The Nuisances of Clogged Up Drains and How to Prevent This from Happening

Posted by on April 19, 2017 in Household Enemies

Clogged up drain

Does this sound familiar? You wake up in the morning and flush the toilet only to witness the gurgling pool of water coming back and realise that the drains are blocked.

As common occurrence as this is, we always find it annoying, somewhat unexpected and stressful to deal with, to say the least. But most mishaps do not appear out of the blue even if it seems this way!

What Are the Most Common Causes for Blocked Drains?

Clogging out drains is just one of the many chores from domestic maintenance to preparation prior to moving out. A standard house plumbing system comprises four essential sub-systems, which enable water to circulate: hot and cold water distribution, wastewater evacuation and pipe ventilation. Any of those can get blocked or damaged. There are different reasons for plumbing problems to occur, from structural issues, poor installation and bodged DIY repair jobs to grime buildup and physical objects being stuck down the drains.

The first type of blockages require expertise and professional assistance, whether we are talking about tree roots damaging the main drain or floodwater jeopardising the usability of the building sewer. The same applies to obstructions in the pipe ventilation system when a specialist is recommended to remedy the issue.

More commonly, however, drain congestion is caused by daily household and personal hygiene activities like showering, washing and going to the loo. Over time, pipe water flow may become slow or stop altogether. This happens especially when regular cleaning and maintenance of particular areas in the home are neglected and common-sense rules are ignored when the above activities are performed.

The main culprits of clogged drains and pipes are:

  • Soap scum buildup
    Lime soap, also called soap scum, is the residual left behind when hard water minerals and soap fatty acids mix. Slowly, the residue builds up on the inside of the pipe walls, causing a blockage.
  • Grease
    Grease naturally does not dilute well, hence, it easily accumulates in the kitchen main sink pipe and in the drainage system.
  • Hair
    Washing hair down the shower drain is asking surely for trouble in the future.
  • After builders residuals
    Even a minor renovation in your bathroom may cause clogged up drains if you cut corners during the cleaning process and try to wash builders dust, plaster residuals down the drain hole.
  • Other large objects
    It is not unheard of for toddlers trying to flush a toilet paper roll or their nappy down the toilet to your dismay.

The Negative Effects of a Clogged up Drainage System

Plumbing problems are not just a nuisance that stops you from going about your daily business when it comes to household chores or activities. If undealt with in a timely manner, it can lead to further complications with your home drainage system. Depending on the cause of the blockage and its location in the complex pipe maze, the homeowner can expect one or more of the following adverse effects:

Bad odour

Unpleasant smells in the house are often associated with a blocked drain. We all know what stagnant water smells like, don’t we? And even if the odour is not necessarily toxic, it is definitely detrimental to our general wellbeing. Who likes to come back from work to a home that feel unclean?

Buildup of gases

More serious plumbing mishaps may lead to dangerously high levels of sewer gases, which build up slowly in the pipe ventilation system. A problem with vents, which hinders normal airflow, should be sorted out by a professional technician.

Structural issues

Some drain blockages lie deep into the pipe system and may be hidden and unbeknown to you for a long period. Whether the reasons for this is an incorrect DIY pipe installation during a renovation project, a broken pipe or a heavy downpour during a stormy weather, they can result in structural damages to your property. The issues showcase in all kinds of forms and shapes – from water stains and warping wallpaper to outright rotten floor boards and weakened house foundations.

Health risks

In extreme cases, undealt-with plumbing problems may cause some health concerns. Bad odour and the accumulation of sewer gases in the vent system may make you feel more tired, apathetic or provoke headaches. Blockages in the outside drains will slowly make stagnant water to become a ground for bacteria growth, mold infestation or it can even attract mosquitos. All those are indirect health hazards, as they trigger allergies or can cause diseases.

The Signs of Pipeworks Being Blocked

Well, it is not a rocket science to determine that your property suffers from a clogged up drain, unless the plumbing problem is concealed deep into the underground drainage system and which would require normally a repair service by an expert. Gurgling sounds from your bathroom sink, overflowing or slow draining of your shower and bathtub, a diminished toilet flushing or worse, water backs up, slow discharging kitchen sink and a funny smell around the house are all obvious signs of clogged up drains.
But can we do something about it before we call a plumber?

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Effective Solutions for Removing Blockages in the Drains

Clean drainage

Source: Flickr, Image by: Lisa Brewster Title: Inspection. Used under CC BY-SA 2.0

It is not usually hard to distinguish a full-on clogged up drain from a partial blockage. The latter more often than not invokes a surge of uncharacteristic enthusiasm and the enviable hope of “I can do this”. And we can only support you in this quest!

Here are the several things that you can do to unblock a drain pipe. Arm yourself with one or more of the following:

  • Boiling hot water – Hot water is a key ingredient in the fight against drain blockages, caused by grease buildup. Boil a large quantity of water and pour it down the kitchen sink several times if you have to.
  • Soda bicarbonate – Soda mixed with vinegar will do miracles with your drains and it is a great alternative to using caustic chemicals, which could damage the pipes, especially if the plumbing system is old. You can also add salt to the mixture and leave it to sit overnight to break up the accumulated grease and debris in the kitchen sink. Then, wash the pipe through with hot water.
  • Ammonia – This chemical will help you with the disintegration of soap scum buildups in the bathroom drainage system. Pay heed not to mix ammonia with bleach or vinegar as they react in a way that the new substance produces toxic fumes.
  • Coke – Cola contains phosphoric acid, which is a good dissolvent of limescale, rust and lime soap. Just pour a room-temperature 2l bottle of Coke into the clogged up drain and hope for the best. You can apply the Coke solution in combination with other tips, we have listed here, and alternate using hot water, soda and a plunger if needs be.
  • A plunger – Plungers almost always lead to a happy ending in the “unblock the drain” story if the problem has been caught in time. Don’t forget to cover yourself up well if you use it for a blocked toilet.
  • A plumber’s snake – The device has been proven to successfully assist folks in DIY attempts to solve plumbing mishaps but use it if you know what you are doing or ask someone else who knows.

How to Prevent Drains from Getting Clogged Up?

You cannot always see a major plumbing problem coming if it is caused by flooding, tree roots growing up the main drain or a broken pipe but you can at least ensure that your own actions at home do not add to the risk. Here’s a recap of the dos and don’ts:

  1. Do not throw grease, food scraps or coffee ground residuals down the sink.
  2. Prevent pipes from unwanted buildups by cleaning them with the above-mentioned solutions as a preventive measure now and again, whether you throw down the leftover contents of a bottle of Coke from last night in the sink or pour some lemon juice, mixed with soda.
  3. Do kindly ask your teenage daughter to stop washing heedlessly hairs down the drain hole when taking a shower.
  4. Install mesh devices on every drain hole.
  5. If you have kids, stick a pictogram or a sign on the toilet: “Do not throw anything in the toilet but toilet paper”.
  6. Dispose of dental floss correctly even if it is tempting to wash it down the sink.
  7. Resort to a professional after builders cleaning service after a refurbishment project as residuals from builders materials will clog up badly the bathroom drain if the place is cleaned hastily.