Clearing Blocked Drains
Blocked drainage is a common issue that can quickly escalate into a significant problem if not addressed promptly. It can lead to accidents, delays in work, water flooding, and even expensive repairs. Burst pipes may occur due to severe blockages, necessitating even costlier repairs. Here are some of the most prevalent methods for unblocking obstructed drains.
Causes of Drainage Blockage
Identifying the causes of drain clogs can sometimes be challenging without a thorough inspection. However, there are instances when you can easily determine the cause at a glance. Here are some common causes of drain blockage:
Hair is one of the primary culprits for blocked drains. It can slow down water flow or completely block the drains. Hair combines with other sticky substances, leading to significant blockages in plumbing pipes.
Accumulated dirt in bathrooms or dishwashers can form clogs that obstruct the drainage system. Debris may also include soil and leaves that enter the plumbing vent, resulting in blocked drains.
Food particles are a common cause of drain blockage. It is advisable to dispose of food scraps in a garbage disposal unit. Scraping food remnants down the kitchen sink, laundry drain, or bathroom drain can lead to severe blockages. Drains are not designed for food waste.
Dirt can go unnoticed and get stuck in kitchen sinks, shower drains, and toilet drainage systems. Activities like cleaning sprees, laundry, bubble baths, and improper disposal of garbage can cause drain clogs. Prevent the accumulation of dirt and ensure proper disposal.
Female Hygiene Products
Non-biodegradable products such as tampons, pad wrappers, or baby diapers can cause blockages when flushed down toilets. These items can clutter up the sewage system and should be disposed of in garbage bins.
Oil, Grease, and Mineral Deposits
Oil, grease, and minerals do not dissolve easily in hard water. Over time, they accumulate inside drains and create blockages that impede water flow.
Kitty litter can cause blockages in drains because it clumps together and absorbs moisture. It should never be flushed down the drain.
Tree roots can enter drainage pipes through small gaps in old pipes and cause damage. This is particularly common after a prolonged dry season. Trimming tree roots near drainage pipes is recommended.
Signs of Blocked Drains
There are several indicators that your drain may be blocked. Here are some common signs to watch out for:
A foul smell emanating from sinks or drains indicates blocked drain pipes. As the blockages worsen, they obstruct the pipes and generate unpleasant odours.
If a toilet overflows, it may be a warning sign of a blockage that could result in raw sewage spilling into your home. Check for overflow signals in outside drains and maintenance holes, and promptly report them to a local plumber.
Strange sounds coming from sinks, pipes, or showers as water flows can indicate trapped air. Noises from bathtubs and showers might signify a blockage further down the line.
If water takes a long time to drain or creates bubbles, backflows, and backwash in toilet bowls, baths, showers, or sinks, it is a sign of a blocked drain.
Clearing Indoor Drains
There are various methods to clear drains within your home. It is important to identify the cause of the blockage before choosing an appropriate solution. Here are some options for unclogging indoor drains:
Hot water can often be sufficient to clear sink drains, shower drains, and bathroom drains. Heat helps break down sticky substances like soap, grease, and dirt that adhere to drain walls. To clear drains, connect a pipe to the hot water system and pour it into the sink drain. Alternatively, you can heat water through other means and pour it directly down the drains. Repeat the process several times for effectiveness. Flush water to check if the drains have been unblocked.
Using a plunger is a simple method to unclog drains without disassembling pipes. It works for tubs, sinks, and toilets. You will need gloves, a bell-shaped plunger, and a cloth or damp sponge. Follow these steps for better results:
Fill the sink with enough water to cover the plunger or ensure the toilet water level is half full or slightly higher.
Position the plunger bell over the drain hole, and cover any overflow holes with a cloth or damp sponge. For double sinks, seal the other drain holes with stoppers.
Start plunging slowly to force out the air. A forceful plunge may cause water to spray around the room.
Plunge vigorously to maintain the seal. Continue plunging for about ten minutes, allowing water to flow in all directions and clear the clog.
Add water to keep the plunger submerged. Otherwise, air will enter the drains, reducing pressure.
By following these steps, you can clean the drains and restore proper water flow. If the blockage persists, consider using a DIY drain snake.
Before using a drain snake, disconnect the P-trap under the sink. Insert the plumber’s snake down the drain, twist it around bends and blockages, and use the corkscrew tip to grab the clogs for removal. Follow these steps for better results:
Insert the DIY drain snake into the drain and start twisting it.
If you encounter resistance, rotate clockwise to coil around the clog, then pull it out to remove the obstruction.
Continue driving the snake deeper into the drain to gradually break down tough clogs.
Pull out the snake and wipe it with a cloth.
Reconnect the P-trap and flush water down the drain to check if the problem has been resolved.
To prevent leaks, replace the washer under the slip nuts on metal traps. If the trap is old or insecure, consider replacing it with a new one.
Baking Soda and Vinegar
When dealing with stubborn clogs, you can use chemicals to help break down the sticky residue on drain walls. Vinegar and baking soda are environmentally friendly and readily available. When combined, they produce a foaming reaction that aids in removing blockages. For this method, you’ll need hot water, and a plunger can be used for stubborn clogs. Follow these steps:
Pour approximately one cup of baking soda down the drain.
Pour a cup of vinegar into the drain.
Wait for the reaction to subside, indicated by the fizzing sound ceasing.
Carefully pour hot water down the drains.
Use a plunger to plunge several times and clear the clog.
Flush water down the drains to check if the blockage has been cleared.
Dish Detergent You can use dish detergent to clear a clogged drain by following these methods:
Carefully pour boiling water down the drain to aid in unclogging.
Next, pour one cup of liquid detergent and let it sit for a few minutes.
Once again, pour boiling water down the drain. This should clear the clog. Repeat the process if necessary.
Create a mixture of lukewarm water and a small amount of dish detergent. Pour the solution down the drain. This method is effective for less severe clogs. Repeat regularly to prevent future blockages.
Caustic soda, also known as sodium hydroxide, should be handled with care as it can cause chemical burns upon contact with skin. Wear eye protection and rubber gloves to prevent injuries. Caustic soda works similarly to dish detergent. Follow these steps to clear blocked drains:
Mix a cup of caustic soda with cold water.
Stir until the liquid becomes hot and fizzy.
Pour the mixture down the drain and let it work for half an hour.
Flush the drain with boiling water and repeat the process until the drain is clear.
Clearing Outdoor Drains
CCTV drain inspection cameras are used to check for clogs or damage in pipes. These cameras are connected to a cable reel and guided through the pipes, allowing real-time examination and problem diagnosis.
Hydro jets, which use high-pressure water, can dislodge even the most stubborn clogs. Due to the force involved, it is recommended to have a professional plumber operate the equipment. The high-pressure water jet can remove tree roots and other obstructions from the pipes.
Pipe Relining After using hydro jets to remove the material causing flooding or backed-up sinks, the pipes can be hardened using epoxy glue. This process makes the pipeline impermeable and resistant to tree roots. It is an excellent method for fixing pipes without damaging gardens.
Preventing Drain Blockages
Regular maintenance can help prevent blocked drains as pipes age. Consider the following preventive measures to keep your drains flowing smoothly:
After each use, flush your drains with hot water.
Clean your kitchen and shower drains regularly using common items like salt, baking soda, and vinegar.
Install drain guards to prevent solid particles from entering the drains.
Perform regular maintenance tasks such as checking water filters.
Professional Help for Stubborn Clogs In some cases, blockages may be particularly stubborn, and you may require expert assistance. If you lack the patience or time to clear your blocked drains, professional drain unblockers are available to help.