Common mistakes that lead to drain blockage in the home

Blocked drains can be a major inconvenience in a home or a workplace.   Slowing of water drainage, unpleasant odours, strange noises coming from the pipes and poorly flushing toilets are among the numerous telltale signs of a potential blockage in the system. Any drain can be vulnerable to potential blockage no matter how old it is or what the drain is made of. While some metal and old clay pipes can be susceptible to blockage without the added influence of human use, there are some common mistakes that people make that can further contribute to clogged drains and stormwater systems. Here are just some of them.

Error #1: Disposing of Wet Wipes down the toilet

If the great toilet paper shortage of early 2020 (thanks COVID-19!!) taught us anything, it was that not everything that can be used to wipe the backside should be used and then flushed down the toilet. Many homeowners across the country soon discovered that wet wipes, large quantities of paper towel, or tissues could very quickly result in blocked drains as they are not designed to disintegrate in the same way that toilet paper does. Even wet wipes that are labelled ‘flushable’ can be problematic for sewerage systems, with their durability causing them to not break down quite so easily. As wet wipes and oil or grease found in pipes join together, they create fatbergs which makes the flow of water and other liquids increasingly difficult.

Error #2: Disposing oil and grease products down the kitchen sink

Speaking of oils and greasy substances, many of us might think that it’s perfectly fine to pour them down the kitchen sink. In many cases though, that can do more harm than good. Why is this the case? Surely it makes sense that something in liquid form, like oil, could be easily disposed of in the sink without causing drain blockages? Truth is that many oils can solidify as they make their way through cool drainpipes, leading to drains that increasingly become clogged as the blockages get bigger. Greasy substances can also bond with other foreign objects in the sewerage system, objects such as wet wipes, which further contribute to unwanted blockages.

Error #3: Not maintaining a regular gutter and downpipe cleaning schedule

A regular cause of stormwater drain blockages is the washing down of sediment – anything from leaves and twigs to dirt and dust – from the gutters and downpipes on your residential or commercial property. This buildup of blockage-causing materials is often the result of a lack of gutter and downpipe maintenance, which simply put is usually just a matter of cleaning them out at regular intervals. Not only can this sediment lead to stormwater drain blockages, but in areas of high fire danger can also result in property damage caused by fire so there are multiple benefits to regularly cleaning out your gutters.

Error #4: Planting trees too close to drains and stormwater systems

If you’re a bit of a green thumb and like to plant trees in your garden, it’s crucial to consider the placement of the trees in relation to any stormwater systems that might be affected by the growth of the tree’s roots. Many gardening enthusiasts will only think of the aesthetic appeal that a new tree will bring to the garden, not how the tree roots might impact on their drains and the stormwater system. Moisture in the stormwater pipes can attract growing tree roots, which can penetrate the system through the smallest of cracks and ultimately cause problems.

Your best shot is to plant your trees as far away as possible from any plumbing systems and opt for trees that don’t have an overly aggressive root system.

Error #5: Using harsh chemicals to fix blocked drains

Unfortunately, in some cases some attempts to unblock a drain can lead to that drain becoming even more clogged than before. Often this comes down to using the wrong chemicals in an attempt to unblock the drain. Sometimes chemicals aren’t even the best approach to dealing with the blockage. Instead of heading straight to the supermarket and making a beeline for the drain cleaning chemicals, the best approach is to call a plumber to arrange a CCTV drain inspection. This will determine the cause of the blockage and thus whether using chemicals is the best method of unclogging the drain.  Using the wrong chemicals can add to the blockage and cause corrosion to the pipes as they sit there unable to flow through the system.

Error #6 Attempting to unblock the drain with the wrong kind of plunger

Most people will have a mental image of what a plunger looks like to them and might also assume that one plunger fits all plumbing jobs. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case, with different plungers best suited to different types of drains. For the kitchen sink, a cup plunger is the best tool for unblocking the drain while for the toilet a flange plunger will best get the job done. Both plungers are a different size and shape, so using the correct plunger for the job at hand will give you your best chance at dislodging any blockages. The wrong plunger will only make the job harder.

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