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What causes blocked drains?

Common causes of blocked drains in your home

Knowing what can cause a blocked drain can help prevent it from happening in your home.

Obviously, some things are out of your control but most drain clogs are due to the little things we do (or don’t do) every day. Simple changes in the way you wash, garden and flush can have a significant effect on your home’s drainage health.

The big blockers

Our plumbers unblock drains clogged with these substances every week.

Fatty substances

  • These usually come from the kitchen sink and can be from washing a greasy or oily frying pan in the sink each night or pouring the excess fat from your Sunday roast down the drain. 
  • Prevention - rather than discarding oil, grease and fat down the sink, pour it into an old jar, let solidify, and throw in the rubbish bin.

Foreign objects

  • Small toys, crayons, cars, toy blocks, large food scraps etc are common ones but anything small and light enough to get carried along the drain (especially the toilet) some of the way. 
  • Prevention - supervise young children near the toilet or keep the door closed.

Toilet wipes and wet wipes

  • Despite being labelled as flushable wet wipes they do not break down in the plumbing system as toilet paper does. Often only travelling a short way along the pipe and then creating a blockage.
  • Prevention - throw wet wipes in the bin rather than down the toilet, regardless of what the packaging says.

Tree roots

  • Small cracks in drain pipes can allow tiny tree roots room to grow into the pipe seeking the ample water supply. With an endless source of water, the roots quickly grow, leading to a blockage. Often the drain cracks are caused by heavy landscaping work, gardening, or just ground movement. You probably won’t even notice it’s happening until the drains start to slow down. 
  • Prevention - be mindful of where the plumbing pipes are located throughout your property and use caution when working with heavy machinery or digging.

Hair and soap scum

  • This combination which can get washed down your shower or bath drain each night can catch on imperfections or other substances which have become attached to the drain wall. Over time they accumulate causing complete drain blockages. 
  • Prevention - use sink strainer in the kitchen or hair strainer in the bath and shower and clear hair build up regularly.

Other clog culprits in the clear drain battle include:

Garden debris and leaves

  • Debris and leaves washed from the roof of your home along downpipes and into the drain can cause clogged drains. 
  • Prevention - clear rooves regularly to keep them free of leaves or install gutter guards.

Toilet paper overload

  • Do you sometimes wonder if the flush is going to magically take away all THAT? We’ve all been there or at least had to deal with small children who have been a bit too enthusiastic with the toilet paper. 
  • Prevention - monitor children and encourage reduced use and use avoid super thick toilet paper. A flush can only do so much, if you think the amount of paper in the loo is not going to be able to get down the drain at once don’t flush. We know it’s not a lovely position to be in but put a plastic bag or glove on your hand and remove some of the paper, flush, put the rest back, and flush again.

Broken pipes

  • Damaged or cracked pipes create an uneven surface which household waste gradually catches on eventually blocking the pipe. 
  • Prevention - as with the tree root intrusion, be cautious when gardening, landscaping or undertaking earthworks on your property.

Act at the first sign of slow drains or a pipe blockage and you could avert catastrophe, call a professional plumber or blocked drain specialist.

Take a look at our handy guide - How to unblock a drain - simple ways to clear a blocked drain.