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  • Writer's pictureSmart Drain UK

How to unblock outside drain

Updated: Jan 27, 2022

Struggling with unblocking a drain in 2022? If so we feel your pain and understand how frustrating it can be dealing with things like foul smells, overflowing manhole covers due to blocked pipes or toilets that simply won't flush. Whether it's an issue with a blockage internally or externaly you’ll most likely be wondering why this is happening and also, how you can fix it.

There are a number of ways to have a go at fixing a drain, some include drain jetting and drain rodding for stubborn blockages and for some situations it can simply require a good old fashion unblock by donning a pair of marigolds and clearing a drain by hand.

Speak to an expert

At Smart Drain UK we specialise in dealing with a varying degree of drainage problems throughout the UK, whether it be drain pipe repairs for old style clay drain systems which may have corroded and collapsed over time, to carrying out a CCTV drain surveys to identify the cause of a block (waste product, children’s toys, baby wipes, oils & pain etc), we’ve seen it all!

If you’re currently asking yourselves questions such as, ‘how to fix a blocked drain’ or ‘how to repair a drain’ or even ‘why do my drains smell’ then you’ve come to the right place as we’re here to help answer your questions.

The main reasons you may be experiencing foul drain smells or ‘smelly drains’ is because in fact you’re experiencing a blockage somewhere in your system, now just because you hear the word drain blockage it doesn’t necessarily mean your pipes are completely blocked.

It may just be that the outside walls of the pipe have a buildup of limescale or waste product that’s restricting the flow of water, this is what we’d call a partial blockage and although it may not be quite as serious as a full blockage, if left untreated, it can develop and wreak havoc on your home or commercial property.

If you’re unsure whether you’re experiencing a partial or full blockage, there are a number of things you can do to identify the cause, we’ve created this quick guide for you which you can view below to help you ascertain which problem you may be facing:

Our drain unblocking guide

As you can see on the guide above, the most common drainage problems our engineers deal with each day are, collapsed drains, lanes for drains being blocked, smelly drains or foul smells coming from toilets / sinks and blocked drains.

There are a number of ways you can fix these, the most basic would be drain rodding where you connect a series of poles together which forms a long bendy stick that can be inserted into the pipe to prod the block which may dislodge it. Other forms can be liquids and powders such as B&Q chemical drain cleaners which you can buy over the counter.

These solutions can work but more often than not they are merely a short term solution to the problem as drain rodding can dislodge a blockage (but may also just push it further down the pipe) and when using chemical drain cleaners, you’ll find they might do enough to break down some fats / oils but they aren’t always strong enough to dissolve all of the build up.

That’s why if you’re experiencing smelly drains in the shower, waste product overflowing or toilets that won’t flush, the only way to guarantee the issue is completely fixed is to use a professional drainage repair company and here’s why.

Cleaning a drain

When you use a chemical drain cleaner, you’ll pour it in the sink, wait 15 minutes or so, then run the tap, sometimes it may have worked and you’ll be able to tell by the water that’s finally running down the plug hole correctly or the drain smells you were experiencing will finally have passed, these are your only 2 ways of really knowing if it’s worked, but you won’t be able to identify if it’s completely removed the problem or rather, just made it a little bit better.

How our engineers clean a drain

  • Firstly, they’ll carry out a CCTV drain survey to identify exactly where the issue is, they’ll even show you the live footage of your drainage pipes to prove it.

  • They’ll then carry out a high pressure drain jetting which utilizes a state-of-the-art water lance which is ran at an incredibly high pressure. This jet is passed through your drainpipe cleaning it along the way, it completely breaks down limescale, fats, oils and waste product into tiny bits which the water then washes away. It not only cleans the bit where the blockage is, it cleans before and after so you can guarantee the issue won’t return anytime soon.

  • They’ll then show you the CCTV footage to help provide you with peace of mind, they’ll also provide you with a full written report which documents the work that’s been carried out.

Unblocking a drain

When you find a blockage and attempt to rod it, you may think after a few tries that you’ve remove the block, however you may be at risk of just dislodging it and moving it further down the pipe, you may also end up breaking a section of which temporarily lets waste product pass through which in turn leads you to believe it’s been a successful attempt, however, this will soon form a new blockage again and you’ll be facing the issue once more.

How our engineers unblock a drain

  • Firstly, they’ll carry out a CCTV drain survey to identify exactly where the issue is, they’ll even show you the live footage of your drainage pipes to prove it.

  • They’ll then recommend the best course of action. This could be drain jetting / drain cleaning to remove a blockage, professionally rodding a drain pipe or using specialist tools such as our rotary cutting nozzle which can cut through just about anything, handy for things like tree roots which have breached a pipe and are causing waste product to build up.

  • They’ll then show you the CCTV footage to help provide you with peace of mind, they’ll also provide you with a full written report which documents the work that’s been carried out.

Another huge benefit of using a professional company is there’s no risk of being contaminated with waste product. Although it may seem like a good idea to attempt a drain unblock yourself, there’s nothing more disheartening than realising you’ve spent the day poking and prodding at poo (which if you have a shared drainage system with neighbouring buildings, may not even be your own!) to later realise you’ve only resolved the issue on a short term basis.

If you’re scouring the internet and using search terms such as ‘drain unblocking near me’ you can finally stop your search as you’ve come to the right place

If you’re experiencing a collapsed / overflowing drain, complete sewer blockages which requires a thorough drain clean, collapsed drain lanes or drain gulley’s or you’re moving home and looking to identify all of the above issues before you complete by having a drain CCTV survey carried out first, we’re on hand to help.

Whether it be advice or whether you’d like to book in for an appointment with a professional drainage engineer to finally rid yourself of those stinky, smelly drains, we’re on hand to help.

Feel free to use the links here to get in touch!

If you'd like to attempt to clear the drain first then we've created these easy to follow steps below. Just make sure you're confident in carrying out the work first before you consider starting, drain rodding if done incorrectly can cause further damage. If you're unsure about attempting it, contact us today to find out how we can help.

How to unblock a drain at home

If you’re attempting a home unblock then we strongly recommend you use the following pieces of equipment to help you effectively deal with the task!

Gloves & Face Mask – Gloves will help prevent you coming into contact with waste product that you could potentially be touching. A study shows we touch our face on an average 16 times per hour so reducing the potential for contamination is essential when attempting a home drain unblock. A face mask will protect you from back spray when cleaning drains and will reduce the risk of any waste product entering your mouth.

A lift mechanism – Whether it be a screwdriver, a metal bar or a rope tied around the handle of the drain cover (if you have one), these tools will come in handy to help lift sewer cover.

A bucket – When removing waste from a drain you’ll need somewhere to effectively store it! Don’t try and place the drain waste in bags as they could rip and will undoubtedly let mucky drain water pass through which could lead to further contamination.

Drain Rods – Don’t use sticks! Use a professional drain rodding kit which is fit for purpose and designed for the task. Drain rods are designed to be placed into blocked sewers and will bend around pipes to work their way through the drain. Connect each rod together by screwing them in and making sure the securing pin clicks on each one (you don’t want these detaching and coming off inside the drain).

Push the rods through until you feel resistance, once you feel it, push the rod forwards and backwards into the blockage inside the drainpipe to try and help dislodge it and break the blockage up.

Drain Cleaning Solution – Whether it’s industrial bleach, commercial cleaner, anti bac or drain cleaning chemicals / solution. Make sure you thoroughly clean the rods when pulling them back out of the drain after you’ve finished rodding. This will ensure you clean as you go and prevent any unwanted contamination. It’ll also make sure you’ve got a nice set of clean rods which will be handy for the next time you need to use them.

Drain chemical cleaner – Designed for breaking down fats / oils this will be your best home after care product. Once the drain has been successfully rodded and you’re sure the blockage has been cleared, pour the drain chemical cleaner into the manhole / sewer pipe to help break down any residual waste that’s been left in place. You can pick up drain cleaners and drain chemical cleaning powders from most DIY home stores such as B&Q and Wickes.

Clean Water – Ideally a garden hose but if you haven’t got access to one, a few buckets should do. One the drain has been cleared you’ll need to flood it with fresh water to ensure the blockage in the drain is thoroughly washed through in order to prevent a further blockage somewhere deeper into the drainpipe. You’ll also want to make sure the drain cleaner chemicals have been washed away properly as these can be incredibly harmful to pets or small children who are most likely going to be playing in the garden.

If after attempting a home drain unblock you still find you’re experiencing problems, then you’ll most likely need something a little more heavy duty. Our engineers carry out high pressure drain jetting which can blast away stubborn blockages. We also provide rotary drain cutting for tree roots and drain CCTV surveys to help identify the exact location of the issue.

drain rodding equipment
Drain Rodding

How to unblock a sink at home

If you’re attempting to clear a blocked drain / sink inside the home then we’d recommend the following steps:

Remove the drain trap – The trap is the bendy pipe which is designed to stop waste / smells coming back up the pipe and through the plug home. Nine times out of ten this is the first thing to check as just by simply removing the trap and checking inside, you’ll most likely find food, hair and other waste product inside.

Using your finger / a few taps on a hard surface and you’ll find the waste comes out, once clear, just re attach (usually by a screw connect fitting). Just make sure if there’s water in your sink you put the plug in first and turn of any running taps, once the drain trap is removed, the water will come flowing through like Niagara Falls and will be all over your bathroom / kitchen floor before you know it,

If it’s just a smelly drain, try a chemical drain cleaner / drain un blocker, this can break down fats, oils and grease that have accumulated in the pipe and can wash them away and remove those foul smells you’ve been experiencing in your kitchen.

Use a plunger – A plunger works by securing a seal over the top of your plug, when you push down on it, the plunger forces air into the drain, when you lift it, the plunger forces the air back up. By repeating this motion it encourages blockages to dislodge which with any luck, will be all you need to do in order to clear the blockage.

sink trap unblocking
Sink Unblocking

How to help avoid drain blockages

  • The main issues we face when dealing with drain unblocks tend to be caused by the homeowner without them actually realising, they’ve caused the block. By flushing

  • Paint (if you’re cleaning brushes out after painting in the home)

  • Nappies & Wet Wipes / Baby wipes (as these don’t break down and absolutely love to cause blockages in your drainage system)

  • Tampons & sanitary towels (these absorb water and expand within your drainpipe which is prefect for causing a blockage)

  • Children’s toys (this happens more than you might expect, especially Lego & toy cars)

  • Medical trauma dressings such as bandages, plasters and wraps

  • Cotton pads, cotton buds and cotton wool

  • Wrappers from products

  • Dental floss

  • Hair (it might seem like a good idea to clean your hair brush out and thrown the hair into the toilet, however, this is a great binding product for drain blockages)

The best drain cleaners / drain chemical cleaners in our opinion

  • Invade Bio Drain Gel

  • Drano Drain Cleaner Professional Strength

  • Bio-Clean Drain Septic Bacteria

  • RID-X Septic Tank System Treatment Powder

  • Thrift Marketing Gidds Drain Cleaner


So, there we have it, our guide to drain cleaning and drain unblocking. For minor blockages and cleaning you can follow the steps above, you can also use our guide to ascertain whether you’ve got a partial blockage or a full drain blockage.

We’ve discussed the steps you can take to clean your sinks at home and attempt small drain unblocks via drain rodding, we’ve also included the best drain chemical cleaners you can buy over the counter to help you remove those smelly drains you’re experiencing in the home.

The main bit of advice we’d give is to take on as much or as little as you feel comfortable to do so. As simple as it may seem drain unblocking can be incredibly complex and if not carried out completely, can cause further damage.

We're centrally located in Rugby, Warwickshire but have engineers on hand throughout the UK so if you're struggling with a drain unblock in Coventry or in need of drain repairs in London, our engineers are on hand to help, whether you need drain rodding, high power drain jetting and drain cleaning, drain repairs and replacements or a drain CCTV survey, we’re here to help.

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Nov 02, 2020

Hi, I live near carmarthen in West Wales. Do you cover this area and it would be good to have some approx costs for clearing a blocked rainwater pipe.

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