Now that you're a homeowner, you're responsible for any maintenance to your property, including blocked drains.

There are some tools to remove a blockage, but the best place to start is with prevention. Follow these steps to avoid clogging your drain:

  • Use sink strainers. You don't want garbage or foodstuffs going down the drains in your kitchen sink. Strainers catch these items so they can be deposited in your waste bin.
  • Throw grease in the trash. If you're frying chicken or fish or cooking any other greasy foods, don't pour the liquid down your drains. Over time, it sticks to the side of your pipes and traps food, causing a blockage. Instead, pour the grease into a disposable container and toss it in with your garbage. If any grease gets into your drain, run plenty of hot water to loosen it.
  • Run water with your disposal. If your kitchen has a garbage disposal, ensure you're running plenty of cold water when you operate it. This helps wash away the food particles.
  • Don't flush inappropriate objects down your toilet. Keep in mind that toilets are for the disposal of toilet tissue and bodily waste. Paper towel, facial tissue and other items should be disposed of in the appropriate receptacles.
  • Check pop-up stoppers. For your shower, bathtub and bathroom sink, inspect the pop-up stoppers every so often to look for hair, which can cause a blockage over time.

Cleaning your drains

If, despite your best prevention efforts, your drains become blocked, you can clear them if there isn't a serious issue. Here are some ways to address the task:

  • Use a pipe snake. The technical name for this tool is an auger. It is used to break up clogs so they can be rinsed down the drain. Some models can even be attached to a power drill so that you don't have to crank the tool by hand.
  • Use a plunger. This trusty tool is a staple in any home. For toilet and sink clogs, simply put the plunger over the main opening and use suction to loosen the blockage.
  • Clear the trap. Under your sink, there is a j-shaped section of the pipe known as the trap, which may hold a clog. Some traps include a clean-out plug. If your plumbing has one, remove the plug and use a coat hanger or other item to remove debris. For traps that don't have a plug, you'll have to remove the section of pipe. Remember to keep a waste bucket handy.
  • Unblock the main sewer line. If you notice that you're having drainage problems for all of your plumbing, the issue could result from a clog in your main sewer line. These large, vertical pipes have clean-out plugs and can be located in your basement or crawl space. Again, keep a waste bucket nearby to catch any water in the pipe before you remove the plug. Also, work with a fan turned on and your windows open, as sewer gases can be released when you open the main sewer line. You'll need a wrench to get the plug off and a pipe snake to remove the clog.

A note about chemical cleaners

For more stubborn clogs, you may consider using a chemical solution. However, avoid these products when possible. Over time they can corrode and damage your pipes - something that could be noted by the home inspection when you're ready to sell. If you do use one of these cleaners, run plenty of water to rinse the chemicals from your drain.