Blocked drains can cause nasty smells, odd noises, and other annoying issues. While some drain blockages are minor, clogs that are ignored can lead to serious damage. Sometimes a simple fix is all it takes to unblock drains while other drain issues require professional help. Fixing a drain immediately reduces the risk of costly complications.
In this article, we’ll cover the common causes of blocked drains, signs of a blocked drain, how to unblock drains, and when it is time to call an emergency plumber for help.
What Causes Blocked Drains?
A variety of problems can lead to blocked drains, including:
- The buildup of mildew, algae, or mould
- Gas pockets
- Oils and grease from cooking solidify once they cool and build up inside the pipes
- Foreign objects that get lodged in the pipes, including flushable wipes, baby wipes, food scraps, sanitary products, etc. (these items should always be thrown away, not flushed)
- Mineral build-up in the pipes
- Soap scum builds up
- Accumulated hair
- Cracked or damaged pipes
- Excessive toilet paper
- Water supply issues
- Improper installation (i.e. low-quality materials, the incorrect slope of pipes, too many bends or joints)
- Normal wear and tear over time
- Pressure from tree roots or intrusion of tree roots (in search of moisture, tree roots can penetrate pipes)
Tips on How to Unblock a Drain
If the cause behind a blocked drain is not serious, you may be able to use simple steps to unblock it yourself. Here are some quick DIY tips on how to unblock a drain:
- Use Boiling Water — Sometimes boiling water is all it takes to unblock drains. If grease, soap scum, or fat has built up, the boiling water can dissolve the solidified substances and clear the blockage.
- Use Baking Soda and Vinegar — Wondering how to unblock a drain naturally? Try mixing half a cup of baking soda with one cup of vinegar. Pour the mix into the drain and allow the fizzy action to go to work. After a couple of hours, follow up by pouring boiling water into the blocked drain.
- Try a Hanger — Take a metal hanger, unbend it, and make a tiny hook at one end. Slowly work the hook down into the drain and use it to snag any debris or objects, such as loose hair. You may be shocked — and disgusted — to find out how much junk is wedged down there! Carefully pull out any gunk you snag, using caution to avoid pushing it deeper into the drain.
- Try a Plunger — Using a plunger can sometimes be enough to clear a blockage. Choose a plunger that is big enough to fully cover the opening of the drain.
Use A Blocked Drain Cleaner — A blocked drain cleaner can be an effective way to unblock drains.
When Is a Blocked Drain an Emergency?
Blocked drains or pipes can indicate an extensive underlying problem. If you’ve performed simple fixes to unclog your drain and they aren’t helping, it is time to call an emergency plumber.
The longer a blocked drain goes unaddressed, the higher the risk of damage. A minor problem can quickly turn into a serious, costly complication. When in doubt, contact an emergency plumber right away for blocked drain problems.
How Can An Emergency Plumber Repair Clogged Drain?
While boiling water or a plunger may be enough to clear simple blockages, many cases require the professional skills of a licensed emergency plumber. Homeowners do not have access to the equipment needed for more serious clogs or sewer line issues.
A licensed emergency plumber will have the tools and technology needed to quickly pinpoint blockages, determine a resolution, and resolve the problem.
Emergency plumbing tools include:
- High-definition cameras attached to metal cables allow an emergency plumber to see inside sewer lines and drains
- Manual drain snakes
- Motorised drain snakes
- Powerful hydro jetting machines
Signs A Blocked Drain Needs Emergency Plumbing
Complications from a clogged drain rarely happen suddenly. Usually, serious problems are a result of a blockage issue that was ignored for a long time. It is important to watch closely for signs of a drain blockage to ensure it gets fixed immediately.
Watch out for the following signs of a blocked drain:
- Water Backups — Water backups often indicate the presence of plumbing issues.
- Stagnant or Slow-Flowing Water — If your water pools up in the sink and takes forever to drain, it may indicate a blockage. Stagnant water can lead to complications, including bacterial overgrowth if left unaddressed.
- Leaks — Blocked drains raise water pressure within the pipes, putting water at risk of being forced out of any openings and leading to leaks. Blockages that have gone untreated for a long time are especially risky as they can weaken pipe joints and promote leaks.
- Foul Smells — Is there a nasty smell coming from your drain? This may indicate a clogged drain. Stagnant water can breed fungi and bacteria that produce nasty odours.
- Frozen pipes — Frozen pipes in Australia? Although this is not common, there are a few areas that are susceptible to frozen pipes if a drain is blocked. Water that is stagnant or slow-moving in a pipe freezes at a faster rate than moving water, putting the pipe system at risk of freezing if there are blockages.
- Odd Noises — Does your drain gurgle? Or have you noticed noises within your walls? If there is a blockage in a pipe, odd noises can occur as the water strains to get through the pipe.
- Residue — Mineral build-up can clog drains, making it important to watch out for residue and contact a plumber for help.
Steps to Prevent Blocked Drains
To help prevent drain blockages, follow these guidelines:
- Do not allow food particles or large waste to go down the drain
- Do not let grease, lard, lubricants, fats, or any other oil-based substances go down the drain
- Do not dispose of medicine down the drain
- Avoid flushing cloth or cotton-based items or fibrous materials
- Do not put non-biodegradable liquids or substances into the drain
- Never put chemicals or flammable substances down a drain (i.e. corrosives, pesticides, paint, petrol)
- In the event of a blockage, stop using that particular drain until a plumber can assess the problem
- Use a shower catcher to stop excessive amounts of hair from going down the shower drain
- If you have hard water, watch for mineral build-up
- Clean drains at least once a week and deep clean drains at least once a month
- Keep debris cleared from drains
- If you have a garbage disposal, clean it often
- Always watch for signs of a drain blockage and address any clogs immediately
Are You Dealing With A Blocked Drain?
If you’ve noticed signs of a blocked drain and have not cleared it, a licensed plumber should assess the situation immediately.
Although some clogs may be a minor issue, a blocked drain can lead to serious damage if left untreated. If you notice a drain is emitting a foul odour, slow to empty, or showing other signs of drain blockages, contact Expand Group. We’ll test your drains and make any necessary repairs to fix the problem immediately.
With years of specialty experience, we are experts at clearing blocked drains. As soon as you call us, we’ll send a licensed emergency plumber to assess the blockage and repair it promptly. Contact us today with any questions and we’ll help you decide if your drain blockage requires an emergency plumber.