If the last couple of years have taught us anything, what with toilet paper shortages and more of us staying at home (whether voluntarily or involuntarily), it’s that there are many ways a drain can get blocked. From flushing non-flushable items down the toilet, to pouring fats and oils down the kitchen sink, plumbers across the country have certainly been kept busy in recent times unclogging severely blocked drains.
The thing is, many of these blockages could have been easily avoided.
Here is what you need to know to prevent drains from becoming unnecessarily blocked in your home. From tips on what NOT to put down the drain, to effective maintenance tips, keep reading to help prevent your drains from blocking ever again!
1. What Not To Flush Down The Loo
Toilet paper shortages in recent years saw many people turning to alternative products, such as wet wipes, tissues and paper towels, and then flushing them down the toilet.
It’s understandable that people would do that, sure. After all, many wet wipe products do say they’re flushable. But it also wasn’t long before the same people discovered that flushing non-toilet paper products was one of the easiest ways to block the drain.
Basically, toilet paper has been designed specifically to break down when it comes into contact with water. Products like sanity products and – yes – even “flushable” wipes often contain plastics and other materials that draw in water; they do not break down as easily and can lead to pipes clogging.
Tip number one to prevent your drain blocking – flush only toilet paper and human waste down the toilet. Anything else should be disposed of in the bin.
2. What Not To Put Down The Sink
Just as there are certain items that are unsuitable for flushing down the toilet, so too are there particular items or materials that should not be emptied down the kitchen sink.
First and foremost is cooking oil. Never has the saying “oil and water don’t mix” been more appropriate. Unlike water which does move freely through the drainage system, oils, fats and greases will stick to the pipes. As the pipes freeze, the oils solidify and as they accumulate they form a blockage. That blockage is largely impenetrable without the aid of a high pressure water jet.
Food scraps and particles can also cause your pipes to clog up, especially those non-biodegradable products that don’t break down. If you have a dishwasher, food particles left on the plate can also get stuck in the dishwasher drain lines.
Tip number two to prevent your drain blocking – the best way to safely dispose of cooking oil is to pour the used oil into a glass jar with a lid. Then dispose of the sealed jar in the bin when it is full.
To dispose of food scraps, scrape them off the plate either into the bin or into a compost heap (if you have one and the foods are suitable) before washing the plates in the sink or dishwasher.
Installing a drain strainer can also capture not only the large scraps but also the smaller particles that get easily washed down the drain.
3. Keep Your Shower Drain Clean and Clear
Hair and soap scum are two of the biggest guilty parties when it comes to the shower drain clogging. Soap scum and shampoo lather can become quite greasy once the oils and dirt in your hair and on your body are washed off, and can prove quite difficult to break down. Hair can also get washed down the drain, accumulate in the pipes and cause a clog in the drains.
Tip number three to prevent your shower drain blocking – installing a drain cover is an effective way to capture and minimise the amount of hair that gets washed down the drain. To reduce the risk of shampoo and soap scum causing a blockage, every two or three months pour some vinegar and baking soda down the drain. Let it sit for at least half an hour – this will help to break down the accumulation and prevent the drain from blocking further.
4. Keep Your Kitchen Sink Drain Clean and Clear
As careful as you may be to ensure that nothing goes down the kitchen sink that shouldn’t be, it’s likely that food scraps and other products will find their way down the drain and either rest or stick to the pipes. But there is a simple and effective solution to help mitigate the problem.
Tip number four to prevent your kitchen sink drain blocking – heat up the kettle and pour boiling water down the kitchen sink. Do this once a week; it will help to break down any greases that have built up and reduce the risk of drain blockage.
5. What To Do With Leftover Paint Or Residue From A Paint Job
Got some leftover paint in the tin after painting an area of the house? You’ve almost certainly got some paint residue in a bucket of dirty water nearby. Though the temptation might be there to simply pour that water down the drain, and clean the paint sodden brush under the tap, that will do your drains no favours. The chemicals in the paint can be potentially detrimental to the environment and to your plumbing.
Tip number five to prevent your kitchen sink drain blocking – to clean your paint brushes, ensure you get out all excess paint from the bristles. You can do this by scraping the brush against the inner rim of the tin. Then extract as much of the remainder as possible into some newspaper.
The paint tin will advise of the most suitable solvent to clean your brushes. Submerge your brush into the recommended solvent and work the paint out of the bristles. Once you feel the brush is free of most (if not all) of the paint, rinse it in a bucket of clean water.
When it comes to the disposal of your dirty paint water, pouring it down the sink is not recommended. Your best option is to either leave the water to evaporate in the sun, wait for the paint to dry, scrape it out and dispose of it in the bin. Alternatively you can also wait for the paint to settle at the bottom of the bucket. Then carefully pour the water out onto a flat, grass covered surface, and allow for the paint to dry before disposing of it in the bin.
To Sum Up…
Though there may certainly be relatively unavoidable incidents that lead to blockages in your drain – tree roots, for example, are something that aren’t always possible to anticipate – there are certainly some that are within your control. To avoid and prevent your drains from blocking:
- Flush only toilet paper and human waste down the toilet
- Food scraps go in the bin, not down the sink
- Keep the shower drain clean with a drain cover and by pouring vinegar down it once every two or three months
- Keep the kitchen sink drain clean by pouring boiling water down once a week
- Follow the correct procedures to clean dirty paintbrushes and dispose of dirty paint water
Of course, if you find yourself with a blocked drain, you can either try to fix it yourself with a plunger or drain snake, or get a plumber in to get the job done for you.0