12 Causes of clogged drains that are easy to avoid
- By: Ashley Saunders
- April 2021
A nightmare we all experience is a blocked sink. There are many causes of clogged drains that are easy to avoid.
And while we’re all guilty of chucking random liquids down the sink, they are only designed to handle a few. By not following some common sense, it’s no wonder we end up with a clogged drain.
The situation in London recently got to the point where a team of sewerage workers spent three weeks clearing a bus-sized toxic ball of fat that threatened to flood streets with sewage. The smell alone of this Fatberg must have caused issues!
You might never be able to completely get away from blocked drains. However, some things will, without doubt, clog drains and so should never be poured down your sinks, bathtub or toilet.
Here is a list of the most common causes of clogged drain. All of which will create further issues for you. Use this list as a guide of what you can and more importantly, can’t be poured down your pipes!
#1 Coffee grounds (surprising but true)
Most people wrongly assume that coffee grounds are tiny enough to pass through your pipes into your external drain. However, that’s not the case. Ask a local plumber and they’ll say that coffee grounds are pretty much top of the list of reason why your kitchen pipes get blocked.
You don’t need to bin your bean-to-cup coffee machine, but you should be mindful where you place the waste after you’ve enjoyed a brew!
#2 Grease will slowly clog drains
We’ve all been tempted to pour a little grease down the sink while doing the dishes. A small amount won’t clog the drain?! Sadly, it will. Pouring grease down your sink is one of the most common causes of clogged drains.
Even a few droplets of grease can turn into sludge, which over time grows and grows. And before you know it, the grease build-up causes a large clog.
You’ll probably end up having problems getting water to drain. Chemicals including sodium hydroxide might partly help the situation. You might have some luck with a plunger. Regardless of how you end up shifting the ball of grease, it won’t be a short process.
Instead of pouring grease down your drain, place it in a container such as an old jam jar, once it has cooled down and seal it. When full, wrap it in a plastic bag to stop it from leaking and dispose of it with your refuse.
#3 Compost your eggshells
Eggshells may seem harmless enough yet when they enter your drains, they get stuck in the grease, fat and other oily substances already present in your pipes. These create a thick mess that can easily clog your pipes.
So with your eggshells, you should either bin, add to your food waste, or compost them. Don’t be tempted to wash them down your drain!
#4 One of the top causes of clogged drains: wipes
As of the top causes of clogged drains, you should bin used wipes and ignore the packaging. Even products advertised as flushable might not break down completely, and they can cause a huge blockage that will clog your drain.
Once any wipes make it into your pipes, it can then be difficult to remove them and you may find yourself with an expensive plumbing bill that could have easily been avoided.
#5 Safely depose of medication
Flushing old medications down your toilet might seem like a safe way to depose of them and they won’t necessarily clog your drain. However, no one wants your medications in their water supply.
Historically, people were encouraged to flush unused medications down the toilet rather than simply binning them. Sadly, this resulted in all kinds of medications, everything from ibuprofen to birth control, ending up in our water supply.
Instead, bin them or return not longer needed medication to a local pharmacy, who can safely destroy them.
#6 Remove and bin produce stickers
These seemingly harmless little stickers can cause big problems as they contain a small amount of adhesive. Even with this tiny droplet of glue, they can stick to the inside of your pipes, causing build-ups. If they do make it past your pipes, then they can still cause issues.
Waste treatments plants aren’t designed to filter and remove adhesives, so they cause problems with the equipment that treats your water. If somehow they make it past these barriers, they can end up in the water supply. So take a second to remove any produce stickers!
#7 Hair can easily clog drains
You might not give a second thought to the idea of disposing of hair in the toilet or down the shower or sink drain. However, this isn’t a good idea as it can get tangled and stuck in your pipes. Over time, this causes a build-up of more hair and other debris which clogs your pipes.
After a while, the clog is large enough to stop your toilet from flushing correctly. You might even end up with standing water in your bathtub or sink. It’s easy to ignore this advice, even though it’s one of the most common causes of clogged drains, but don’t!
#8 Condoms (sorry mum)
Don’t flush your condoms. Sadly, we have to mention this as so many Brits keep doing this. Sorry mum! As condoms are made of rubber, they aren’t biodegradable and so do not dissolve in water.
If it doesn’t get stuck in your plumbing and magically manages to get past your pipes, it will most likely end up floating around in the water supply. And no one wants to encounter that. So bin your condoms and keep your plumbing and water supply clean!
#9 Bin old paint
One of the most common causes of clogged drains is washing paint down it, even if it’s a water-based paint. You should be fine to wash out paintbrushes in your sink as the amount of paint will be minimal, especially if you wipe the brush off first.
Instead, seal the paint container and wrap it in a plastic bag, then put it in your general rubbish. If you have a lot of paint to dispose of, then it might be best for you to take them to your local recycling centre.
Paint while it should flow through your pipes into your sewage and shouldn’t clog drains, does contain toxins and chemicals that can end up in the water supply, damaging public health.
#10 Pet litter will block your drains
If you have a cat or dog who uses a litter tray inside, you’ll know how foul it smells. And while it is tempting to flush it down the toilet, you must dispose of it properly.
By flushing litter down your toilet, your pipes will expand, causing a large clog to form. The only way to rid your bathroom of this mess is to call a plumber. Sadly, it won’t be cheap or without some nasty smells.
If you don’t want to throw pet litter into your bin indoor, then consider putting it in a plastic bag and putting it in your external bin as this will help you to avoid the smell from wafting through your home.
#11 Don’t flush cotton balls or paper towels
Just because paper towels and cotton balls are biodegradable doesn’t mean they’ll instantly dissolve. As they’re designed to be absorbent, they are ideal for clogging pipes. If you have to use them, bin them once you’ve used them.
#12 Household and car fluids will clog drains
Fluids such as household cleaners and car fluids can easily some of the top causes of clogged drains. Plus, these chemicals can be harmful when they are mixed into the water supply. Car fluids should also never be disposed of through your household water system. Instead, seal in a plastic bag and bin.