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Fixing & Preventing Blocked Drains

They're out of sight and out of mind. Far away in a distant pipe, sewer scum is causing mayhem and destruction. Gurgling sounds, foul smells, and water backing up into sinks and tubs are therefore the first signs homeowners get that something is going down, please pardon the pun.

Homeowners have choices for the removal of any blockage, or they can call a plumber. First, though, it would help if homeowners understood what clogged their drains, what they can do about it, what requires a professional plumber, and how to prevent blocked drains in the first place. These tips on blocked drains, and blocked drain prevention are provided to us by Zambezi Plumbing & Drain Unblocking

Causes Of Blocked Drains

"Here, wash it down the drain. It'll be alright." "Sure, you can flush it. Why not?" are words plumbing professionals hear when called to unblock a drain, make a toilet flush again (and not all over the floor,) or get rid of standing water in sinks and tubs. The truth is, the only things that should be put down drains of any kind in any room is water.

That leaves out cleaning chemicals residue, hair, cooking grease, coffee grounds, too much toilet paper, and other things that shouldn't be flushed or shoved down a drain.

It's understandable when sometimes the dog drops her bone in the toilet to "save" it for later. It's funny the first time the baby jams his stuffed Puff the Magic Dragon, Dad's wallet, or Mom's car keys down the toilet. The cat won't get that close to water. Baby wipes, paper towels, makeup removal pads, pads of another sort, and ear swabs plus dozens of other things get flushed into the pipes every day.

Sometimes drains are clogged by something outside homeowners' control. When the earth shifts, pipes are generally separated. This is caused by the natural movement of the earth, heavy machinery digging nearby, heavy traffic on the roads nearby, corrosion, and aging of the pipes. How can clogs be prevented?



How To Prevent Blocked Drains

One of the first things every plumbing professional tells homeowners to do is empty cooking grease into an empty coffee can or glass jar. When the can or jar is full, get another one and toss the first. Use paper towels over the trash can to wipe out the greasy pans and plates. That keeps the grease out of the drains. Scrape plates into the trash before washing. Food particles form part of clogs, so getting rid of as much as possible eases the situation.

Coffee grounds< make excellent mulch, but they clog drains. So do used tea bags. Save them and remnants of fresh vegetables and fruits. Liquefy them in a blender or food processor. Use this as mulch around your plants and in the garden. You'll be giving back to the soil the nutrients it needs to grow more food and flowers.

Use mesh traps over every drain in the house, paying special attention to the kitchen sink and the bathtub/shower. Put hair cleaned out of the traps and hairbrushes into the trash. Wipe off oils used for personal care with a towel before showering or bathing.

If you have to post a sign, then do it. No hair from hairbrushes, ear swabs, female items, baby wipes, makeup removal pads, personal care items like hemorrhoid pads, or anything that isn't water and toilet paper goes in the toilet. Put it in the waste basket.

In order to alleviate some soap scum, clean the kitchen and baths with natural products like white vinegar, lemon, and baking soda. As these go through the pipes, they tend to chip away at clogging materials.

What Can You Do About A Clogged Drain?

Almost all homeowners own a plunger. Not many own a snake, and if they do, it only goes for about 11 feet. So they plunge ever harder in an effort to dredge up clogging material and clear blocked pipes. Many times, this restores drainage.

More stubborn clogs are best reached by a plumbing snake. This is a steel cord between 11 and 25 feet that locates the clog and pulls up the material. Homeowners will find them at any hardware store for under $50. Plumbers carry machines that reach further than 25 feet, but these cost upwards of $500.

Boiling hot water usually liquifies most clogging materials like grease and soap scum. Don't pour the boiling water on porcelain sinks, or it could crack. Pour boiling water only down the drain. If you have PVC pipes, this might adversely affect the joints, so keep an eye on them for leaks or weak spots.

If these don't work, homeowners can try the natural route. Pour one cup of baking soda into the drain. Wait ten minutes. Pour one cup white vinegar down the drain. Wait ten minutes. You'll hear a hissing bubbling sound. After ten minutes, pour boiling water down the drain. This actually works, so repeat until the blockage is gone.

The pros would rather homeowners didn't use commercially prepared chemical drain cleaners. They are pure acid. They not only don't eat away the clog, they just sit on top of it adding more to the clog. Additionally, if they'll burn your skin, what will they do to your pipes? You'll need a plumber to replace your pipes before long. That's way more expensive, so it's better to use safer products.

What Requires Professional Plumbers?

By the time homeowners have tried every weapon in their arsenal, they've given up and called in the pros. The chances are good they've some kind of damage requiring repair. While blocked drains don't necessarily mean damage, it does if the clog is further down the line towards the sewer.

This kind of clog means tree roots have wrapped around and through the pipes. Small animals have made homes in the pipes. Dirt and crud from waste added to the grease, hair, and soap scum from inside combines to cause a serious block.

The plumbing professional will use a camera to locate the problem. Then he'll use a high pressure water jet to clean the pipes. This high pressure water blows apart the tree roots and wipes out animal nests and crud. Then he can repair the no longer blocked pipes.

Stubborn clogs the homeowner can't reach or ones that don't respond to snakes and drain cleaners often require a pro. For some reason, his snake will always clear a clogged drain. You don't know how, but when he plunges the toilet or the sink, drainage is restored.

The worst nightmare of a homeowner is when water starts fountaining somewhere in the house. The second worse is when a pipe bursts beneath the house. In any event, water flow is curtailed, and water starts pooling either in the house or the yard.


Homeowners need to know where their main water cutoff is located and cut it off. This will stop water to the whole house, but it will also stop the fountain. Call your nearest plumbing professional immediately. Your water bill will heave a sigh of relief, but then you'll have to locate water damages and pay for their repair.

No matter what the cause of the clog, a professional is your best bet for clearing it without using harsh chemicals or damaging pipes that will cost both arms and a kneecap to fix later.

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