911 Drains

How to maintain and clean your drains

If you want to keep your drains clean and maintain a healthy drainage system, then prevention is the best cure. This includes being mindful of what you pour down your drains, and making sure that you flush your drains regularly with drain cleaners to prevent a buildup of grease and debris.  

By integrating the following tips into your usual cleaning routines, you can greatly reduce the risk of having to deal with a blocked drain.

What you’ll need 

To keep your drains clear of any blockages you should make sure that you have the following items to hand:

  • Protective glasses 
  • Rubber gloves (elbow length if possible)
  • Baking soda (or bicarbonate of soda)
  • Soda crystals
  • White vinegar
  • A kettle
  • A container for collecting fats 

1. Get yourself prepared 

As with any cleaning job involving chemicals or bacteria it’s always best to be prepared. Rubber gloves will help to protect your hands and make it easier to pick up clumps of hair and other nasty stuff. Protective glasses are also essential to prevent chemicals such as bleach or bacteria-filled water from getting into your eyes.  

2. Not all drains are equal 

You’ll need to check some drains in your home more regularly than others – such as your bathroom sink, shower and bathtub. These are areas of your home where the hair from shaving and washing can accumulate, particularly when combined with soap scum, grease and toothpaste.  

Most commonly drains will become blocked due to a combination of soap scum, dirt and hair, but over the years some more unusual objects have been the cause of backed up drains and emergency drain cleaning jobs. Here are just some unusual causes of blocked drains

3. Use boiling water on your drains weekly 

Boiling water is a simple yet effective natural drain cleaner and a great way to reduce the buildup of fat, grease and oils in your pipes. Just be careful not to trip when transporting a kettle of boiling water upstairs to the bathroom…   

4. Treat your drains with a biological cleaner 

A biological cleaner containing enzymes is the best drain cleaner for hair and an excellent way to treat a build-up of fats, bacteria, mould and other organic materials. They are also far better for the environment than harsher chemicals such as bleach or caustic soda. 

You can buy an enzymatic drain cleaner from most DIY shops relatively cheaply. Always be sure to follow the instructions on the back of the packet when using the product on your drains.  

5. Flush drains with baking soda and white vinegar 

If you prefer, baking soda and white vinegar can be used as an alternative to a biological cleaner. You can also use bicarbonate of soda instead of baking powder. With a bit of luck, you will already have both of these items in your kitchen cupboards.

All you need to do is pop a couple of tablespoons of baking soda into a cup of white vinegar and immediately pour the mixture down the drain. Leave the mixture to fizz down there for about five minutes before flushing the drain clean using hot water directly from the kettle. 

6. Use soda crystals to keep your drains clear 

Soda crystals are another great way to prevent fats, oils and grease from accumulating inside your drains. Just pop a cup of soda crystals into a bowl of boiling water and carefully stir the mixture until the soda crystals have dissolved. Now, slowly pour the mixture down your drains. 

7. Pour fats into a container

Prevention is the best cure, so you should always make sure that excess fat from your cooking ends up in a container rather than down the drain. One of the most common causes of blocked kitchen drains is the accumulation of congealed oil from deep fat fryers, mixed with other debris such as food and plastics.   

8. Brush your hair before a bath or shower 

Brushing your hair before a bath or shower will help to remove the majority of loose hairs before they end up down the plughole, potentially clogging your drain.  

9. Wash your pets outside 

If you wash your pets in the bath you should bear in mind that they shed even more hair than we do, especially during moulting seasons. If possible, you should wash your cat, dog or rabbit outside, or cover the drain in your bath with a cloth to collect any hairs shed during washing.   

When in doubt never flush the following down your drains 

  • Plastic
  • Cigarettes and ash
  • Food
  • Sanitary products
  • Kitchen roll and regular paper
  • Cardboard packaging
  • Harsh chemicals such as acid 

In most cases, the tips in this list should be more than enough to keep your drains running smoothly. However, if you need further advice on keeping your drains clear, or help with getting them unblocked, a friendly local plumber is just a phone call away. 

What are water gullies and how do you maintain them?

What is a gully? 

A gully by definition is an outside water drain pipe that’s designed to discharge surface water from your garden. This can include rainwater drainage from your guttering and grey wastewater from your washing machine, sinks, bath/shower and dishwasher.  

If you’ve noticed that your water gullies are draining slowly or overflowing, it’s probably because they’re blocked. And if they’re not dealt with swiftly, the resulting lack of water drainage could cause damage to your home and garden.  

Luckily, clearing a blocked gully is a relatively easy task that you can carry out yourself using the tips below. 

The tools you’ll need 

Before you get started on clearing your water gullies you should make sure you’ve got the following tools to hand. 

  • Protective glasses 
  • Rubber gloves (elbow length if possible) 
  • A drain rod (can be purchased from most DIY stores)
  • A garden brush
  • A flat head screwdriver
  • A trowel (a small garden spade is fine)
  • A hosepipe
  • A bucket
  • Access to hot water 

1. Get yourself prepared 

Clearing your gully and dealing with outside drains can be a messy job, potentially exposing you to all kinds of muck and bacteria. So it’s best to pop on your protective glasses to keep your eyes clear of any splashback and your rubber gloves to keep your hands clean. 

You should also make sure that no one is planning to use the bathrooms or kitchen (including the washing machine and dishwasher) if you want to avoid getting wet. 

2. Locating and clearing your gully 

Usually, the opening of your gully will be covered by a plastic or metal grate, often known as the gulley trap. This trap prevents the pipe from getting blocked by dirt and other debris, such as falling leaves and twigs. Over time this debris can accumulate and harden over the gully trap, resulting in flooding and smelly drains. 

Once you’ve located your gully, you should try to clear as much of the debris from the trap as you can using your hands. This is the part where you’ll be thankful for your rubber gloves! Once you’ve cleared the top of the gully you’ll need to turn your attention to the inside of the gully. 

3. Remove the gully cover 

If your gully has a trap covering the opening you’ll need to remove it. This can usually be done quite easily using the screwdriver to prise it open, or if you’re lucky, there may be a handle. This is the part where those protective glasses come in handy, as the stiffness of the gully cover may result in you getting splashed.   

If you have no luck with the screwdriver you can also try threading some string around the bars of the gully trap and giving it a firm tug. If all goes well the trap should come loose, giving you access to the inside of the gully.    

4. Check inside the gully 

You can either use the trowel or your hands to clear out any visible blockages inside the gully. In most cases, the gully will be blocked by twigs and leaves that have made their way through the trap. So clearing this debris by hand is often enough to get the gully running smoothly again.  

Once you’ve finished clearing the gully, give the taps in the kitchen a try to see if the water is draining smoothly. If so, give yourself a pat on the back (take the rubber gloves off first though). If not, we’re going to have to take this up a notch. 

5. Use the drain rod 

Drain rods are flexible rods about a metre long that can be screwed together and inserted into a drain to clear any blockages. You should start first with a single drain rod to see if you can feel any obvious blockages inside the gully. You may need to attach additional rods until you do. 

Once you encounter a blockage you should prod at it carefully with the rod. The goal here is to break the blockage into smaller, more manageable pieces that can be easily flushed down the drain. If you push the blockage too hard, you may just move the issue further down the drain.  

Please be careful when using the rods not to rotate the blockage in an anticlockwise motion, as this could actually unscrew the pipe, making the problem far worse. 

6. Rinse the gully with your hose 

Use the garden brush initially to clear the area around the gully of any debris. This will minimise the risk of accidentally flushing anything down the gully while the trap is still off. Once the area is clear, direct the hose down the gully for several minutes to flush the pipe clear of any blockages.    

7. Flush the gully with hot water 

Fill your bucket with hot water and carefully pour it into the gully. The hot water will help to dislodge any grease or fat that may have accumulated inside the gully. If you like, you could also add a little bleach or washing up liquid to the water to amplify this effect.  

8. Test the gully before resealing 

Running your taps for several minutes while monitoring the gully should be enough to tell if it’s draining properly. Once you are happy that the gully is clear you should replace the trap over the opening.  

Prevent your gully from getting blocked again 

Now that your gully is clean and free from any blockages, you should take steps to prevent it from happening again. This can start initially by clearing the wider area around your gully of any materials that could potentially make their way inside.  You should also consider inspecting your gutters to make sure they are clear of any moss, leaves and other natural debris that could make its way down your gully.

How to unblock a toilet with or without a plunger

Your bathroom is supposed to be a private sanctuary. So when you discover that you’ve accidentally blocked the toilet, it can feel a little awkward asking for help to sort it out. 

Fortunately, with the following guide to unblocking your toilet you can save yourself any potential embarrassment by having a go.

First of all turn off the water to the toilet 

To reduce the risk of flooding, you should stop the supply of water to the toilet. This is easy to do by accessing the toilet ‘flapper’ in the cistern tank and closing it. 

If you have trouble finding the flapper, it basically looks like a drain stopper with a chain attached. You can use gloves to access the toilet flapper, but don’t worry – the water should be clean. 

If you can’t find the toilet flapper, you can just turn off the water supply to the property via your stopcock. Just make sure everyone is aware that there will be no water supply until you’re finished unblocking the toilet.