How to Unclog a Basement Floor Drain

A rusty old basement drain in a concrete floor.
  • 2-4 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-100
What You'll Need
Old clothes
Plumber's rods or snake
Hot water

A basement floor drain removes standing water and any floodwater from below your house. However, if the drain clogs up, it can cause water to back up and flood everywhere. This can damage any belongings stored in your basement, and water damage elsewhere. It is a very traumatic experience for everyone, which is why you will need to do everything you can to keep your floor drain clear. You probably don't need to hire an expensive plumber, though—most people can complete this project themselves.

Step 1 - Don Your Gear and Prepare

First, prepare yourself, Put on some old clothes, work or rubber gloves, and a pair of boots. Scoop up as much of the water as possible in a bucket and discard it in a safe location. Also, don't turn on any taps until you are completely sure you have unclogged the floor drain.

Step 2 - Locate the Access Point

Most basement drains are large and should already have an access port somewhere in the drain line. Finding this will make it much easier for you to rod the pipes with a plumber's rod or snake, as the access hatch allows you to deal with the blockage without having to navigate the sharp bend between the drain and the pipe.

Step 3 - Rod or Snake the Basement Floor Drain

Push the rod into the drain and pour a small amount of water down behind it. Continue rodding the drain, trying to push slightly further each time. The water will help to wash out anything which is causing the blockage. Try to push as far as you can until the rod won't go any further.

If you're using a snake rather than regular plumbing rods, feed the snake into the pipe and turn the handle to advance it farther. With any luck, the end will catch the debris. Keep turning the handle until you meet with a significant amount of resistance, and then pull the source of the clog out. You don't want to push anything farther into the drain because this will cause problems for you or someone else later on.

Step 4 - Repeat

If you're not able to deal with the entire blockage the first time, you should repeat the process again until you can get rid of the whole thing. Once the drain is clear, use hot water to wash away any debris remaining in the pipe.

Step 5 - Prevent Future Blockage

You can use a number of different techniques to prevent a clogged drain in the future. For example, if you find that the drain is being stopped up by lots of soap, you can try using hot water and vinegar to break down the deposits. Also, make sure that you're not using too much soap when you wash your clothes. Also, tell members of your family what can't be poured down the drains, such as grease or fat. Cool any fat and put in the trash rather than tipping it down the drain where it will just congeal later.