It's frustrating when your sink's blocked and won't work properly. It can also be hard to work out the best way to deal with the blockage. But don't worry – below you'll find all the information you need on how to unblock your sink and help prevent blockages in the future.

Why do sinks get blocked?

This will depend on where the sink is. Most kitchen sinks get blocked because cooking grease or oil builds up on the pipe walls. Blocks in the bath or shower are generally down to dirt, skin flakes and hair getting caught in the pipes, reducing water flow.

There are a few simple solutions to remove this grime and get your sinks working again. But if your sinks are regularly clogged, there could be a problem with how the drains were designed and installed. If this is the case, you'll need to call a qualified plumber.

How to clear an unblocked sink

  1. To unblock a kitchen or bathroom sink, run hot water down the drain to soften the clog.
  2. Put some washing-up liquid down the drain and then run more hot water.
  3. If this doesn't work, try using a suitable chemical drain cleaner. Always follow the instructions on the packaging.

Using a plunger

  1. Half fill your sink with hot water.
  2. If you've got a double sink, stuff a cloth into the unclogged plughole. This makes sure the plunger’s pressure is focused on the clog.
  3. Start working the plunger up and down quickly to create an airtight seal on the drain.
  4. After 60 seconds of plunging, lift the plunger to see if the hot water starts to drain. If not, repeat the process until the water clears.

Using a wire hanger

  1. Straighten out a coat wire hanger, forming a hook at the bottom.
  2. Shine a light down the plughole to see if there are any lumps of dirt or grime clogging the sink.
  3. Insert the coat hanger down the drain and try to hook whatever is causing the clog.
  4. This method is particularly useful if you're already using a plunger. The plunger can bring the clog into sight, letting you pull it out with the wire hanger.

Removing the U-bend

If other methods don't work, you can try clearing the blockage by removing and cleaning out the U-bend. This is the first bend in the pipe underneath the sink.

To remove the U-bend:

  1. Make sure you have a washing-up bowl or container ready to catch any water that may spill out.
  2. Unscrew the two plastic fittings where the U-bend joins the bottom of the sink.
  3. When water starts coming out, stop unscrewing immediately and let the water drain. When it's all gone, remove the U-bend completely.
  4. Look in the removed U-bend to see what's causing the block.
  5. Pull out any blockages, objects or built-up grime.
  6. Screw the clean U-bend back into the bottom of the sink.

If you're still having problems with drain blockages, or don't want to remove the U-bend yourself, you should call a qualified plumber.

How to unblock a toilet

Like sinks, cleaning chemicals can be used to unclog your toilet. Pour the cleaner down the toilet. Always follow the instructions on the packaging. You may have to wait a while, but this should unblock the toilet, causing the water in the bowl to go down.

Using a plunger

If chemical cleaner doesn't work, you may need a plunger to unblock your toilet. Make sure you have the correct plunger. Toilet plungers have an extra bit at the bottom that sticks out of the plunger base. If you have one without this bit, it’s meant to be used on sinks.

To unblock the toilet:

  1. Run the plunger under hot water to soften it up. This creates a better seal.
  2. Place the plunger so it covers the hole at the bottom of your toilet. If you can't make a seal, wrap an old towel around the bottom of the plunger. Make sure the towel doesn't go down the hole and make the blockage worse.
  3. Pump the plunger a few times without breaking the seal. Make sure the water is still a few inches above the plunger.
  4. Pull the plunger up quickly and break the seal. If the water goes down the drain, you've cleared the clog. If not, continue. It might take a few tries to unclog.

If using a plunger doesn't work, you should call a qualified plumber.

Preventing your sinks and drains from getting blocked

There are several things you can do to stop your sinks getting blocked in the future.

  • Don't pour grease or oil down the kitchen sink. Instead, let it solidify and put it into a plastic bag. Put it in the bin to go out with the rubbish.
  • Clean plugholes in your bathroom sinks, baths and showers regularly to make sure there’s no build-up of hair and dirt.
  • Put sink strainers over all your plugholes to stop debris building up.
  • Don't flush cleaning wipes or baby wipes down the toilet. These don't break down in drains, causing blockages. Even if the packaging says they're flushable, put them in the bin.