clog. For tougher blockages, a drain snake or plunger can be used to physically remove or break down the obstruction. Remember, regular drain cleaning and avoiding the disposal of hair and soap buildup can prevent future blockages.

How does pipe relining work as a solution for recurrent drain blockages?

Pipe relining is an innovative method to repair and reinforce pipes from the inside without the need for excavation. It involves inserting a resin-coated liner into the existing pipe, which then hardens and creates a new, seamless pipe within the old one. This technique not only removes the blockage but also prevents future clogs by sealing off cracks and gaps where debris typically accumulates, making it an effective long-term solution for keeping your drains clear.

Are chemical drain cleaners safe for clearing blocked drains?

While chemical drain cleaners can be effective in dissolving certain types of blockages, they should be used with caution. These caustic cleaners can corrode older pipes and harm the environment. For safer alternatives, consider using hot water, baking soda and vinegar, or a drain auger for DIY solutions. For persistent or severe blockages, consulting a professional plumber is the safest and most effective way to clear blocked drains without damaging your plumbing system.

What tips do you recommend for maintaining clear drains and preventing future clogs?

To maintain clear drains and prevent future blockages, regularly flush drains with hot water to dissolve soap scum and grease buildup. Use strainers in sinks and showers to catch hair and debris, and avoid pouring grease or food scraps down the drain. For tougher clogs, periodically use a mixture of baking soda and vinegar to naturally break down buildup. Regularly inspecting and cleaning your sewer drain can also prevent major blockages. If you encounter recurring issues, consider scheduling a professional drain cleaning or pipe relining service to address and prevent further problems.

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