Blocked Drain Causes – Why and How to Fix Them

Most homeowners will experience a blocked drain at some point. Blocked drains can start as a minor issue and quickly progress into a serious problem. Understanding the common causes of blocked drains, signs of blocked drains, and how to fix blocked drains can help you keep your home running smoothly and prevent major problems.

Here, we’ll explain some of the common causes of a blocked drain, how to prevent a blocked drain, and tips on how to clear a blocked drain.

What Is A Blocked Drain?

A blocked drain is one of the most common plumbing problems. It occurs when water in a sink, toilet drain, or shower drain cannot properly flow out of the drain. It may be partially blocked and cause water to pool. The drain may also be completely blocked, causing backup issues and overflow.

Blocked drains are inconvenient, can be expensive to repair, and can harbour harmful bacteria. If you notice signs of a blocked drain, it is important to take steps to address the blockage immediately.

If caught early enough, you may be able to repair your blocked drain with DIY fixes. However, blocked drains can lead to serious damage and costly repairs when ignored.

Most Common Causes of a Blocked Drain

1. Food Debris and Fats

Fats and food debris are common causes of blocked drains, especially in colder temperatures.

Although cooking oils, grease, and fats are liquid at certain temperatures, they can solidify and cause build-up in your drain. Eventually, the fatty buildup can prevent any liquid from passing through the drain or trap other food items and create a blockage.

Always dispose of food leftovers properly and clear plates off before rinsing them in the sink. Cereal, rice, and pasta expand when wet, making them particularly important to prevent from entering the drain.

If you suspect grease and fat buildup but aren’t sure how to clean a blocked drain, contact a licensed plumber immediately for help before it becomes an emergency complication.

2. Outdoor Debris

Twigs, outdoor debris, and leaves can get washed into drains and lead to blockages, especially during heavy rains. Be sure to maintain your gutters properly and clean them regularly to keep them free of branches, dirt, and leaves. You can also use a drain guard to help block debris from entering a drain.

3. Tree Roots

Do you have large trees near your home? In their search for water, some tree roots can penetrate cracks in a pipe. These tree root instructions can make cracks worse and cause leaks and blockages.

If you suspect tree root intrusion, contact a licensed blocked drain plumber to assess the situation. Using a drain camera, a blocked drain plumber can pinpoint the affected area and determine the best course of action.

4. Foreign Objects

Foreign objects and non-flushable items can lead to serious drain blockages and damage. Never flush the following items as they do not disintegrate and can lead to blocked drains:

  • Solid objects or toys
  • Sanitary products
  • Paper towels
  • Cleaning wipes
  • Cotton swabs or other cotton items
  • Makeup remover wipes
  • Trash
  • Medicine
toilet repairs

5. Soap Scum Build Up

Soap can lead to the buildup of soap scum and also trap other debris in its sludge. This can lead to a reduced pipe diameter that can trap other debris and cause a blocked drain.

If you suspect soap buildup, you may be able to clear a blocked drain with boiling water or a specific drain cleaner. Contact a blocked drain plumber for advice.


6. Hair

Hair is a common cause of blocked shower drains. Shampoo and conditioner can accumulate, leading to residue and buildup. The sticky buildup from shampoos and conditioners can trap hair that gets rinsed down the drain, eventually leading to a blockage.

If you spot loose hairs near the drain, always remove them immediately. Hair catchers are a cheap, effective way to reduce the majority of hair that would typically get rinsed down the drain.


7. Dirt

When washed down the drain, dirt can build up over time and combine with soap scum or grease and lead to blockages.

Try to wipe or wash off excess dirt before using your kitchen sink, bathroom sink, or shower to prevent the build-up of dirt in your pipes.


8. Broken Pipes

Weak or broken pipes are at a higher risk of blockages. If you are worried your pipes may be fractured or in need of replacement, it is recommended to call a blocked drain plumber to evaluate the integrity of the pipes and detect any leaks.

How to Fix a Blocked Drain

For minor clogs, here are some simple ways to clear a blocked drain.

Use A Blocked Drain Cleaner — Ask your plumber for a recommendation for the best-blocked drain cleaner (limit the use of drain cleaners to once a month as they are harsh on pipes).

Use Boiling Water — Boiling water can be a cheap, easy way to clean a blocked drain. It can be especially useful in clearing solidified fats or soap scum as it can liquify them and help wash them away.

Try a Hanger — A metal hanger can be used to hook onto objects or debris (i.e. loose hair) trapped in the drain. Unbend the hanger and form a small hook on one end. Use the hook to carefully dislodge any gunk or debris. Be careful not to push any build-up deeper down the drain.

Try a Mix of Baking Soda and Vinegar — Mix one cup of vinegar and half a cup of baking soda to form a fizzy solution. Pour the solution into the drain and allow it to work for a couple of hours before pouring boiling water down the drain.

Use a Plunger — Plungers are a popular, cost-effective way to try to clear a drain blockage.


Steps to Prevent Blocked Drains

Adhere to the following guidelines to help prevent drain blockages:

  • Prevent lard, fats, oily substances, dirt, and grease from going down the drain
  • Avoid letting food particles get rinsed down the drain
  • Do not flush medicine or dump it down the drain
  • Avoid using a blocked drain until a plumber can assess it
  • Be on the lookout for mineral buildup if you have hard water
  • Perform a monthly deep clean of your drains
  • Clean your garbage disposal often
  • Avoid flushing foreign objects, cotton products, wipes, cotton swabs, or other non-flushable items
  • Never dump chemicals, corrosives, paint, petrol, or pesticides down a drain
  • Watch for signs of a blocked drain (slow draining water, foul odours emitting from a drain, stagnant water, leaks, or odd gurgling noises)
  • Address blocked drains immediately
  • Keep fallen leaves and debris cleared out of your yard
  • Water your trees often to help prevent them from seeking out other sources of water
  • Do not wash coffee grinds down the drain
  • Clean your gutters regularly
  • Use a shower catcher to prevent hair from getting rinsed down the shower drain


Do You Have A Blocked Drain?

Are you dealing with a blocked drain and aren’t sure what to do? Left untreated, a minor blocked drain can turn into a serious, costly issue.

If you’ve noticed a foul odour coming from your drain or pooling water, contact our team of expert plumbers right away. A blocked drain plumber can assess the situation, pinpoint the cause of the blocked drain, and provide immediate blocked drain repair.

Contact our experts at Provista Plumbing and Gas for blocked drain repair and we’ll get your drains working efficiently and safely again.