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How to fix a blocked drain - the cause and the cure 

We’d like to think you’ll always think of Twin Electrics and Plumbing when you’re wondering how to fix a blocked drain, but the reality is, nothing we say will stop you from prodding, plunging and trying some lowkey chemical warfare on the offending pipe. So we may as well offer some safe quick-fix home remedies. 

In this page:

What causes a blocked drain? 

In a bathroom, sanitary products and hair are the usual culprits. It doesn’t take much for one hair to get tangled around a grate, and soon it will invite a few friends to join it. Next thing you know, it’s quite a party down there.   In kitchens, foodstuffs contribute to most blockages, but fat and grease play a significant role. Grease acts like glue to bring your discarded scraps together. Once a gathering of fat and food is left to dry, you have a large pipe barnacle that can now fish for more flushed food.    If your blockage is outside, anything small enough to sneak past a grate can get into that pipe and cause mischief. Leaves and roots are the most common causes, and they can build up until the blockage is huge. We’ve pulled things out of drains that looked like they belong in a horror movie.    In some cases, these blockages can be easy to fix. That’s definitely not the case for broken pipes, bad installation or inadequate water flow. All the DIY tricks in the world won’t eliminate those issues, and it probably won’t be long before you’re in need of an emergency plumber.  

Not sure if your drain is blocked? Read our guide: Five inicators of a blocked drain 

how to fix a blocked drain There may be other probable causes. Find out more at sewer blockages Barwon Water website. 

Where is my drain blocked? 

Firstly, is it outside or inside? While some of the blockages in your outside pipes can be relatively easy to remove, they can be huge and eventually cause more significant issues deep in your plumbing. If you have a leak in multiple rooms, you’re probably going to need a plumber to take a look.   If it’s happening in the drain of one room, a few simple DIY tricks may save the day. But sometimes, when your largest pipes back up, they can push water back. That water will look for a way to escape, generally at the deepest point in your house. Unfortunately, that’s the drain of a bathroom, laundry or kitchen. So while you’re wondering how to fix a blocked drain, remember that you first need to know which drain it is.  

Can a blocked drain cause a leak, smell or damp? 

You can bet that if a serious blockage is sending sewer water back into your home, you’re going to get the bad smell. But let’s face it, clumps of hair, fat and rotten food don’t smell terrific either, especially after a few weeks.    The most obvious way of telling the difference is to check whether water is draining away slowly or being pushed with force back into your home. If it’s draining away slowly and you don’t see similar issues in other rooms, it might be worth trying a few safe quick-fix solutions before you call a plumber.  

Who pays for a blocked drain? 

It depends on the cause and location of the drain. A homeowner can rarely point the blame at anyone unless a contributing factor beyond your property line has contributed to the blockage. It’s also tough to claim anything on insurance because it’s your responsibility to keep any foreign materials out of the drain pipe.   Anyone renting a property will probably foot the bill unless they can prove there was an existing issue before the commencement of the lease. In theory, your hair, tissue, food and grease is damaging the owner’s property, so they have every right to make you pay for repairs.  Who pays for a blocked drain? Well, if you’re here looking for tips on how to fix one, the answer is probably you.  

How to open a blocked drain 

Can you open your blocked drain? Should you? Well, if your drain cover or grate is cemented, you’re not meant to go for a wander down the pipe. There are safety, hygiene and other practical reasons for staying out of it.   You could damage the plumbing (not great when you own a home, terrible if you’re renting it), pick up some nasty bacteria or end up with one arm stuck down a dirty pipe. You may laugh, but it happens!  That’s why most DIY methods of fixing a blocked drain don’t involve entering the pipe in any way. Your main exterior drain in the backyard is a rare exception, but most older houses are bound to have a metal grate, and many of those are rusted in their position.  

How to fix a blocked drain, DIY style 

Okay, let’s get to the pointy end of the guide, and separate the practical solutions from the myths. When considering what to use for blocked drains, remember safety and hygiene come first. Also, we’re experienced certified plumbers so we can give you tips on how to fix a blocked drain. But we can’t guarantee they’ll be the right solution.  If you are not an experienced plumber, it might be worthwhile checking our guide on plumbing safety.  

Boiling water 

Remember that fat and grease cause many kitchen blockages. We all know what happens to fat when heat is applied. The same effect could help to melt the substance that is binding other elements together. Once the glue is removed, the clog may break down. 


We always prefer the more natural method: hot water, followed by bicarbonate soda and a cup of vinegar. Give it time to fizz away and break up the blockage, then pour more hot water down the drain. The less environmentally friendly option is the many caustic solutions you can buy at the supermarket. They’re toxic for the environment and not great for you either, so make sure you get those windows open and ensure you have some good airflow.  


The trusty old plunger is perfect for minor blockages. If you want to know what to use for a blocked drain, you can’t beat a tool custom-built for the purpose. The correct action is several rigorous plunges followed by a quick removal of the plunger that can often neatly ‘pop’ that blockage out.  

Make-it-yourself drain snake 

Yes, a slightly modified coat hanger can work its way through the grate and often hook common problems like hair, allowing you to extract the blockage. But if you drop the coat hanger, you’ve probably found yourself a much more effective and difficult blockage to remove! 

How to fix a blocked drain properly 

For every DIY method, there’s a vastly superior professional solution that involves experience, expertise and costly equipment. Professional plumbers know what to use for every blocked drain.    Emergency plumbers like Twin Electrics and Plumbing, have the latest gear and certified technicians. Instead of plungers, we use a hydro jet to fire intense short bursts of water into pipes; and instead of DIY drain snakes, we have the $30,000 Jetter that demolishes blockages in seconds. We can get to the bottom of even the most mysterious blockage thanks to CCTV cameras that explore any pipe at any depth.    In the case of severe blockages, we may need to excavate or replace pipes. That’s when a blockage can get expensive. But there are three things to keep in mind: a/ when we clear pipes, they are far less likely to be blocked in future; b/ a DIY method that partially unblocks a severe issue may contribute to a far more expensive repair in the future; and c/ avoiding a solution today will lead to a far more costly problem tomorrow.    So, good luck with the few quick tips we’ve provided. If it’s a small blockage, you may be in luck. But if you’d rather have a friendly Twin Electrics and Plumbing professional visit for 15 minutes, obliterate the blockage and ensure your drainage issues are a thing of the past, we’re waiting for your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. 

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