Cleaning and unblocking drainpipes

Do you know how to clean your drainpipes? Our guide tells you how to keep them clean and unblocked, including which STIHL tools will help you get the job done quickly.

A flexible metal rod being pushed up a drainpipe with water flowing into a blue rain barrel

What is a drainpipe? Why does it need cleaning?

A drainpipe or downpipe is part of the roof drainage system on most buildings. It is connected to the gutters and channels water down towards the ground, protecting the main exterior of the building. It is made up of various functional segments of piping held together by connectors and brackets. Drainpipes generally terminate above a barrel which collects the rainwater, or into a drain which is connected to the sewerage system in the ground. Regular cleaning is important because, over time, leaves, moss and plant matter can gather in the gutter which the drainpipes are connected to. If ignored, these can eventually form a blockage – with expensive consequences.

A mass of leaves in a transparent drainpipe, with the STIHL pipe cleaning set clearing it from below

If you notice that water from your gutter is not passing through the downpipe properly, your downpipe is probably clogged and in need of cleaning. You might see leaking from pipe connections when it rains, or directly from the gutter, or just persistently damp patches of wall. Any drainpipe blockage formed by leaves, moss and plant matter increases water pressure within the pipe, which, in the worst case scenario, could cause your drainpipes to break.

Overhead shot of a gutter full of leaves being cleaned by a man with a STIHL leaf blower and gutter cleaning set

Cleaning gutters: a handy guide

You can help prevent blockages in your drainpipe by making sure your gutters are kept clean. Take a look at our guide to cleaning gutters so that rainwater can flow through them freely.


Cleaning drainpipes: how to do it

You’ll be amazed at how easy cleaning drainpipes is with a pressure washer and a pipe cleaning set.

Pipe cleaning sets designed specifically for cleaning drainpipes are available as accessories for STIHL pressure washers. The hose has a nozzle at the end which can dislodge even stubborn blockages. The pipe cleaning set uses a combination of water and mechanical power, to give your drainpipe an especially thorough, yet virtually effortless cleaning. It takes just 5 simple steps with the tool:

A pipe cleaning set being attached to a STIHL high-pressure cleaner
  1. Connect the pipe cleaning hose to your pressure washer.

  2. Feed the hose up into the drainpipe you need to clean.

  3. Switch on the pressure washer and push the hose in until it reaches the blockage.

  4. Use circular motions to dislodge the leaves and debris that have accumulated in the pipe until the blockage sprays out of the downpipe.

  5. Finally, keep rinsing until the water from the pipe runs clear.

Cleaning drainpipes: a video guide

STIHL pro tip: If your drain pipes terminate below ground level, you will need to locate and remove the blocked section for cleaning. Before opening the pipe brackets to do this, inspect the drainpipe carefully. The blockage will always be somewhere below the segment of the pipe from which water is leaking. It’s also worth checking that the blockage is not in the underground section of the pipe.

Summary: cleaning drainpipes

  • Cleaning drainpipes is a straightforward job that should be part of your routine home maintenance.
  • The best way to tackle it is by using a STIHL pressure washer with a pipe cleaning set.
  • Blocked drainpipes need cleaning as a matter of urgency.