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What You Need to Know About Blocked Drains (and How to Fix Them!)

While we all live in fear of a toilet backing up or a shower running cold, the reality is that these kinds of major plumbing issues don’t happen all that often. The truth is, when it comes to household plumbing problems, blocked drains are probably the most common issue that you’re likely to encounter.

How will I know if I have a blocked drain?

Blocked drains are usually pretty easy to identify, with the most common symptom being water that is slow to drain away. This is one of the earliest indicators that you might have a blockage forming. Left unfixed, this may progress to an unpleasant smell, a strange gurgling sound coming from inside the pipes and eventually, the water will stop going down the drain all together (when a total blockage occurs).

What can cause a blocked drain?

Occasionally a blocked drain may be caused by something totally beyond your control, such as a tree root growing into a pipe. But far more often, the blockage will be caused by something (other than water) going down the drain. The most common reasons why you’ll get a blocked drain are:

  • Oil and food scraps: If you’ve got a blockage in your kitchen sink then oil and food scraps are the likely culprits. While some food scraps will break down over time, others (like coffee grounds) will just sit in the pipes, clumping together with cooking oil and creating a blockage.
  • Calcium build-ups: If your mains water contains a high concentration of minerals then you may slowly develop a calcium build-up in your drain. On its own, this won’t usually cause a total obstruction, but it can make it easier for your pipes to get blocked up.
  • Hair: We all naturally shed strands of hair when we’re in the midst of a thorough shampoo, but when these hairs go down the drain, they’re a major culprit of blocked shower drains.
  • Foreign objects: This includes anything that hasn’t been specifically designed to go down a drain, such as random toys, sanitary products, natural debris (such as twigs or leaves) and cat litter.

I’ve got a blocked drain – how do I fix it?

There are a range of methods for clearing a blocked drain, and most of them don’t even require a trained professional. Here are 5 simple DIY ways to clear a blocked drain:

  1. Pour boiling water down: The easiest of tricks, boiling water is great for dissolving fats and loosening greasy build-ups. Just pour freshly boiled water straight down the drain, being careful not to splash any on yourself.
  2. Cook up a natural drain cleaner: You can make your own effective drain cleaner using a couple of pantry staples. While there are a few different recipes you can try, the most common involves pouring bicarb soda and white vinegar down the drain and then leaving it to stew for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Try a caustic commercial cleaner: If you think you need something stronger, then try a commercial drain cleaner. These are made of strong chemicals designed to dissolve grease and fat, so always follow the recommended safety guidelines.
  4. Get a plunger: Plungers are a great way of clearing stubborn blockages, as they create a vacuum effect that sucks the obstruction right out. You’ll need to make a strong seal with the plunger, so this method won’t work on shower strip drains.
  5. Build your own drain hook: In a pinch, get some thin wire, bend a hook in one end (a modified coat hanger will do the trick) and see if you can fish the blockage right out. This is particularly effective in showers where the culprit is hair, but you’ll need to remove the drain grill before you get started.

Can’t be bothered doing it yourself? Call your local Perth plumber Hilton Plumbing, your mate in the trade. We can fix any kind of plumbing issue, and we won’t even charge you a call-out fee.

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