If your home's bathtub or kitchen sink starts draining slowly and even backing up, you don't want to overlook this problem. Clogs don't tend to work themselves out over time, but usually just get worse. A serious clog can also mean pressure on the pipes that can lead to leaks around the connectors and, in extreme cases, even burst pipes. Note a few things you can do to unblock a clogged drain, and how to manage these techniques safely and effectively.

Bent coat hanger

A bent coat hanger can work to unblock a clog, but only if you use it properly. Straighten a wire coat hanger as much as possible and then bend one end to form a long but very narrow hook; you don't want more than an inch or centimetre between the two sides of the hook. Anything wider and the hanger won't fit into the drain or grab the debris causing the clog.

As you use the hanger in your drain, remember that you're trying to wedge it below the clog and pull the debris up, not push it into the pipe; trying to push it can only mean making the clog deeper and harder to address. Slide the hook along the side of the pipe rather than right down the middle, so you can push it past the clog and then pull the debris back up from the drain.

Caustic soda

Caustic soda, or sodium hydroxide, is a good way to get rid of clogs without damaging pipes. You can find this at most hardware store, and you mix the soda with water; be sure you wear thick rubber gloves and keep your face away from the bucket you use, as the vapours can be damaging to your skin and sinuses. Pour the mixture into the drain and let it sit for several minutes, then rinse with hot water. This should clear most clogs.

Wet vac

If you have a shop vac or a wet-dry vac at home, this can work for clogged drains. Be sure you set the vacuum for clearing up wet messes, as the drain will hold quite a bit of water along with the clog. You also need to ensure the vacuum hose is properly sealed over the drain opening; a bit of petroleum jelly along the edge of the hose can provide a tight seal. A shop vacuum is usually strong enough to remove any hair, soap scum, and other debris that is causing the blockage quickly and easily.