If you experience odd smells from the sink, gurgling noises in the pipes, toilet water rising when flushing or slow draining water in sinks and bathtubs then that could be a sign that your drains might be blocked.
Before you start googling home remedies for blocked drains, let us clear up some of the common plumbing myths we’ve come across.
Myth 1: Flushable wipes are flushable”
We highly recommend avoiding flushing anything down the toilet that isn’t toilet paper or tissue. Yes, they’re labelled as ‘flushable’ wipes but the damage caused by wipes to our local sewage and water treatment plants is enormous. According to a CHOICE report, Australian water service providers are spending approximately $15 million annually to clear blockages mainly caused by wet wipes. They create environmentally damaging overflows in the sewage systems and clog household drains and pipes. Sydney Water estimates 75% of sewer blockages involve wet wipes.
Myth 2: A brick in the back of your toilet bowl will help you save water
This quick fix was aimed to address our common Australian drought. Someone came up with the idea of putting a whole brick in the toilet tank to displace the water so that less water is used when flushing. It’s a great idea don’t get me wrong, but this quick fix comes with some future issues. Bricks are mainly made from clay bearing soil so when the brick is placed in water for a prolonged amount of time it slowly disintegrates, leading to the soil particles clogging up your pipes. You’ll get a nasty red colour spread through your toilet bowl and pipes too. Did you know that older toilets use around 3.5 – 7 gallons of water per flush compared to modern day toilets that use around 1.5 gallons per flush? That’s why we’re not completely against this quick water saving fix. Our first suggestion is to install a new toilet.
Myth 3: Drain cleaners are safe
Chemical drain cleaners can eat through your pipes causing more harm than good. The chemicals eat away at the pipe and result in leaks, cracks and corrosion. Suddenly your quick fix becomes as useful as a non-working flusher and the expense is not worth it. Biodegradable drain cleaners are completely harmless to humans and pets and are much safer for the environment and your pipes. The bacteria in the bio cleaners are designed to consume organic material. The bacteria spreads through your household pipes, consumes the organic material and when there’s nothing left to consume it dies and flushes away with your water waste.
Myth 4: Cat litter is flushable
This may depend on the quality of your household pipes. The litter may be labelled as flushable, but this isn’t necessarily true. Flushable litters are made from biodegradable and natural material that can break down into the environment without harming it. But this doesn’t mean it won’t clog up in your pipes in the meantime. Litter is designed to clump when it absorbs liquids. Imagine how much it could clump together when flushed down your toilet pipes. Another disadvantage to flushing litter down the toilet is the possibility of transferring contaminated parasites in animals to humans through your water supply.
Myth 5: Hot water melts the grease to prevent clogs
Hot water alone won’t do much to prevent the clog in your drains. You can add common kitchen ingredients like salt, baking soda and vinegar which should help clear and unclog the drains. All are non-toxic and less corrosive than chemical substances.
Myth 6: Coke, coffee and mentos will clear a blocked drain
It’s a solid no on the coffee. Coffee will dissolve in hot water but will clog up your drains if poured down with cold water. Mentos and coke absolutely will clear a blocked drain, but it may also blow them up. Bit of a hitch there. The mentos and coke quick fix is something plastered all over YouTube and other social media sites but isn’t something we’d recommend. Older pipes might not be able to handle the pressure it produces and can destroy your pipes all together. Coke on its own might clean your toilet but it comes with a sticky left over sugar syrup mess. Not the kind of syrup you want on your pancakes.
Myth 7: You should clean your toilet with bleach tablets
It’s quick, convenient and avoids the need for gloves and toilet brushes. Everyone wins right? Wrong. The bleach can cause damage to the rubber seals in the toilet. Over time the bleach will continue to break down the rubber, rust the bolts and in 6 months’ time you’ve got yourself a nice leak to fix. Maybe there’s another quick fix for that? If you really must use bleach tablets, we’d suggest popping them directly in the toilet bowl, not the tank.
Myth 8: Toothpaste clogs drains
100% yes it does. Over time, toothpaste clings to the side of the pipes in your sink. Collecting dust, that malting hair we’re all so fond of and debris through the ages. Slowly growing larger until it has blocked the way down for the safe passage of the water waste. You’ve got yourself a toothpaste clog. To avoid this, occasionally pour lemon juice, baking soda and vinegar and hot water down the sink. It’ll loosen it right up and the lemon juice will freshen that mouldy toothpaste smell right up.
Myth 9: Bleach clears a blocked drain or toilet
It certainly cleans the toilet and the drains but is much less effective at its unblocking duties. Bleach is sanitising and kills unwanted smelly germs but will not clear the debris and clog build up on its own. Add boiling water or alternatively, use a plumbing snake. Note: This is not a real snake.
So how do plumbers unclog drains?
If you’re calling the professionals to sort out your drainage issues, we have numerous ways of unblocking your pipes so your problems are flushing away just how they should be.
- Pipe inspection with CCTV
- Manual plumbing snake/drain snake
- Motorised plumbing snake/drain snake
- Drain auger
- Cable cleaning
- Full excavation for the nasty blocks
Depending on how bad the block is will depend on the method used. Some of these listed methods should be left to the professionals if you want the least risk to causing more damage to your pipes.
How can I prevent my drains from clogging?
As we mentioned earlier, don’t wait until you have a major blockage to get your pipes sorted. At the first sign of a blocked drain, try a quick home remedy listed above or call the professionals. Your choice, choose wisely.
Taking pre-empted steps to prevent a blockage is your best shot at never having to deal with one.
- Collect grease, don’t tip it down the sink.
- Purchase a food catcher for your sink. It’s like a plug but has small holes so the water can still drain down the sink while the catcher collects any leftovers that can be thrown in a bin.
- Purchase a shower drain hair catcher or a mesh screen. You know why. This will also collect soap scum that can go in the bin.
- Toilet paper and tissue and human waste ONLY in the flushing zone.
- Pour biodegradable drain cleaner down the drain every month to clear up any sneaky bits that get through your food and hair catchers.
Preserve your drains and pipes to prevent unnecessary future clogs. They become time consuming and expensive when not treated properly. We’ve done the research for you, we’ve busted the myths and revealed their truths. Now go forth and keep those pipes clear for yourself and future generations to enjoy a clog-free home.