How to Unblock Sinks and Toilets

an unblocked toilet in a bathroom

Blocked Sinks and Toilets are a common household problem that can be easily fixed with a bit of DIY knowledge. Occasionally the problem might be more severe than just a few trapped potato peelings or a wad of toilet paper and you may need to call a plumber, but why not see if you can save yourself the call-out fee first?

Blocked Sinks

Unblocking a Sink With a Plunger

Plunging the blocked sink should always be the first thing you try, and in most cases plunging will fix the immediate problem. A plunger, a rubber suction cup on a wooden or plastic handle, should be in the basic DIY kit of every household. Plungers cost just a few pounds, so if you don’t already have one, buy one soon and keep it under your kitchen sink in case of problems.

  1. Plungers work best with some water in the sink and the overflow blocked with a damp cloth.
  2. Place the suction cup over the plughole, ensuring it covers it completely, and pump it up and down a few times. In most cases, this will clear your blockage and get the waste water running again.
  3. It is worth buying some drain cleaning liquid or foam to completely clear the drain in case the blockage was part of an ongoing build-up of fat or other debris.

If simply plunging does not clear the stubborn blockage, you might need the increased pressure of a force pump or aerosol clearer (available from most DIY stores), which can also be used with the sink empty. These both send a higher-pressure jet of air down the waste pipe, so are more likely to clear stubborn blockages.

Using an Auger to Unblock a Sink

Augers (or Plumber’s Snake) are more useful if you have a sink with a U-bend (or P-Trap) rather than a bottle trap. Take a look at the pipework underneath the sink and you will quickly be able to tell a U-bend from a Bottle Trap. See below for advice on using an Auger on a waste pipe fitted with a bottle trap.

The flexible steel Auger rod is pushed down the plughole and along the waste pipe to the blockage. Twisting the auger whilst moving it gently backwards and forwards should then dislodge or break up most tough blockages. You can buy Augers very cheaply from most DIY stores and are a useful addition to any DIY plumbing tool kit.

Unblocking a Bottle Trap

If your sink has a Bottle Trap (a cup-shaped device directly below the sink), plunging the plughole might not work. If it does not, you will need to remove the bottle trap. Before removing the trap, scoop as much of the trapped water out of the sink as possible, place a bucket underneath it and make sure you are wearing old clothes. You can then slowly unscrew the Bottle Trap and let the remaining wastewater drain into the bucket.

If the trap itself is blocked, dismantle it and clear it out carefully before replacing it. If the blockage is not obviously in the trap, it may be further along the waste pipe. Because you have removed the bottle trap, you will be able to insert an Auger directly into the waste pipe and hopefully dislodge the blockage that way.

No Auger? – If you do not have an Auger to hand when your sink blocks, and if you do not have the time to go and buy one, you can use a wire coat hanger (or a similar length of wire) straightened out and bent at the end to form a small hook.

How to Unblock Toilets

If you have ever flushed the toilet and watched as the water rises instead of disappearing, you will know the sense of panic that can hit you when you have a blocked toilet. Watching that horrible mix of toilet paper, water and bodily waste rise to almost the top of the toilet bowl is enough to have anyone reaching for the local plumber’s phone number.

However, although it is not a nice job, clearing a blocked toilet is certainly something you can do yourself if you have the stomach for it.

1. Preparing the Toilet and Bathroom

The first thing you need to do is to get prepared. Find some old clothes and put on a pair of rubber gloves. Ideally, you want to get yourself a long-handled toilet plunger and a flexible drain auger. Both of these tools can be bought or hired from most tool hire shops.

If possible, peel back the flooring around the toilet so that it does not get ruined by splashed wastewater and lay old sheets around the base of the WC.

2. Clearing a Partial Blockage

If the water is draining away very slowly, you only have a partial blockage (which still needs to be cleared of course). Let the water drain right down and then half-fill a bucket with tap water. Hold the bucket up high and pour it directly into the bottom of the toilet bowl.

The pressure of the water poured from height might, in some cases, clear the blockage. Do Not try this method if the toilet is completely blocked and not draining at all.

3. Using Your Hands

If the toilet is completely blocked and no water is draining away, you will need to resort to dirtier methods to clear it. You first need to remove most of the water from the toilet bowl using a small plastic bowl to scoop it into a bucket. The bucket of waste can then be poured directly into the inspection chamber in your garden.

With the water level as low as you can get it in the toilet bowl, push your gloved hand down into the U-bend and see if you can feel the blockage. If you can feel a solid mass, pull it out and place it in a nearby bucket. Hopefully, the remainder of the wastewater will gurgle and drain away and your problem is solved.

4. Using a Drain Auger or WC Plunger

If you cannot feel the blockage in the U-Bend, you will need to move on to using the WC Plunger or the Drain Auger. Push the plunger down into the bottom of the bowl and start to pump the handle.

If all goes well, the plunging action will clear the blockage and the water will drain away. If not, feed the drain auger down the U-Bend until you feel the blockage. Turn the handle of the drain auger to dislodge or break up the blockage and get the water draining away.

5. When the blockage is cleared

Disinfect the toilet and throw away the gloves and any clothing that might have been splashed with waste. Let everyone in the household know that the toilet is for toilet paper, bodily waste and water only!

1 Comment

  • Try fixing a plunger head with the centre removed to a vacuum tube.Then using a wet & dry vacuum cleaner suck the debris out.This has the added bonus of tightening any push fit waste pipe plumbing.I`ve been doing this for years with no problem other than emptying the vac.

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