Fortunately, a lot of local blockages can be solved with DIY solutions. All you’ll need is a coathanger, plunger and some hot water and you’ll be the next MacGyver.
- The Coathanger Method: If you can see the blockage, you can attempt to remove the obstruction yourself, for example you can use a coathanger to fish out a soap and hair mass in a shower drain or a toy deposited in the loo..
- The Plunger Method: (Not a coffee plunger… it may be what got you into trouble in the first place.) Do this only if your technique is good. You can usually reduce the size of the obstruction by plunging but be warned that wielded the wrong way a plunger may make the problem worse by pushing the lump further down the pipe.
- The Hot Water Method: If you can’t see and/or reach the blockage and suspect there has been an accumulation of material that has formed a lump, try pouring a few cups of hot water with a bit of detergent down the drain. This will help melt material such as soap scum, fats and oils.
- Do not use Drano or other harsh chemicals. Not only is it bad for your sewer, it’s bad for you and the environment. Remember that the water eventually drains out into to creeks, rivers and the ocean! Instead of Drano, I’d recommend a product called Bio-Clean, which is a powder with a zillion friendly bacteria that will eat the clog overnight. This is best used preventatively but is an environmentally friendly way of attempting to clear the blockage yourself.
When to call the pros
If you’ve exhausted these methods and the blockage is still terrorising your household, that’s when to call your plumber. If there’s nothing wrong with the sewer pipe itself, a plumber will clear a physical blockage with high-pressure water jetblasting, which breaks up the blockage into many tiny pieces and washes it into the Sydney Water sewer. This has replaced the old school ‘electric eel’, which is not as thorough or as effective as jetblasting.
How to prevent local blockages
Fortunately, you have a lot of control over the events that lead to local blockages so you can do a number of things to stop them from happening.
In the bathroom/toilet
- Get a strainer for your bath or shower. This is particularly handy for those with long hair.
- Don’t treat the toilet as a rubbish bin. Flush nothing but human waste and loo paper: no tampons/pads nor wet wipes even the ‘flushable’ ones. (These disappear but stick further down the pipes.)
- Use only as much loo paper as you need. You don’t need a roll of toilet paper to wipe your bum. Children are generally unaware of this.
- Stop kids from playing with the toilet. Little kids often throw toys in the loo, so use a lid lock when you have toddlers around.
In the kitchen
- Get a strainer for your kitchen sink. The strainer will catch food scraps, which can then go in the rubbish or, for top environmental marks, into the compost or worm farm.
- Don’t pour fats, oils and coffee grounds down the sink. Put them in a container into the rubbish, or better still, into the garden.
- Run hot water after washing fatty/oily dishes. This will prevent the fats and oils from solidifying on the inside of your pipes. You may also wish to use a product like Bio-Clean.