Common Causes of Blocked Drains, and How to Prevent Them

Blocked drains can cause water damage, stop you using a certain fixture, and usually result in you having to call contacting a reputable drainage company.

Fortunately, most of the leading causes are easy to prevent. Let’s take a look at some of them and discover what your options are when it comes to blocked drain solutions…

Cooking Fat

You’ve probably noticed that grease will quickly congeal if left in a pan. When you pour it down your sink, the exact same thing happens in your drains. This can lead to a blocked drain, but it also contributes to the huge amount of grease that flows through our sewers.

This leads to giant deposits of fat – often dubbed ‘fat-burgs’ – which cost the country millions each year.

According to More Than, cooking fat is one of the worst offenders for potentially blocking your drains. The article suggests that British households are estimated to be pouring 17.67 million litres of the stuff down their drains each year – apparently enough to fill seven Olympic swimming pools!

Your average repair bill may be £80, suggests the piece, if cooking fat is poured down your plug hole every day, resulting in a blocked drain. Doing damage to your sinks and even causing floods, a blockage of this nature can be easily avoided.

You should:

  • Wipe excess grease off pans with a paper towel, before putting them in the sink
  • Reuse cooking fat by pouring the fat through a filter and leaving it in the fridge overnight. You can use the hardened oil again in the morning – just remove the jelly-esque substance that will have formed on top of it
  • After using it in your cooking, allow fat, suet or lard to cool, before combining it with seeds and nuts, forming a ball and putting it out into your garden as a ‘fat ball’ for the wildlife to feed off
  • Cooking oil can be reused as fuel; contact your local council for more details.

Foreign Objects

Toys are the most common foreign objects that find their way down drains, typically dropped by a curious child. However, bottle and toothpaste caps, floss, and cleaning products also have a tendency to find their way inside.

If you have children, simply make sure they understand what can and cannot be flushed down the toilet, or dropped down the sink. Remember to tell them to inform you if anything does happen, since this will help you solve the problem faster. Secondly, be careful yourself when around the sink – don’t let anything small and fiddly sit on the side.

Here’s how to avoid foreign objects making their way down your plug hole

  • Accompany children in the kitchen at all times; who knows what bits and pieces they’re putting down the drain when you’re not looking?
  • Instil in everyone in the household how important it is to keep the drains clear from toothpaste lids and dental floss
  • Pop the plug in the sink when it’s not in use; this will minimise anything dropping in the plug hole, which simply shouldn’t be there

Toiletries and Sanitary Products

This is most likely to occur with toilets. Excessive amounts of toilet paper can block yours quickly, as can sanitary products, condoms, and nappies.

The first is often down to children, who may not understand the correct amount of paper to use. However, adults are often guilty of flushing items that need to be binned or otherwise disposed of. It’s easy to assume that the pipes leading away from a toilet are big enough to cope, but even the smallest things can become trapped. Make sure your children understand not to flush whole rolls of toilet paper, and don’t flush anything of this nature yourself, too.

Here’s how you can ensure these two things don’t happen:

  • Keep sanitary products and toiletries as far away from the toilet as possible. That way, inquisitive kids or teenagers unaware about hygiene advice surrounding intimate care products can’t be tempted to pop anything down the plug hole that shouldn’t be there
  • Be careful which toilet paper you opt for; some recyclable types, for instance, can actually block your drains
  • Ensure there’s a small bin next to your toilet, to minimise the chances of anyone lazily throwing sanitary products, or the dregs of toiletries into the toilet.

If you’re someone who discards of tampons down the drain, you’re not the only one – but that doesn’t make it right!

According to The Guardian, half of UK women have admitted to doing this, but as well as blocking our drains, sanitary products can also contaminate our surroundings.

Why? According to the piece, “Sanitary products aren’t always effectively filtered out by the waste treatment plants and can end up in rivers and coastal waters.”

While you might consider flushing tampons as normal behavior, The Guardian piece states that they can actually flood your homes and gardens, which may mean a huge repair bill is coming your way.

The writer says: “I have a traumatic memory from university of a plumber removing such debris from communal toilet pipes. It wasn’t pretty. On a national level, it costs £88m a year to unblock the sewers maintained by our water and sewerage companies – we pay for this in our water bills.”

So, you see, it isn’t just vital to avoid flushing tampons down the toilet for the sake of your drains, but for the environment – maybe it’s time you did your bit, then?!

Body Hair          

Bodily hair can also be problematic for homeowners, especially those with longer locks. Taken together, those fine strands can create a mighty mess inside your drain, making it impossible for anything else to pass. It will then trap soap and shampoo to become even less porous.

To prevent this, purchase a hair-catching cover to place over your drain, and make sure you clean it regularly. Additionally, try pouring a cup of bleach down your drain before you go to bed, then run a small amount of water in the morning until the smell dissipates. Doing this every couple of weeks should prevent major build-ups.

Looking for some more tips to help you avoid the risk of a blocked, hair-filled drain:

  • Always comb your hair before or after your bath or shower. Do this into the bin, if you must, but never in the shower or bath tub itself
  • If the hair on your body is long, consider shaving or clipping it over a bin, too
  • If you suspect some hair has made its way down the drains, have a fish around now to remove it; don’t leave it in the hope it will effortlessly flush down the drain – more often than not, it won’t – and you’ll have quite the headache when you need to call out the professionals
  • Worried your hair is falling out at a higher rate than it should be? There’s plenty to suggest that zinc might be helpful – take a look at this article which explains just that.

Leaves

Once leaves get stuck within a drain, they quickly begin to decompose, creating a murky build-up that’s difficult to eradicate.

This can be particularly troublesome when homeowners don’t spend much time in the garden, as they will often fail to identify the issue before it becomes serious. And everyone knows that a problem left is usually a problem magnified later down the line.

The first thing to do, then, is use a rake or blower to gather leaves for recycling. You could also fit grates over your exterior drains, and make sure you clean them regularly – especially during autumn and winter, when the leaves are dropping at a more frequent rate.

Still not sure you’re doing all you can? Here’s what to try if you’re worried about leaves blocking your drains:

  • If it’s an indoor drain, remove leaves and other debris from wellies, trainers or old boots before rinsing them off in the sink
  • Regularly sweep the area around outdoor drains, raking up and discarding any leaves before they make their way down the drain
  • Let your neighbours know that, while they’re on holiday, you’ll be on the case when it comes to sweeping leaves and debris from their drains – and they’ll do the same for you when you’re away.

These changes don’t take much, but they could save you a bundle. If your drains do become blocked, just contact a reliable drainage service.

Serving London and the surrounding area, our professional drainage company is well-equipped to sort out the issue of blocked drains. After all, if you leave the problem too long, you could cause a bigger issue later down the line.

London Drainage Services will provide emergency services to Central London and the Home Counties – and we’ve been doing so for over 20 years. If your blocked drain is beyond DIY repair, don’t even think about having a prod around your drains – by doing so, you could do more harm than good. Instead, call out a professional team and you’ll be pleased that you did.

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