In some cases, a blocked drain may be able to clear itself. For example, if your toilet has become blocked due to excess toilet paper, the paper will disintegrate over time and your toilet will, in effect, unclog itself.
However, drain blockages caused by other factors, such as tree roots, outdoor debris, as well as oils and fats, will be unlikely to clear themselves on their own, and you’ll likely require professional help to get things moving again.
What causes blocked drains?
Blocked drains are a common occurrence for any homeowner, and can be caused by a number of factors. Some of the most common reasons for drain blockages include:
- Outdoor debris, such as leaves, ingrown tree roots, and other litter
- Flushing non-flushable wet wipes down the toilet
- Flushing sanitary products down the toilet
- Using your sink to dispose of cooking fats, such as oil, grease, and lard
- An accumulation of hair
- Rain Hard objects
- Old or poorly installed plumbing
How to know if your drain is blocked
In general, you won’t need to search long to know if your drain is blocked or not – they tend to let you know pretty quickly! That said, here are some tell-tale signs that you’re dealing with a drain blockage:
One of the early tell-tale signs of a blocked drain is noticing nasty smells when using your plumbing. Depending on the type of blockage, your plumbing can give off a rotten egg smell, or a mouldy smell if you’re dealing with a build-up of bacteria and other gunk.
Another clear sign of a blocked drain is noticing that water drains much slower than usual – whether it be in your kitchen sink or your shower. If water is pooling around the plughole and draining slowly, you’ve likely got a blocked drain.
Gurgling and foghorn noises
If you notice a foghorn sound when using your plumbing, you might be dealing with a blockage, or simply an old or poorly-fitted pipe. For small blockages, you might notice a distinct gurgling sound when draining water in your sink. For louder or persistent foghorn noises, we’d recommend speaking to a plumber or calling in drain repair services
, who will be able to make sure your pipes aren’t damaged.
How to clear a blocked drain
So, if you’ve identified a blocked drain, what can you do about it? Here are some common methods for varying degrees of drain blockage:
Drain jetting can only be performed by a professional, and involves inserting a powerful jet hose into your drain to clear any blockage or build-up. Drain jetting can damage older pipes if not carried out by a professional, so never attempt to jet your own pipes when dealing with a blocked drain.
One popular method for clearing a blocked drain is drain rodding, also known as drain snaking. This involves taking a long metal wire and inserting it into the blocked drain, and using the rod to dislodge any fatberg or gunk blockage. While drain rods can be purchased online or in a DIY shop, we wouldn’t recommend doing this yourself at home if you don’t have any experience using these tools. Improper use can end up damaging your pipes, leading to more difficult – and expensive – solutions to fix them.
For light blockages, some home remedies can work to dislodge any blockage and get your plumbing up and running again. For example, bicarbonate of soda is often touted as an effective home remedy for blocked pipes, while vinegar is often used to unclog sinks that have been blocked with oils and other forms of kitchen grease. For mild blockages, these home solutions may prove to be effective, but when it comes to more severe blockages, we’d always recommend calling in the professionals to get your drains cleared as soon as possible.
What happens if you leave a blocked drain?
Leaving a blocked drain is never a good idea. Unless you’re dealing with a simple blockage – such as tissue paper – a blocked drain typically isn’t going to resolve itself overnight. Not only that, but if it isn’t able to clear itself automatically, the blockage will only get worse. Letting a drain remain blocked can cause all sorts of problems in your home, from dysfunctional plumbing to unpleasant smells. In a worst case scenario, a blocked pipe that’s left untreated can even go on to cause flooding around your home. Sewer flooding is both incredibly dangerous and highly expensive to clear up – getting a drain unblocked as soon as you notice a problem will always be the most cost-effective solution.
Prevent blocked drains
Never rinse away oil
Any oils or fats used in the kitchen should be disposed of in a safe container. Pouring oil down the drain is a sure way to end up with a blocked sink: oil hardens when it cools down, and it transforms into pipe-dwelling gunk that’ll block your drains and even local sewers
Your toilets should only ever be used to dispose of flush-friendly items, and should never be used to dispose of sanitary items or wet wipes. Put these in a paper or plastic bag and dispose of them alongside your household rubbish.
Clear your drains regularly
Using hot water (and optional vinegar) to clear your drains every once in a while can do wonders in preventing future build-ups. After washing up, let your hot tap run for a moment – this will help clear out any oil residue or food debris from your drain. And there you have it!