A Blocked drain can be a nightmare, and when you are stressed, or in a rush, it may be tempting to reach for a chemical drain cleaner in the hopes that it will sort out the issue without much fuss. Before you reach for the liquid drain cleaner, why not try one of our 5 home remedies for blocked drains instead?

In this guide, we will help you gain a better understanding of the causes of a blocked drain and its dangers, offer effective solutions and explain why we don’t recommend using chemical drain cleaner. We will also share some quick fire tips on how to prevent clogged drains so you can have peace of mind your plumbing is running smoothly.

Blocked Drain - Plunging Sink

Understanding A Blocked Drain

What Causes A Blocked Drain?

There are various factors that can contribute to a blocked drain. These can range from everyday debris to more serious underlying issues. Here are a few examples of common causes of blocked drains:

  • Foreign Objects: Accidental disposal of items such as baby wipes, feminine hygiene products, or wads of toilet paper can cause severe blockages.
  • FOG (Fats, Oil & Grease): Pouring grease, oil and fat down the drain causes them to solidify on the walls of your pipes, causing a blockage and restricting the flow of water.
  • Tree Root Invasions: Tree roots can infiltrate your pipes through tiny cracks and holes, where they grow rapidly, leading to further damage and a large blockage.
  • Hair and Soap Scum: These items and other debris accumulate in bathroom drains, where they can cause a clog and obstruct water flow.
  • Faulty Pipe Installation: Poorly installed or damaged pipes can contribute to blockages, especially in older plumbing systems.
Tree Root Invasion

The Dangers of A Blocked Drain

Drain blockages pose several risks that can lead to severe consequences for both your family and your property. Here are some of the dangers associated with a blocked drain:


If you have a blocked drain, water cannot flow freely, causing it to back up and potentially flood your home or surrounding areas. This can result in significant property damage, costly repairs, and potential health hazards.

Structural damage

Prolonged blockages can cause water to seep into the foundations of your property, weakening the structure over time. This can lead to cracks in walls, sinking floors, and even collapse in extreme cases.

Health risks

A blocked sewer drain can harbour harmful bacteria and attract pests such as rodents and insects. Furthermore, backed-up sewer and wastewater in blocked drains can produce unpleasant odours, which can lead to respiratory issues and contribute to asthma attacks and allergies. Pooling water will also contribute to black mould growth that can negatively affect the health and well-being of your family.

Black Mould

Contamination of drinking water

Blocked drains can cause sewage and wastewater to mix with clean water supplies, leading to contamination. This poses serious health risks, especially when drinking water becomes polluted with harmful bacteria and substances. According to the WHO, drinking water that is contaminated with microbes causes diarrhoea and results in 485 000 death each year. It can also transmit a whole host of diseases, so it is critical clogged drains are seen to immediately.

Environmental damage

A blocked drain can cause untreated sewage and pollutants to leach into nearby waterways, negatively impacting your local ecosystem. This can harm aquatic life, contaminate groundwater, and contribute to the pollution of rivers, lakes, and oceans.

In order to avoid these dangers, it is critical that you maintain your drains regularly and address any blockages as soon as you notice them. Regular inspections and maintenance by professional plumbers can also help you prevent the risks associated with a blocked drain, as they allow you to deal with issues quickly before they become a hazard to your home, family and the environment.

Quick Tips For Avoiding A Blocked Drain

By taking preventive measures, you can significantly reduce the chances of experiencing a blocked drain in the future. We recommend you consider implementing the following practices in your home:

  • Never pour FOG down the drain: Instead of pouring cooking grease and oil down the drain, dispose of it correctly by placing it back in the bottle or soaking it up with a paper towel before disposing it in the dustbin.
  • Install strainers in all bathroom drains: Installing hair guards or filters in your showers and bathtubs will catch hair, preventing it from entering your pipes and causing a blocked shower drain.
  • Avoid flushing inappropriate items: Educate your family on what not to flush into the toilet drain pipe. These include items such as cotton balls, dental floss, wet wipes, condoms, feminine hygiene products etc. Instead, dispose of these items in the bin in the bathroom.
  • Place sink strainers in your kitchen sink: By placing a strainer in your kitchen sink, you can catch food debris and place it in the bin before it’s washed down into your plumbing, where it can cause a blockage.
  • Regular Maintenance: To help prevent extensive blockages in your plumbing, we recommend scheduling periodic professional drain cleaning to remove accumulated debris before it causes a problem.
Blocked Drain - Sink Strainer

How To Unblock A Drain Without Drain Cleaner

Now that you understand the causes of a blocked drain and why it’s critical it is dealt with quickly, here are 5 solutions on how to clear a blocked drain before calling a professional plumber or reaching for harsh chemicals.

1. Baking soda and vinegar

If you need to know how to unblock a shower drain without damaging your pipeline, try baking soda and vinegar. To try this safe home remedy for blocked drains, pour equal parts of baking soda and vinegar down the drain. First, pour a cup of baking soda into the drain, followed by a cup of vinegar. The mixture will fizz. Leave it to sit for 30 minutes, and then flush the drain with boiling water.

Vinegar and Baking Soda

2. Boiling water

Utilising boiling water as a natural blocked drain cleaner is an easy and effective method for unclogging drains. Simply boil a kettle of water and gradually pour the hot water down the blocked drain to help dissolve any fat, oils, and grease (FOG) that might be contributing to the blockage. If you still have a blockage, try repeating the steps above a few times, as there may be a large amount of FOG that you need to melt and flush away.

3. Manually clean your sink pipe with this step-by-step guide

If you have tried the above two methods and your sink is still blocked, try this step-by-step guide on how to unblock a sink. Here’s a step-by-step guide to cleaning a blocked sink drain:

Step 1: During the process of unblocking your sink, please place a bucket under the U-shaped pipe to catch any water that may leak.

Step 2: To remove the pipe, first use a wrench to undo the slip nuts located at both ends. This will allow you to take the pipe off.

Step 3: Pour any water or debris from the disconnected pipe into the bucket.

Step 4: With an old toothbrush, clean the interiors of all accessible pipes now that the U-shaped section has been removed.

Step 5: Gradually flush the pipes with water and reassemble the plumbing.

Skip this method if you don’t feel comfortable disassembling your sink’s plumbing, but don’t reach for the chemical drain cleaner; rather, try some of the methods below or call a professional plumber for assistance.

Plumber with Bucket under the sink

4. Baking soda and salt

To create this natural drain cleaner, combine equal parts baking soda and salt, approximately half a cup each. Once mixed, pour the concoction down your blocked drain and let it work its magic for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, flush the drain with boiling water to wash away any loosened debris, which should help clear your drain without the use of harsh chemicals.

5. Use a plunger

A plunger is a user-friendly tool for clearing drains, making it a must-have household item to sort out minor blockages before they get worse. Begin by placing the plunger over the drain and pushing it down to create a tight seal. Then push the plunger up and down with force in order to create a strong function, which will help dislodge the obstruction. After a few pumps, remove the plunger and flush the drain with boiling water to break down and wash away any remaining debris.

Why You Shouldn’t Use A Chemical Drain Cleaner On A Blocked Drain

Many store-bought chemicals are designed to unclog blocked sewer drains, but we do not recommend using a drain cleaner acid. Drain cleaner chemicals can seriously damage the structural integrity of your pipes, as many of these chemicals are made with corrosive agents.

They can also harm the environment if your grey water drains into your garden. If you do decide to try a chemical, read the instructions carefully and wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), as these products can be seriously dangerous to your health if misused.

Blocked Drain - Chemical Drain Cleaner

Are Your Drains Still Blocked? What To Do Next

If you have tried everything and you still have a blocked drain, it’s best to consult a professional plumber. Absolute Plumbing has over a decade of experience handling blocked drains and offers efficient drain cleaning services in Cape Town.

The quickest and most accurate way to find the cause of your blocked drain is through a drain camera inspection. This cutting-edge technology involves placing a CCTV camera into your drain that allows us to see, in real time, what the cause of your blocked drain is. We can then use the appropriate drain cleaning method to eliminate the blockage.

Our drain service features two effective drain cleaner tools for resolving all kinds of blockages:

  • High-pressure hydro jetting (jet drain cleaner): This machine sprays water at high pressure to dislodge and blast away stubborn clogs.
  • Roto Rooters (Rotary Machine Cleaner): A specialised hose with spring-loaded blades spins rapidly to break up the blockage and remove it from your drain.
Blocked Drain - Hydro Jetting

Final Thoughts

Resolving and preventing blocked drains is crucial for the smooth functioning of your plumbing system and the overall well-being of your family and your property. No matter if you choose to try our DIY methods or call Absolute Plumbing for professional assistance, it is critical that your blocked drain is dealt with promptly.

Prevention is key, and we hope you understand why we don’t recommend a chemical drain cleaner when dealing with a blocked drain. So if you are looking for the best drain cleaner in South Africa, look no further than Absolute Plumbing. Please feel free to contact us through our website or call 084 872 2758 if you professional drain cleaning services or further guidance.

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