As experts in drain unblocking we are called out to properties all over Sussex, Kent, Surrey, London and Hampshire to unblock all manner of drains. From time to time we’ll find something strange blocking a drain, but for the most part the same old “usual suspects” will cause blocked drains time and time again.
Blocked drains do happen from time to time, but there are several simple things you can do to avoid having to call us out.
Here are the top ten things that will block your drains – so you should avoid putting them down the drain whenever possible!
You might have seen stories in the news about “fatbergs,” the giant lumps of fat that can clog entire sewers and cost water companies thousands to break up each year. Not so long ago there was a 15-tonne lump of fat the size of a bus in a sewer below London which took two weeks to break up. Quite often though, the fat never makes it to the sewer; it sticks in the drains of your home instead and slowly builds up until it’s blocking the path of everything else. Things like greasy frying pans and roasting tins should always be scraped out as much as possible before being put into the sink or dishwasher; this will help to prevent your drains becoming clogged by fat.
2. Baby Wipes
They might be disposable, and they might be used to wipe up things you’d rather flush down the toilet than have hanging about your house – but they are a nightmare for drains. Baby wipes stick together really easily, so even if you only flush a couple at a time they’ll soon end up sticking not only to each other but also to anything else that might already be lingering in the drain (such as the fat we mentioned above) and can quickly clog your drain. Invest in a lidded bin for disposing of baby wipes, and do your drains a favour!
We’re fairly sure you already know about this one, as the clogging can often happen at the plug hole of your shower or bath. We don’t tend to notice just how much hair comes off our bodies and goes down the drain while we’re in the bath or shower but it does soon add up – and when you add in the soap and other products that go down the drain they can quickly add up to a gooey, hairy lump. Sometimes you can remove this just by pulling it back up through the plug hole, but it can also travel further down the drain to a point you can’t reach without assistance. If you have long hair, brush it before getting into the shower so as to remove any loose hairs before they reach the plug hole. Invest in some form of hair catcher for your plug hole too; it could save you a fortune down the line.
4. Food Scraps
We’re not accusing you of shoving all of your food waste down the sink; that would be ridiculous (though we have seen it happen). But it doesn’t take much to clog a drain, and the odd piece of pasta here and there can do more damage than you might think. The thing about a lot of our foods is that they’re quite porous – especially carbs like pasta and rice. They will soak up a lot of water and can easily expand to clog a drainage pipe. The odd noodle here and there probably won’t do too much damage but it pays to be extra careful when scraping food waste from plates and pans.
5. Expensive Toilet Paper
Yes, we know it looks cute and luxurious with the pictures of fluffy animals on it, and oh-so-thick 4-ply sheets… but it also means you end up putting twice as much paper down your drain as you really need. Using multi-ply toilet paper might sound like a good idea, but people rarely adjust the amount they’re pulling off the roll to allow for the fact the toilet paper is thicker; they just end up putting twice as much down the loo and that can spell disaster for your drains.
6. Bath Salts
You might think that’s ridiculous; the whole point of bath salts and bath bombs is that they dissolve in your bath, right? Well, yes – but many of them don’t actually completely dissolve. In a big bath full of water you might never notice that there are still a few lumps lingering about, and they’re often pulled down the plug hole as you release the water – but they don’t get fully flushed out. Instead they can get caught on other debris already hanging about in your drain, slowly but surely clogging it up. Bubble bath might seem less luxurious and fancy, but it’s already a liquid so less likely to cause a blocked drain.
7. Children’s Toys
We don’t mean the great big train set you bought Junior for Christmas (though if you have a drain large enough to squeeze a piece of train track into, it’s a possibility); instead it’s the smaller, breakable pieces of toy that might come off in the bath or while your child is playing in the sink. In fact, lots of small toys are lost by floating away down the overflow hole in a bathroom sink, never to be seen again until the blocked drain needs to be cleared out. On its own, in a perfectly clear drain, that piece of lost toy might float all the way to the sewerage treatment works – but realistically, no house has a completely clear drain. Instead it gets caught up on the debris already partially clogging the drain and can lead to real trouble.
Instant coffee dissolves completely in your morning cuppa, but ground coffee doesn’t – and it’s a real nuisance to try and scoop out of a coffee pot and into the bin. People will often just rinse it down the drain and get on with their day, but over time coffee grounds can build up in drains, especially corners of piping, and add substance to the other things already partially blocking a drain. If you use ground coffee rather than instant, make sure you get all of your grounds into the bin using a spoon or kitchen roll to help.
9. Cotton Buds
We don’t know what makes people think a plastic stick with cotton wool on either end belongs down the drain rather than in the bin, but it happens all the time. As well as this, cotton wool is often dropped into toilets or down drains. Both might disappear from view quite quickly, but like with everything else on our list, they will soon become attached to other things lurking in your drain and join forces to create a mighty blockage. Because cotton buds are plastic sticks they can do even more damage as they get stuck in nooks and crannies or in the corners of pipe work and are not easily dislodged. You might be able to flush out lumps of cotton wool on their own, but cotton buds are much more stubborn!
You might think that old fashioned bars of soap would be the bigger culprit here – and the last sliver of a bar of soap can do its fair share of damage. But actually, it’s liquid soap that causes a problem more often than not. With a bar of soap you only use the amount of soap you need, but with liquid soap we often end up using more. It’s also often the case that you pump some liquid soap into your hand and it immediately slides off and down the plug hole – so you get some more. Soap on its own won’t do much damage – but combined with all the other nasties that will be lurking in a drain, it can act as a glue to hold them all together. Discarded lumps of toothpaste can cause a similar problem.
There are so many things these days that can clog up your drains, and a blocked drain can be a real nuisance especially if it leads to water damage in your home. If you’re struggling with baths and sinks that are slow to empty, it’s better to get them seen to sooner rather than later.