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How to Remove Gravel From a Drain: 9 Unclogging Remedies

Few things are as frustrating as a clogged and uncooperative drain. 

Sometimes the problem is easy to fix, but oftentimes all your troubleshooting efforts have failed like in the case of gravel and you’re left with a smelly problem that just won’t get better. 

For those stubborn cases, you need something more powerful than chemical drain cleaner; you need a few items and some time to unclog the drain for good by using:

  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Power wash
  • Plunger
  • Drain snake
  • Wire brush
  • Steam cleaner
  • Water hose
  • Air drain blaster
  • Air compressor

Read More: Can You Pour Drain Cleaner Down a Vent Pipe?

That’s why this guide on how to unclog a drain blocked by gravel is exactly what you need. It should help you get rid of gravel you might be having with your plumbing system.

How do you remove gravel stones out of a drain pipe?

1. Use a vacuum cleaner

Using a vacuum cleaner to remove dirt and debris from the drain is an excellent way to get rid of the blockage and unclog the pipe entirely. 

Vacuums are useful in several ways, aside from just removing dirt. 

They can be used to suck up broken pieces of plastic, glass, even metals that have accumulated in your pipes and blocked them. 

A vacuum cleaner uses suction power to pull dirt into the machine where it gets trapped inside filters.

Vacuums that have a hose attached can be easily used in clearing drainage systems of debris. 

Before you use your vacuum cleaner, make sure that the hose is securely attached to the drain. 

You don’t want it to fall and damage or break off your sink’s drain, or fall into your bathtub and get stuck inside the pipes.  

You can then run the hose down the drain, slowly rotating it as you do so. 

This will ensure that any clogging or debris that is stuck in the pipe is sucked out and removed.

2. Power wash the drain

If a vacuum cleaner doesn’t get rid of the gravel blocking your drain, it’s time to power wash the system using an electric or battery-powered pump. 

Power washers have water hoses that run through them just like regular hoses do. 

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But the power washer has a nozzle at the end which injects massive amounts of high-pressure water into pipes, so as to loosen any clogs or debris that exist inside them. 

This is done by running the nozzle against the clogged area with a spray-and-wipe motion. 

Dump excess water after each cycle, and repeat until no clogs remain.

3. Clean out the drain with a plunger

If you’re still not sure how to unclog your drain, try using a plunger. 

The plunger’s suction power should be more than enough to pull out whatever blockages are present in your sink or tub. 

Plungers can be used for two purposes: to vacuum the pipes or to push debris down the drain. 

Plungers are not very common in homes, but they’re often used by plumbers in draining systems to loosen pipes so that they can be pulled out. 

Plungers work very well if there isn’t too much debris in the drain, but they aren’t effective at removing large objects such as rocks. 

If you’re trying to clear a clogged drain, you may find yourself needing to use both a plunger and a vacuum cleaner. 

The plunger works best when you’re dealing with smaller clogs, while the vacuum cleaner does its job when you’re dealing with larger ones.

4. Use a drain snake

Necessity is the mother of invention, and one innovation to clean out a clogged drain is the drain snake. 

Read More: How to Clean Balcony Without Drain

A drain snake is exactly as it sounds: a long, flexible plastic or metal wire with an attached auger at one end that’s inserted down the sink or tub drain. 

Then, the wire is pushed through the pipe which loosens and removes almost anything that’s stuck in it. 

It can be used for several things and can help you clean out junks that accumulate in the pipes. 

Drain snakes are electrically powered or manually operated by hand and can be bought at any hardware or plumbing store. 

Also, most plumbing companies offer drain cleaning services, so you should look for those if you’re looking for a full-service solution.

5. Use a wire brush

A wire brush is a simple and inexpensive tool that can be used to clear your drain line of debris. 

The brush is usually made of several steel wires woven into a mesh, sometimes with a handle attached to the mesh. 

You can use the brush after running water into the drain several times to soften and loosen any clogs. 

When you use the brush, hold it at an angle in one hand while you slowly dip it into your drain. 

Using a scrubbing motion, move the brush down into the drain, forcing it to wiggle around so that it catches any debris that is clogging your pipe. 

Whereas a drain snake is a tool that’s inserted deep into pipes, the wire brush can be used to clean out debris from the top. 

In addition, it can also help you clean out your sink and bathtub if they have hair clogging them.

6. Use a steam cleaner

Steam cleaners usually have a long hose attached to a steam head that has several nozzles. 

When you press the trigger on the cleaner, the head will shoot out a stream of steam into your drain pipe and loosen any debris that’s blocking it. 

Read More: Can You Drive Over Corrugated or PVC Drain Pipe?

Also: Do Drain Pipe Holes Go Up or Down?

Steam cleaners are easy and fast to use, but should not be used on copper pipes if you suspect dissolved oxygen or carbon dioxide is present in them. 

Related: Can Gravel Dissolve in Water?

This is because of the corrosive effect a solution of steam and these gases can have on the copper. 

Steam cleaners can be used on most types of household drains such as those used in washing machines, sinks, cisterns and the toilet’s drain. 

They can also help you clean out pipes that have calcium deposits, rust or chemical residue trapped inside them.

7. Use a water hose

Another way to remove large objects from the drain is to use a water hose. 

This method is not that effective when you’re dealing with skin cells, hair or food debris. 

However, it’s excellent for clearing large trash and debris such as sticks, rocks and cloth that get trapped in your pipes. 

First thing you need to do is ensure the water coming out of the hose is at a high pressure and is running at full blast the entire time. 

Then, you need to find an area where the water will rush into your pipes and open up their entrances so that all the debris inside is swept out. 

You can do this by pointing the hose down your sink or tub drain and turning on the faucets to let it fill with water. 

Ensure that the water is running fast enough to form a whirlpool inside the drain. You should do this for about 20 seconds to 1 minute. 

Then, turn off the faucets once you remove debris from the pipe’s entrance. 

If you don’t have access to a water hose, you can simply perfuse your drain with boiling water for about five minutes. 

This should loosen up any clogs inside it and help push out all debris that’s trapped in there.

8. Use an air drain blaster to blast away clogs

In case you’ve got stubborn gravel debris that’s stopping water from flowing down your drain, then air blasters can quickly and effectively blow away your clogs. 

A drain blaster works by creating a vortex inside a pipe, which generates high pressure air that pushes and loosens clogs. 

These devices have their own nozzles that connect to the pipes that shoot out ultra-high-pressure air that helps dislodge any blockages. 

Here are a few more reasons to use a handheld air drain blaster technique to blast away any tough blockages or debris inside your pipes:

  • Works great on air ducts
  • Safe and effective way to remove dust, stones and other debris
  • Great for removing hairballs too
  • Blasts air at up to 43 PSI to create a blowing force
  • Works on drains up to 50 feet long

9. Use an air compressor to blow out blocked drains

Locating a professional plumber isn’t always possible, especially if you live in a rural area. 

In that case, using an air compressor to clear your drain may be the best option for you. 

Using an air compressor to clear your drain is practically the same method as using one to fill tires. 

This is because an air compressor has a nozzle that can be attached just like a regular hose. 

Pressurized air is what makes the air compressors work. 

So, instead of relying on your hands to apply pressure to your pipes, you’ll be able to use an air compressor to generate the necessary pressure needed to blast away clogs. 

While garbage disposal units will use water to do this, an air compressor doesn’t need any. 

As powerful as air compressors are, they should be used with caution. 

You never want to point one at yourself or anyone else, and you should always wear protective gear such as earplugs or safety glasses when you’re using it. 

The only downside to using an air compressor is that most types require electricity to operate, so make sure you have a power outlet nearby before you start blasting away.

How gravel ends up in drains

Gravel is often accidentally introduced into drainage systems when it is flushed down toilets, washed down outside drains, or washed off driveways. 

Some other sources of gravel include:

  • Home remodeling is a source of minor gravel seepage.
  • Pools, French drains, drainage basins and other water collection systems can become outlets for gravel.
  • Children’s toys after playing outdoors can carry gravel and dirt into the drainage system in the house
  • Your shoes, clothing or pets may pick up sand and bring it into the home where it can be tracked onto carpeting or into shower stalls.
  • Pouring potting soil down sinks or toilet bowls can inadvertently introduce large amounts of loose fine sand and silt that can easily clog drain pipes. Related: Do You Glue Gutter Drain Pipe?
  • Transportation sources – cars and trucks that grind up gravel on the roads can deliver it to storm drains, rivers, streams or lakes.
  • Lawn, patio and gardening tools that are used in enclosed areas such as swimming pools can scratch the surfaces they are used on and cause stones to be dislodged into the drain system below.
  • Outdoor conditions such as rain or wind can dislodge gravel from the surface of sidewalks, driveways or parking lots.
  • Pest control: Efforts to control insect or rodent activity can dislodge loose stones into a drainage system.
  • Natural conditions: Flooding during hurricanes and heavy rainstorms, and snow removal can cause the stones to wash down drains.
  • Construction activities such as landscaping, driveway construction or road reconstruction may also release gravel into the drainage system below it

Does vinegar dissolve gravel stones?

Like most rocks, gravel can be broken down by acid, which allows the gravel to dissolve into smaller pieces. 

However, vinegar is an acid with a low concentration that can only dissolve a small amount of gravel over time, especially those that contain calcium carbonate. 

Additionally, vinegar with a considerably high pH level can damage metal pipes, fixtures and appliances. 

So, if you’re cleaning out your sink with vinegar, you’d better pour it into the drain itself rather than letting it sit in the basin or tub and harming the surrounding area. 

If you’re looking for an alternative way to clean out your kitchen sink without damaging anything, try pouring boiling hot water into the drain. 

Boiling water is very effective at removing greasy food debris and soap scum from your sink, and it also helps loosen up the sediment inside your pipes.

Final thoughts

Gravel is not harmful to humans, but it can cause serious problems if it gets into your plumbing system. 

The best thing to do about gravel in your drain is to prevent its introduction into your drainage system. 

To keep gravel from entering your drain, make sure that your gutters are cleaned regularly so that they don’t collect any debris. 

Also, avoid using harsh chemicals to clean your drains because these chemicals will only worsen the situation.

Instead, use a plunger or other mechanical device to clear out the blockage. 

You can also pour boiling water into the drain to loosen up the sediment inside.