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What Causes Clogged Drains & Tips to Prevent Them

Clogged drains are caused by a variety of reasons. Perhaps you have small children who like to drop their toys in the toilet. Maybe you’ve poured cooking grease down the kitchen sink, which is never a good idea! Whatever the cause, a clogged drain can be annoying, smelly, and inconvenient.

Most clogged drains tend to occur in the most frequently used sinks in your home, usually the bathroom sink. This is where hair, soap scum, skin flakes and other debris ends up in your drain, binding to the walls of the drain pipes. As this gunk accumulates, it reduces water flow. Eventually, the water has nowhere to go and remains in your sink, creating a disgusting mess.

Sure, there are several ways to address a clogged drain, but it’s simply easier to prevent your drain from becoming clogged in the first place. Here are a few handy tips from the pros to help you prevent clogged drains.

  1. Use a Drain Stopper – True to its name, a drain stopper keeps everything in the sink, allowing you to skim out the things that should not go down - including food waste - before releasing the water. This is especially helpful in the kitchen where larger chunks of food often end up going down the drain, leading to stubborn blockages.
  2. Hair Strainer Drain Cover - Ideal for bathtubs and bathroom sinks, a hair strainer drain cover can trap hair (and other large debris) before it makes its way to an area that is difficult to reach. Hair clogs are particularly gross to clean, and a hair strainer drain cover can help to prevent most of them from occurring in the first place. A perforated shower drain hair catcher is a must in any household, particularly if someone residing there has long hair.
  3. Don’t Allow Cooking Grease into Your Drains – Nope, never, not even plate drippings. Grease should never make its way into your plumbing system. Eventually, it will accumulate in your plumbing traps and solidify, resulting in a nasty mess to clean up. Dispose of all grease in the trash and wipe off plates before washing them. Pour liquid grease into a sealable container until it cools and hardens, and then transfer to the trash.
  4. Toilets – Nothing should be flushed in your toilet beyond its intended purpose. This includes paper towels, sanitary products, dental floss, food, wipes, fingernail clippings, hair, or tissues. Many plumbing problems and clogged drains are caused by “flushable” wipes that tangle further down the line, causing damage that can be expensive to repair.
  5. Food Waste – Try to avoid letting any food waste down the drain. Even if it fits through the holes of your sink strainer, it will eventually catch on something and accumulate. If it is not a non-greasy liquid, it shouldn’t be dumped in the sink. This means everything from coffee grounds to tomato seeds; just don’t do it.
  6. More Hair – Even outside of the bathroom, hair can be a pesky cause of clogs. Both human and pet hair can make it’s way into our laundry, over time leading to drain blockages. If you have clothing that is covered with pet hair, shake it outside or vacuum it before putting it in the laundry.
  7. Hygiene Products – Everything from body wash to hair gel can leave a residue in your drains, eventually causing build-up. If you are able, wipe your hands on a towel before washing your hands of product, reducing the amount being washed down the drain.
  8. Toilet Paper – Today’s fancier toilet tissues are thicker and stronger. Certain types of toilet paper can be difficult to break down in the water. This means they are still in their current form as they traverse your pipes, often causing clogs. Be wary of “extra-strong” toilet paper products; while the durability may be appealing, these aren’t ideal for your plumbing system.
  9. Go Easy on Your Garbage Disposal Unit - Garbage disposals grind food up and then send it down the drain. All kitchen garbage disposals are hard on your plumbing and are frequently the cause of clogged pipes and drains. If you can avoid using them, or use them sparingly, you will be less likely to experience a clog. Try putting those kitchen scraps into your compost or “green box” instead.

The best way to prevent your drains from clogging is to limit what is put into them. However, not every drain clog is caused by human behaviour; some can be caused by tree roots or other factors. If you are dealing with frequently clogged drains, or have one that simply won’t go away despite your best efforts, maybe now is the time to call in a licensed professional plumbing service. As your trusted local plumbing team, Sewer Squad’s expert plumbers can clear up any existing clogs, investigate the cause of them, and help you to prevent clogged drains from being a frequent nuisance.