Easy plumbing jobs: the clogged sink

Some jobs are better left to the professionals but thanks to the advent of plastic pipes and connectors there are many basic plumbing jobs you can do yourself.

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Before you undertake any kind of plumbing job, make sure you have the right tools to hand and have taken all necessary safety precautions.

First, make sure you know where the main water shut-off valve is located in case of a leak. Secondly, (even if you are a confident DIY plumber), make sure you have a list of emergency plumber numbers to hand – hopefully you won't need them, but better safe than sorry!

If you're going to make a plumbing repair near an electrical source make sure you turn the power off first. Give some thought to your clothing, as well as DIY tools. Generally, wearing long sleeves and trousers is a good idea – in case of any chemical or hot water splashes. Do you have the right type of gloves for the job? If you're dealing with chemicals, you'll need rough rubber gloves, for soldering heavy duty leather gloves are recommended.

Unblocking clogs
Unblocking a clogged drain or pipe is one of the most common, and thankfully easiest, plumbing jobs to tackle. In most cases, you will be able to dislodge a blockage without calling in a plumber or forking out on specialist drain cleaners.

For a blocked sink, try using a plunger first as this may quickly and easily dislodge the problem. Apply a coat of Vaseline to the edge of the plunger cup and run a few inches of water into the sink to improve suction. Put the cup of the plunger over the drain hole and firmly pump the handle up and down several times.

If this doesn't work, pour a mix of baking soda and vinegar into the drain. Leave for a while (about 10 minutes) and then run through with hot water.

If you still have no joy, try removing the trap (fitted to all sinks and basins to block odours). First, position a bowl to catch any excess water. If your tubular trap has an access point, remove the cap (by wrench if you're unable to remove by hand). You can then use a piece of wire or something similar to dislodge the blockage.

If there is no access point or you can't reach the blockage from the access point, you will need to dismantle the trap. Simply undo the top and bottom nuts (use a cloth for grip if necessary), or start them off with a wrench and remove by hand. Once they are loose, gently pull the U-bend away from the other pipes. Clear any blockages and replace the U-bend and tighten the nuts.

You can watch step-by-step videos on how to tackle all kinds of common plumbing jobs, including blocked drains and pipes, at Video Jug: http://www.videojug.com/tag/plumbing-diy