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How to unblock an outside drain

Funny smell in your home? Sink taking ages to drain? It sounds like you’ve got a bit of a blockage. But don’t panic! Drain unblocker tasks are relatively easy to carry out yourself and chances are you won’t need to call out the experts.

The blockage may either be in your property’s internal or external drains. Remember if the drain is within the boundary of your property, it’s your responsibility to maintain and repair. If you want to save money, we suggest having a go yourself.

Outdoor drain problems tend to be a little harder to resolve than your average blocked sink but with the right tools and knowledge, it’s possible. To give you a helping hand, we’ve put together a simple guide on how to unblock a drain.

Why is my outside drain blocked?

Drain blockages are usually caused by people putting things down their drains that don’t belong there. In kitchen sink drains, it tends to be grease, food particles, oil and coffee grounds that cause the problem, whereas, in bathrooms, soap scum and hair are notorious for clogging up the pipes. You also have to consider what you’re flushing down the toilet. Wipes, sanitary products and excess toilet paper can easily block up the pipes and wreak havoc in your bathroom.

All of the things mentioned above can block your outside drain too. If you think about it, they’re all going down the same pipes, it’ll just be a case of them getting stuck in the drain outside your home, rather than inside.

Other things that can block your outside drain include leaves, branches, soil, mud, moss, litter and other outdoor debris.

The best way to stop your outside drains from getting blocked is to be mindful of what you put down your sinks, shower and toilet drain. Do your best to keep the outside of your property and garden tidy and clear from things like leaves and moss too.

If you haven’t already, we’d also suggest purchasing outside drain covers. These are grates you can place over your drain openings to stop things like leaves, litter and other debris from falling in and causing blockages.

How to unblock a sink

Before you look at our outside drain unblocker guide, we suggest checking that the blockage isn’t located in the pipes inside your property. Try these methods on your kitchen sink, bath or shower if water doesn’t appear to be draining properly:

  • Insert the plug, fill up your sink or bath with hot water and release it
  • Use a drain plunger
  • Pour down a mix of baking powder and vinegar, followed by hot water
  • Use a drain snake or unbent wire coat hanger
  • Unscrew the U-bend and physically put out any blockages you see

Drain unblocker guide

Wondering how to unblock a drain? You will need to gather the following items before you get started:

  • Rubber gloves (outdoor drains tend to be dirty and smelly)
  • Protective clothing, goggles and a face mask (in case you get splattered)
  • Screwdriver or rope (for lifting the drain cover)
  • Drain rod (a bigger version of a drain snake – available to purchase from – hardware stores)
  • Bucket and bin bags (for collecting debris)
  • Pressure hose (for cleaning the drain afterwards)

How to unblock a drain

1. Pull the cover off the drain
You may need to use a flat-head screwdriver to open it. If this doesn’t work, try tying a rope around the cover to give you better leverage.

2. Locate the blockage
If you can reach the blockage with your hands, remove as much of it as possible. It’s not a nice job but worth doing, as it’ll make it easier to clear the rest with a drain rod. If it makes you feel better, you can also think about how much money you’re saving not having to pay for a professional drain unblocker service. Place the bucket by the drain and dig in. Remove whatever you can and put it in your bucket or bin bags.

3. Use your drain rod
Insert the drain rod and apply pressure. You will need to twist the rod into the blockage in a clockwise direction. It may take a while to get through the blockage if it’s big or particularly stubborn. Keep plunging and twisting until it feels easy – this is a sign that the blockage is clearing.

How to clean drains

Once you’ve successfully unblocked your outside drain, it’s best to give it a good clean with a pressure hose. Cleaning your drains will dislodge any leftover bits of the blockage and help to prevent future build-ups. The more regularly you clean your outdoor drains, the less likely they are to clog up.

Outside drain still blocked? It’s time to call the professionals
If you’ve followed our guide on how to unblock a sewage drain but haven’t been able to do so, you could have quite a big blockage on your hands. Outside drainage issues are usually trickier than a simple sink blockage, so don’t be disheartened if your attempt is unsuccessful.

Don’t waste any more of your time. Instead, call a professional plumber who will have the drain unblocker tools and experience to complete the job. Drain unblocking costs will vary depending on the severity of the problem. If the blockage is hard to reach, they may need to do a CCTV drain survey, which will cost a little more. If you have the time, get a couple of quotes from different plumbers so you can compare them and check you’re getting a fair price.

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