Blocked drains can be a nightmare and dealing with them is overwhelming and cumbersome. They can cause a host of problems resulting in damage and expensive repairs.
That is why, learning about the telltale signs of a blocked drain and knowing how to prevent blockages, can be handy.
Signs of a blocked drain
Keeping an eye out for warning signs of a blocked drain can save you time and money. Here are some telltale signs of a blocked drain:
The first sign of a blocked drain is an unpleasant smell, arising from bathrooms, sinks or drains. When organic matter breaks down, it releases foul smelling gases that emanate through the blocked drain.
Toilet won’t flush
A sure sign that something is wrong with the drainpipes is when the toilet doesn’t flush, or the water level is too high. More than likely it is because of a blockage.
When water keeps backing up into your sink, bathtub, or shower, it’s a sign that you may be facing a blocked drain.
Slow draining of water
You may notice that the water is draining slowly, and it pools around longer than expected. If this keeps getting worse, it’s a sign that the drain blockage is escalating.
If you hear any gurgling sounds from the plug hole, drain, or toilet bowl, then it indicates that water is pooling in the pipes and not draining properly.
Causes of a blocked drain
A blocked drain is a common problem and most of the time it occurs due to build-up from everyday use. Below are some common causes of a blocked drain:
- Fat build-up from cooking oils, grease, and fat.
- Chemical build-up from bathroom soaps, shampoo, and toothpaste. Sometime solid soap bars can get lodged in the drain.
- Hair is a common cause of blocked drains.
- Tree roots can break through pipes in the main sewage system and cause blockages.
- Non-flushable items like toilet rolls, baby napkins and wet wipes result in blockages. These items cannot break down naturally and get stuck in the pipes.
- Over time mineral build-up because of hard water can cause constriction in the drain.
- Leaves and twigs, especially during autumn, can fall into outdoor drains and cause a blockage.
How to fix a blocked drain
If your drain is blocked, and the problem is not too serious, you can use some of the DIY remedies listed here to unclog the pipes.
- Pour some boiling water down the drain to clear blockages cause by grease and fat build-up. Build-up from toiletries like shampoo and soap can also be cleared by boiling water, as these substances have a low melting point.
- Use a natural cleaner like a mixture of one cup bicarbonate of soda and one cup of vinegar. Let it sit in the drain for 10 minutes and then pour some clean hot water.
- Store-bought caustic drain cleaners can clear tougher blockages by dissolving fats, grease, and oils. Follow the instructions on the packaging.
- Use biological cleaners instead of strong chemical cleaners. The biological cleaners use enzymes that eat through the grime. But it is not as effective as harsh chemical cleaners, especially for stubborn blockages.
- Use a plunger to form a seal around a plug hole and dislodge a blockage with the help of a vacuum effect.
- One way to dislodge hair and material stuck in the drain is to use a DIY drain snake made from a metal hanger with a hook at the ends. This method is quite effective in showers.
- Take apart the drainpipe and clean it yourself.
For more advanced blockages, and when DIY solutions don’t work, you will have to call a professional plumber. Some methods and tools a pro uses include:
- For difficult clogs, a plumber will use a professional motorised drain snake to remove blockages deep in the system.
- Plumbers also use CCTV cameras to identify and assess blockages.
- An effective method to clear out surfaces and pipes is called hydro jetting or hydro blasting. Plumbers will use sharp bursts of water to remove substances and other debris from the pipes.
- In severe cases, a professional will have to dig around the drain to repair and replace some of the pipework.
- Sometimes pipe relining is necessary, especially if the drainpipes are damaged because of prolonged blockage. Here, the pipes are relined using resin after the blockage is removed.
How to prevent blocked drains
The most obvious method of avoiding blocked drainage is to keep the drains clear of any substances or debris that can cause blockages. You can implement a few practical habits to keep drains clear:
- Use a sink strainer to ensure that only water goes down the drain and not solid substances like food particles. In fact, food should not be dumped in the drain.
- Do not pour cooking oils and fat into the kitchen sink.
- Make sure you don’t flush non-flushable items.
- Do not use too much toilet paper as flushing it will cause a blockage.
- Keeps gutters clean, and clear dead leaves and other debris as these can make their way to the down pipe or storm water drain.
- Use water softener if you are receiving hard water from the mains as it will help prevent material build-up.
- Use a hair catcher to prevent hair from going down the drain.