Top 10 Causes of Blocked Drains and How To Prevent Them


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At one point in our domestic lives, we deal with blocked drains. It is an inconvenient and dirty business that disrupts our schedule and hassles our everyday lives. Have you ever wondered why your drains are blocked? Check out our top ten reasons for a blocked drain along with tips on how to deal with it. 

blocked kitchen sink

1. Grease

Grease is a white residue that usually forms around your pan after frying bacon or any food. When you pour grease down the drains, it sticks around the inner lining of your pipes.  Over time, grease would block the passage of your drain system.

What You Can Do to Prevent Blocked Drains due to Grease:

  • Do not pour grease into the drains. Dispose of them properly.
  • Flush hot water down the drains if you accidentally spill grease.
flush sink with hot water

How to Deal with Blocked Drains due to Grease:

  • Use warm water and vinegar in 1:1 ratio to remove grease around the pipes.
  • You may also use caustic cleaners. Pour the caustic cleaner to remove stubborn and hardened grease and leave it for an hour. Afterwards, drain a mixture of warm water and dishwashing liquid to flush away the removed grease. However, caustic cleaners are not always advisable to use often especially for steel pipes due to its corrosive properties. 
  • If the above methods do not work, it is time to call a trusted plumber to do the work. 

2. Fat

Fat is another common cause of blockages. Fat is different from grease. Grease is only a by-product of it. Fat comes from different sources, such as human waste,  cooking oil, accumulated food residues, and sometimes fat-based soaps that we flush down the drains in our toilet and kitchen.

What You Can Do to Prevent Blocked Drains due to Fat:

  • Use fat-free soaps for showers and cleaning agents. 
  • Do not flush down food scraps. Use a drain strainer to prevent those residues from entering the drains.

How to Deal with Blocked Drains due to Fat:

  • Fat is dealt similarly with grease. You can follow the steps in dealing with grease above.

3. Hair

An average person loses 60-100 hair strands a day. It is no wonder why they always end up blocking bathroom drains and sinks!  Hair can also come from your furry pets whenever you bathe them in the tub. Strands of hair accumulate and tangle together, that would eventually create massive clump in your pipes. The worst experience that our plumbers had was pulling several metres of hairs from a customer’s drainage system, which already solidified together with a mix of grease, grime, and dirt. 
hair in the shower drain

What You Can Do to Prevent Blocked Drains due to Hair:

  • Brush your hair before you go to the shower to lessen the instances of hair fall.
  • Gather fallen hair and throw them into the trash bin.

How to Deal with Blocked Drains due to Hair:

  • Drain a cup of bleach into the drains. Bleach is a basic solution that would disintegrate hair which consists of acidic components. 
  • Clear the drains with hot water at least once every month.
  • Use a bent wire or better yet a drain snake into the pipes to hook the fallen hair.

4. Toiletries

toiletries
Many plumbers would tell you that baby wipes, tampons, condoms, sanitary pads, and tissue papers should not ever go down the drain. Rightfully so, because a blockage would be certain in the very near future.  Those little toilet deodorisers that sit on the side of your toilet covers are also a major contributor to a blocked toilet. It is easy to knock them off from the side of the bowl. Once flushed down, these can easily get stuck in the pipeworks. 

What You Can Do to Prevent Blocked Drains due to Toiletries:

  • Keep a trash bin nearby so it’s easy to throw toilet paper and baby wipes.
  • Teach young kids how to properly dispose of their used toiletries.

How to Deal with Blocked Drains due to Toiletries:

  • Utilise a plunger to unblock the drains.
  • Run hot water to soften the blockage and pour some dishwashing liquid to remove it. Wash with more hot water afterwards.
  • If nothing works and you suspect that the blockage has hardened, call a blocked drains plumber.

5. Tree Roots

The old tree root infiltration is by far the most common cause of blocked drains in Australia. Most houses and yards in New South Wales and the ACT region have beautiful large trees and all of our houses have sewer lines. It is an ideal environment for a large tree that likes warm extremely fertile and nutrient-filled sewer drains. Tree roots are persistently amazing. They will find a hairline crack or break in a sewer drain in no time, then work their way into that crack until they infest the drain, slurping its goodness until a plumber arrives to save the day.

Blocked Drains Tree Roots

What You Can Do to Prevent Blocked Drains due to Tree Roots:

  • Have a plumber regularly maintain and check your sewer pipes twice a year to make sure that the underground plumbing works are sturdy and in good shape.

How to Deal with Blocked Drains due to Tree Roots:

  • Clearing blocked drains due to tree roots invasion are better left with expert plumbers specialising in the sewer drains clearing. They have power tools like hydraulic waterjet and electric eel. Equipped with a drain CCTV camera, it will be easy for them to see what the inside of the pipes look like and prevent further damage to your plumbing.

6. Leaves and Twigs

roof gutter

Fallen leaves and twigs commonly block up our stormwater drains, starting from the roof gutters, flowing all way through the downpipes and settling in the stormwater drains. Leaves and twigs start to decompose into organic matter that would cause the blockage and eventually fill in the drains.

What You Can Do to Prevent Blocked Drains due to Fallen Leaves and Twigs:

  • Install a gutter guard. It can prevent weeds and leaves from going directly into your gutters.  Learn the benefits of having one.

How to Deal with Blocked Drains due to Fallen Leaves and Twigs:

  • Clean your roof gutters at least four times a year, especially during Summer when summer storms are common and Autumn when trees shed their leaves.
  • Be especially aware if you have wild birds and possums that pass through your place as they may carry seeds of plants that you wouldn’t want to end up in your roof.

7. Foreign Objects

In over 35 years of plumbing experience, our plumbers have found foreign objects that cause serious damage to drains and pipes. These include kids’ toys, washcloths, toothbrushes, dental flosses to name a few. As much as possible, keep bathroom items in cabinets and don’t let the kids play in your tub or shower with small toys that can easily be flushed down the drains.

What You Can Do to Prevent Blocked Drains due to Foreign Objects:

  • Keep things organised. This is easier said than done especially if you are raising young kids. However, it would not only help you keep healthy drains but also feel better about your everyday life. 
  • Bathroom organisers and trays should not be kept in places where it is easy for them to get into the loo. 

How to Deal with Blocked Drains due to Foreign Objects:

  • It might not be easy to detect if there are foreign objects stuck in your toilet that is causing the blockage. Call an expert plumber to do a CCTV scan and extract the kids’ toys out of the pipes.

8. Heavy Rain and Storms

Rainwater can sometimes overwhelm drains, especially drains in the roof and sewer that are already and not in great condition. When we experience torrential rains the water just can’t get away fast enough, and will inevitably block the drains that would result in water backups and flooding that may damage your property. 

What You Can Do to Prevent Blocked Drains due to Heavy Rains:

  • Look and seal cracks in your foundation. 
  • When you have blocked drains anywhere in the house, have them fixed immediately. 
  • Conduct a complete plumbing inspection in your sewers and stormwater drains before the start of winter and summer. It is better to detect early signs of wear and tear in your plumbing system before you are caught off guard in these extreme weather.

How to Deal with Blocked Drains due to Heavy Rains:

  • When a water backup occurs in your home, call a plumber that can identify the source of the backup. 
  • Make sure that linens and clothes are kept far away from the area of the backup if it happens inside your home. 
  • Do not let family members step and stay too long in the water backup, as this water might bring germs and bacteria that would cause serious illnesses.

9. Broken Pipes

Broken or displaced pipes caused by trees or even just ground movement are a continual cause of blocked drains, as you can imagine a displaced pipe will have an edge or lip that catches solids and paper that is flushed through the drains.  Once these lips catch the paper and solids, a domino effect of solids and waste building up takes place, eventually blocking the drain.

Hand Holding Broken Pipe

What You Can Do to Prevent Blocked Drains due to Broken Pipes:

  • If you are living in an old house, chances are the plumbing works are not yet updated. Call a plumber to get an inspection done.
  • Be extra vigilant on greener patches in your garden. Chances are there are pipe leaks with your outdoor taps or irrigation systems. 
  • Inspect if your ceiling is leaking or moistening, it might not just be condensation due to change of room temperature.

How to Deal with Broken Pipes:

10. Poor workmanship or Installation

Sink Drain being Fixed

Poor workmanship or installation is another factor in blocked drains, we often see incorrect pipe sizing, that can cause blocked drains, or drains laid in a manner that water cannot flow, for example, a drain that is falling uphill. Sometimes when drains are laid they may actually have a dip or belly in them, this dip allows water to flow past but will catch solids and block the drain.

What You Can Do to Prevent Blocked Drains due to Poor Workmanship:

  • Work with a plumber whose reputation a family or a friend can vouch for. There are many online fake reviews and even inexperienced plumbers nowadays, you would want to make sure you work with someone with a solid plumbing experience in Newcastle, Canberra and the Hunter Valley.
  • If you suspect that something is terribly wrong with the workmanship, call the plumbing company to have a rework done until you are satisfied. The Plumbing and Electrical Doctor has a 100% workmanship guarantee. You can have something fixed without any additional expense.
  • Get a second opinion from another plumbing service provider if you do not find the work satisfactory still.

How to Deal with Blocked Drains due to Poor Workmanship:

  • Call the plumber in question if it’s still under warranty.
  • If the plumbing work has already been there for years, contact an experienced plumber to renovate your plumbing and piping works to make sure that the fixtures and materials used are up-to-date with the plumbing standards of Australia.

Whatever causes your blocked drains, The Plumbing and Electrical Doctor can help you fix it. We serve areas in Newcastle, Canberra, Central Coast, Hunter Valley, Lake Macquarie, and Port Stephens. We get your drains clean, reline and replace using our latest technology to locate any causes of your blocked drains. Call a local plumber near you to get the problem solved.