How to unblock a drain

If the water in your bath, sink or toilet isn't draining away properly it’s likely to be the result of a blocked drain. If your toilet is completely blocked, you’ll find our page on how to unblock a toilet helpful.

How to unblock a drain

It may seem obvious, but don't empty any more water into the drain! This will only make the problem worse and more difficult to resolve.

Safety first

Before tackling the blockage, make sure you stay safe by wearing full protective clothing (this includes gloves, goggles and overalls). Always remember to remove and wash your protective clothing after you’ve finished work.

How to unblock a drain

Before you begin, make sure you have a set of drain rods; drain rods can be hired or purchased at most DIY stores. Once you've put on your protective clothing, follow the steps below:

Remove the cover
Lift the inspection cover on the drain. If the cover is rusted shut, use a screwdriver to scrape away the rust and then prise the cover off. If your drain cover has a handle, tie some string or wire to it, then pull the cover open.

Clear the obstruction
Use a rod with a plunger attachment to dislodge the blockage – this can take several minutes of twisting and turning. Alternatively, try using a standard kitchen mop handle although this is unlikely to be as flexible as a purpose-made drain rod.

Flush with water
Once you've dislodged the blockage, flush the drain thoroughly with water to remove any remaining debris.

Preventing future blockages: Monitor your drains
If you inspect your drains regularly, you should be able to catch the start of any minor blockages before they get worse.

Dispose of waste correctly
Remember to dispose of rubbish in the correct manner. Never flush away items such as face wipes, nappies or cotton wool, as these are likely to block your drains.

Keep your drains clear of plants
If possible, try to keep drains clear of flowers and plants. If your garden's particularly leafy, try fitting drain guards to help prevent plant matter from falling in and causing blockages.

Rinse before loading your dishwasher
Always rinse plates and cutlery before loading your dishwasher. Any excess food will end up in your drains and could build up to cause a blockage.

Responsibilities for drains and sewers

Find out your responsibilities as a homeowner or occupier and who to contact if you experience a problem with a public drain or sewer.

  • Drains
    Homeowners and occupiers are generally responsible for their property's drains, up to the property boundary. Your home insurance may cover you for some drainage problems, double-check this. 
  • Sewers
    Public and private sewers are the responsibility of waste and sewerage companies and not private homeowners or occupiers. You should contact your water company if you encounter a problem.
  • Reporting a blocked drain
    If a neighbour's drain is overflowing and the water has leaked into your home, contact your local council who'll advise you on what action to take.

Find out more

For further information, take a look at our range of plumbing help and advice articles which will help you deal with a range of plumbing leaks, bursts and blockages.

Important information regarding our DIY help and advice

We try to make the advice on our website ( as useful and reliable as possible. However, the purpose of this advice section of the website is to provide homeowners and private landlords with general guidance and useful tips only. It doesn't necessarily deal with every important topic or cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals and might not be relevant or appropriate in all circumstances. It is not designed to provide professional advice or financial advice and should not be relied on as such. Click here to read the disclaimer in full.