Is Unblocking My Drain A DIY Task?

Last Updated on August 27, 2022 by Kimberly Crawford

If you have an outside drain on your property, there is a high chance that it is your responsibility. So, you need to know how to unclog a blocked drain. If you have a blocked outside drain, it is important to act quickly to clear the blockage and prevent damage to your property.

What are the telltale signs of a blocked drain outside?

There are a few warning signs that your outside drain may be blocked:

  • Water pooling around your property
  • A funny smell coming from your drains
  • Slow drains
  • Gurgling sounds coming from your drains

If you notice a telltale sign surrounding your property and your blocked drains, investigate further. Blocked drains can sometimes cause washing machines to not drain properly but that is rarely the case.

What causes an outside blocked drain?

clog in bathroom

There are a number of things that can cause an outside drain to become blocked:

  • Outside debris like leaves, rubbish, mud and other outdoor debris
  • Cooking fat and grease
  • Food waste, such as coffee grounds
  • Hair
  • Toilet paper and wipes
  • Sanitary products
  • Nappies
  • A build up of soap scum
  • Other debris

If you think that your external drain is blocked, the first thing you should do is contact your local authority. In England and Wales, you can contact the Environment Agency and in Scotland, you can contact SEPA.

What equipment do I need to block an outside drain?

If you are responsible for clearing the blockage, you will need to use the appropriate equipment. This may include simple tools like a drain auger, a drain snake, a drain rod or a pressure hose.

A quick list of equipment (or a shopping list for when you visit hardware stores) you should have to remove a blockage include:

  • Plumber’s auger
  • Drain snake
  • Drain rod (a bigger version of an auger)
  • A pressure hose
  • Protective gear including a face mask and goggles
  • Protective clothing such as rubber gloves to avoid contact with some substances
  • Caustic soda
  • Bin bags and a bucket

You should never try to clear a blockage in an outside drain without the proper equipment as this could damage your drains and cause further problems. If you are unsure about how to clear blockages, you should contact a professional for help.

Dealing with a drain blocked with debris

If you have a clogged outside drain, there are a few things you can do to try and unblock it yourself. First, you’ll need to identify where the blockage is. If it’s a PVC pipe, the blockage will likely be near the connection of the pipe to another drainage system or near the end of the pipe where water exits.

For a blockage with household debris, such as coffee grounds, you can usually reach into the outside drain and remove it. Be sure to place it into bin bags or a bucket, and you’ll be glad you had rubber gloves and a face mask for this work!

Equipment helps to unblock a drain

When the issue with outside drains is more severe, or you have an issue with a sewage drain, you might need something more extensive. At times, boiling water moves blockages, but if you are dealing with excessive outdoor debris, equipment such as drain rodding, drain jetting and guidance from a professional plumber makes a difference in dealing with drain blockages at outdoor drains. 

There are ways to quickly unblock drains

A pressure hose is a fast and fun way to deal with sewage drain blockages, and in many cases, it will unblock an outside drain. However, there are times to take a different approach to unblock an outside drain or blocked external drain.

Do I need a specialist tool to remain a drain cover?

You shouldn’t require anything too specialist to remove drain covers but it can help to get better leverage. Sometimes you will need brute force, and perhaps a screwdriver, but please take care when removing drain covers. Once you have removed the drain cover, assess the situation.

If you can see the blockage in the outside drain, the process should be a simple one. You should also be able to make a quick assessment on how challenging removing the blockage is.

Do I need experience to use a drain rod?

If there is an excessive problem with outside drains, a drain rod insert is a good strategy to unblock drains and pipes. Drain rods are intuitive to use, and most people achieve success by inserting the rod into the drain and turning the rod in a clockwise direction. A top tip is never to turn a corkscrew attachment in an anti-clockwise direction as this will unscrew it.

A drainage rod is a specialist tool, and highly effective. Not everyone needs a drainage rod but if you suffer blocked drains in your sewer network regularly, it might be a suitable investment.

Professionals help with outside drain blocked issues

If you lack the confidence to use drain rods when dealing with outside drains, you can call on trusted local plumbers or a drainage expert to manage this for you. This can help you better manage future blockages, rather than making a problem worse. Also, it doesn’t hurt to inform the local water company of any repeat issue.

Can you use commercial cleaning products on external blocked drains?

It depends on the extent of the blockage. If the issue is in a drain pipe, chemical drain cleaners can impact the problem. You can also use hot water, baking soda and vinegar to create a frothing mixture which removes some blockages. Other names for baking soda include caustic soda or baking powder.

An outside drain blocked is different from a blockage in your kitchen sink

Knowing how to unblock a drain outside your home is great knowledge, and will help you manage your drains more effectively. While knowing how to flush through a toilet or unclog a sink blockage is useful, these skills are slightly different from dealing with an external blockage.

Knowing the steps to take to deal with pipes inside and outside your home will help you care for your property at all times.