Bathroom drains take a lot of punishment. Every member of the family uses the sink, the shower and the bath everyday. It’s no wonder, then, that these overused waste water outlets can become blocked. If you find your sink overflowing or your bath refusing to drain, check out the tips below on how to unclog a bathroom drain.

Clogged Bathroom Drains – the Culprits

The main causes of clogged bathroom drains are hair and soap scum. Soap builds up on the sides of drain pipes, gradually narrowing the space through which water must to pass to enter the community sewerage system. Hair, if it cannot escape freely, forms tangled lumps. These hair masses not only impede the flow of waste water themselves, but also trap soap scum to create solid plugs that effectively seal bathroom drains completely.

Prevention is Better than Cure

Although clearing a blocked drain isn’t a terribly difficult exercise, you can avoid it altogether with a couple of simple precautions:

  • Place a sieve fitting over each drain opening to prevent hair travelling into the drain pipes.
  • Prevent grease and soap scum build-up by tipping a little bleach or other soap-dissolving agent into the drains every couple of months.

Unclogging a Bathroom Drain

The three basic methods for unclogging a bathroom drain are listed below.

The U-bend Lug

Beneath each bathroom drain opening you’ll find a U-bend pipe. Some of these U-bends, particularly the older, metal varieties, have a lug at the bottom of the U which can be unscrewed.

In many homes only the sink U-bend is readily accessible, but if you can get to it and it does have a lug, unclogging your drain can be accomplished quickly and without the use of chemicals.

Simply place an empty bucket beneath the U-bend and unscrew the lug. If you’re lucky the blockage will flow right out along with a little water. If it doesn’t, unwind a wire coat-hanger, insert it into the lug opening and move it about to dislodge the clogging material.

Plunger Method

One of the simplest ways to clear a clogged bathroom drain is to use a plunger. Just place the rubber cap of the plunger over the drain opening, ensuring that the opening is entirely covered, and dispense a number of sharp downward thrusts.

Creating a series of compressed air blasts in this way often dislodges the offending blockage. If you are working on your sink, make sure you block the overflow outlet first. If left open the outlet will allow the compressed air to escape rather than exert pressure on whatever is clogging the pipe.

A Chemical Approach

If you can’t access your U-bend lug and attacking the drain with a plunger hasn’t worked it’s time to bring out the big guns.

Chemical drain cleaners like caustic soda work by eating away at the blockage. Care should be taken with their use as they can blind and burn skin. If correctly used, though, these products are extremely effective, particularly for blockages deeper in the drain.

Either liquid or crystal in form, chemical drain cleaners are generally poured into the drain opening and allowed to sit for a period of time. During this period the sink, bath etc. must not be used. When using a chemical drain cleaner always follow the manufacturer’s directions.


  • Never mix one type of drain cleaner with another.
  • Never mix drain cleaners with other cleaning products as toxic fumes may be produced.
  • Always ensure good ventilation when using chemical drain cleaners.
  • Don’t allow drain cleaners to remain in contact with porcelain or enamel surfaces for any length of time as the caustic nature of the cleaner will degrade the finish.
  • Never us a plunger on a drain which contains drain cleaner – you run the risk of splash-back and severe chemical burns.

A Homemade Cleaner

If you find yourself with a clogged drain and no plunger or drain cleaning product, try the following homemade drain unclogger.

  • Tip half a cup of baking soda into the drain.
  • On top of this pour half a cup of vinegar.

The solution will foam up so, to get maximum effect, contain it in the drain by putting the plug in the drain hole. Leave the mixture to work undisturbed for a couple of hours then rinse with clean water.

Clear Drains

Most bathroom blockages can be easily dealt with. The guide above shows you all you need to know to unclog a bathroom drain. Just clear the U-bend, bring out the plunger or resort to a chemical cleaner and you’ll have those drains ready again for the next family bathroom onslaught.

To find out more about unclogging a bathroom drain check out this video.

How to Unclog a Bathroom Drain, 5.0 out of 5 based on 2 ratings

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  1. Bromley says:

    The tips are very useful, but I’m scared to see when you use the plunger, the water from the toilet explodes…I think that I will skip this step…but definitely the tips are good

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  2. Clive says:

    Baking powder and white vinegar. Followed by a kettle of boiling water and a vigerous plunge with a plunger did the trick! Thanks for the tip.

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  3. Alice Jones says:

    I do believe that the best way to solve blocked drains is to prevent them from happening. I think for our family, our biggest cause for clogged drains is that we have four daughters sharing one bathroom. I’ll look into getting a sieve fitting that you suggested. If we get any blocked drains, I think calling a plumber would be the best solution.

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