That moment you first realize you have a blocked drain on your hands is sure to be a very stressful and irritating moment. There will probably be a million thoughts running through your mind, including how much the incident is going to cost and whether you can fix the problem yourself. Conducting a Do-It-Yourself repair on a clogged toilet or sink is a tricky process. It could be a fairly straightforward fix that wouldn’t take long at all, or it could be a problem that compounds itself when you throw in a little of your own elbow grease. Take a look at the following guidelines to help you determine whether you should attempt a DIY or instead contact a professional:

First, find your shutoff valve.

Before you do anything else, you will want to find your shutoff valve, or the switch that cuts the water supply to your home. Any kind of harsh impact upon your drains could leave you with a burst pipe, which, in turn, can leave you with a massive water leak. It is best to just cut the water before you assess the situation. Remember, you can always turn the water back on, but you can’t undo a burst pipe.

Second, reach for your plunger.

When you are dealing with a blocked drain, the usual first response is to plunge the sink or toilet. This is generally a safe practice, but you must exercise caution. Placing too much force on the plunger, especially with a newer, super-plunger, can cause unwanted damage. Burst pipes are a possibility, and this can end up costing you more money that you originally planned to spend on a repair. If a couple of gentle plunges do not do the job, then stop and check for other issues before giving it another try. Make sure the top of the plunger is covered with water when you begin plunging the affected drain. If the plunger isn’t doing the trick, you may have bigger problems on your hands.

Be wary of drain cleaners.

Many people instinctively reach for drain cleaner when they encounter a blocked drain. This is not always a good idea for namely one big reason: Drain Cleaner can ruin your pipes. The potency and toxicity of drain cleaner can eat away at the metal, leaving you with brittle drains that may leak. It is best to use drain cleaner very rarely. If you must clean your drains, consider utilizing a vinegar and baking soda solution instead.

Think very hard about your experience before you attempt to take apart the pipes.

The next natural progression is to consider whether you should disassemble the piping system. This is a very dangerous road to take, unless you are completely confident in your plumbing abilities. Disassembling pipes can lead to unwanted leaks, bursts, and unforeseen problems. If you are at this point, after plunging, then maybe consider that it is time to indeed hire a professional.