Drain CleaningPlumbing15 Common Causes and Tips for a Clogged Drain

September 27, 2020

 

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Most people’s immediate reaction when water starts filling your shower or sink is probably to assume it’s due to jumbles of hair in your drain. Surprisingly, hair is not the most common culprit that causes blocked-up pipes. Our Kansas City plumbers reveal these 15 common causes of a clogged drain may surprise you. Fortunately, we have some helpful tips for handling them.

1. Soap Scum

We’re not talking low-lifes, we’re talking about scum that builds up in your drain from soap residue.

Many homeowners are surprised to find that their pipes have been backed-up because of the type of soap they are using.

The most common type of soap to leave scum behind is bar soaps. While they may smell good or come in fun colors and designs, bar soaps often leave a thin film behind on both your hands and your pipes.

This results in scum building up over weeks and months, eventually stopping the flow of water in and out of your drains.

What is the best remedy for this? Switch soaps.

Liquid soaps flow more easily through your plumbing, and they also don’t create scum on your bathroom counters or showers. If you’re a bar soap user, you’ve probably had a few close calls when you’ve nearly slipped on that soapy scum while standing in the shower.

Prevent bathroom injuries and nasty clogs. Trade in that bar of soap for liquid

If you are too attached to your beautiful bar soaps, just be sure to perform regular Kansas City drain cleanings to keep your water flowing freely and prevent blockage.

2. Fats, Grease, and Oils

Having a garbage disposal doesn’t mean you can just put anything down it. When you’re tired from a long day and you don’t feel like doing the dishes, resist the urge to dump everything down the drain.

Here are just a few things you should NEVER put down a kitchen sink:

  • Eggshells
  • Large chunks of food
  • Fats leftover from cooked meats like bacon and hamburger
  • Large fruit peels like banana or oranges
  • Cooking oil

A good rule of thumb is- if you can’t chew it up then it shouldn’t go down the drain.  The best practice to scrape leftovers into the garbage can.

Do you work with common cooking oils and fats often?

Fats and oils are often liquid when you are disposing of them. It may seem fine to dump them in their liquid form along with some hot water. The problem is, once fats and oils enter the drain, they often solidify, and they can clump in your drain and cause water flow to cease.

Prevention is easy.

Just pour your leftover cooking oils and fats into a melt-proof container. Once the fat/oil has hardened again, you can use a paper towel to wipe the container clean.

Then just toss the fat/oil-covered towel into the garbage and voila! No more mess and no clogged drains.

3. Hair

When it’s this common, we can’t do without a nod to the drain clogging culprit of all culprits–hair.

Long hair is especially good at tangling in your drains and getting stuck. Still, curly hair is a common cause, as is short hair. Over time, even men’s short hair can lead to plugged-up pipes.

Many people will recommend using a product like Drano to remove the clogs. While this may be effective for some minor hair-clogs, sometimes even Drano simply doesn’t cut it and you may need to consult a professional to remove the clog.

Head this problem off by buying a drain cover to place over your drains. These are found in just about any hardware store. They are small wire covers that are inexpensive and easy to throw out when they become covered with hair.

It’s a much less costly solution than having to replace pipes or buy large jugs of harsh chemicals to pour down and clear the clog.

4. Kleenex & other Tissues

Most of us simply grab a Kleenex when we have a runny nose.  Go ahead, use all the tissue you need. It’s easier on your skin than most toilet papers and essential during cold and flu season.

Just don’t flush them down the toilet.

Even the extra-soft, lotion-lined, tissues doesn’t mean it’s meant to go down your drains. Unlike toilet paper, tissue papers are made differently and woven together in different ways.

Most toilet papers are made to come apart easily when they become very wet and are flushed down the toilet. Tissues and Kleenex can clog your toilets when flushed down in bunches.

No secret solution here. Just put your used tissues in the garbage can.

5. Paper Towels and Napkins

Just like with tissues and Kleenex, paper towels and paper napkins are not meant for the toilet.

We’ve all been there, it’s 2 am and you’re completely out of toilet paper in the house. The question then is, “Do I wipe with a paper towel, or not?”

It might seem that softer, lighter, paper napkin could be a good toilet paper substitute since it’s not as thick as the paper towel, right?

Wrong!

Don’t do it. Just say no…

Paper towels and paper napkins are way too thick to put down a toilet without causing issues. Sorry folks. They don’t break down like toilet paper does- just throw em in the trash

6. Feminine Products

If you’ve made it past 6th grade without someone telling you it’s a bad idea to flush used feminine products down the toilet, it’s time to learn.

If paper towels and tissues are too thick for toilets, feminine products are a definite no-no.

Products like tampons, that are literally made to expand when exposed to moisture, are especially deadly to your drains.

Follow the usage directions on the box for disposing of feminine products. But never put them down yours or anyone else’s toilet. It will be a nasty problem for you and your poor plumber if you do.

If it’s too late, and this is a mistake you’ve already made, no judgments. Now you know. Just be sure to call a plumbing specialist right away to make sure your clog doesn’t cause more severe damage like leaks.

7. Debris and Dirt

If you’re coming in from a day on the farm, an especially muddy football game, or an afternoon of yard work, be sure to shake off the dirt outside. Not in the shower.

Of course, there will be some dirt that cannot be removed without soap and water. This is to be expected.

But when you allow large amounts of dirt and debris to flow down your shower drain, you’re just asking for a clog.

One of the hidden things about dirt is that you may not realize that small pebbles or weeds are tangled inside those clots of mud.

When showering and rinsing that dirt down the drain, those large items can flow in and build up in your pipes. Pebbles and other items could not only clog your drain but cause scratching and damage to the interiors.

When in doubt, get rid of as much dirt and debris somewhere other than your shower or bathtub.

8. Toilet Paper

Unfortunately, its true. Even toilet paper can sometimes cause a clogged toilet.

When flushed in large amounts or clumps, toilet paper has a hard time breaking down in your toilet bowl and drain.

When those large wads of toilet paper combine with sewage trying to go down the drain you can have an overflowing toilet. It’s not a pretty picture.

You can be green and save money using less toilet paper. Try to be conservative in the amount you use. Most brands of toilet paper are very absorbent. A little can go a long way and still keep you dry.

Don’t pull off more than you need and definitely don’t flush more than seems reasonable.

If you need to, flush more than once to prevent a clogged toilet.

9. Foreign Objects

If you have children you probably know that all kinds of weird stuff makes its way into all kinds of crazy places in your home. Sinks, toilets, and drains are no different.

Legos, bouncy balls, stuffed animals are the worst, but even your poor, deceased goldfish could potentially cause drainage problems.

Some good ways for preventing this are:

a. Educate your children. Teach them what the toilet is used for, and what it is not. Help them understand that flushing objects, (aside from toilet paper), down the toilet, can lead to serious problems.

b. Again, buy the drain covers. At the very least, they can protect your sinks, showers, and bathtub drains from having small toys or other foreign objects from running down with the water.

10. Tree and Plant Roots

It mat seem far fetched, but even tiny leaks in your pipes underground can draw thirsty tree roots. Once those roots find a water source, it’s not long before they start growing inside your pipes.

This is one of the most costly causes of drain problems.

Quite often it leads to pipe damage. If tree roots start to grow in your pipes, your water flow will cease and you’ll probably need rooter service.

You may even need excavation, trench-less repair, and pressure jet cleaning.

All of this can be avoided by taking good care of your pipes and drains. Be mindful of where your drains run when planting trees and shrubs. Avoid planting things in areas that could overlap with pipes.

Be careful not to put anything down your drains that could result in leaks and cracks.

11. Minerals from Hard Water

One of the most common causes of clogged drains is actually caused by the minerals in the water.  Buildup from the minerals in hard water can easily restrict drainage in your pipes.

The best solution is to have a water softener installed in your home.

If you are not able to do this, find a regular time to remove the buildup and descale. The more often you clean the mineral buildup out, the easier it will be. The longer your pipes and drains go without cleaning, the harder it is to remove the clog.

Good cleaning habits go a long way in protecting your pipes and drains from problems.

12. Toothpaste Scum

It certainly takes a lot of toothpaste scum to really clog your bathroom sink, but along with everything else slipping down your drain, it’s not uncommon.

Toothpaste scum is thick and stocky. If it is not rinsed down the drain thoroughly, it can latch onto other drain-clogging items like hair.

Toothpaste is similar to bar soap in that it creates a thick film inside your sink and drain. To help prevent this problem, wash your toothpaste down with plenty of water each time you rinse.

Clean your sink and drain regularly to prevent film.

13. Makeup and Cosmetic Debris

When powders, blushes, foundations get washed down the drain, it often stays there.

If someone in your home uses lots of powdery cosmetics, avoid rinsing them down your sinks. Just like with toothpaste, even if the powders don’t clog your drain by themselves, they act as a net to trap other items in the drain.

If a spill occurs wipe if off rather than washing makeup down the drain.

14. Cotton Balls

Cotton balls can be used for just about everything–except, (hopefully), as a toilet paper replacement. The rule of thumb is, if it’s not toilet paper, don’t flush it.

Cotton balls, like feminine products, should not be flushed.  Even if the package says they are flushable, don’t do it. Cotton balls are similar to feminine products in that they absorb water and expand. They are excellent drain-cloggers.

15. Baby Wipes

Most baby wipe boxes are clearly labeled and say right on the front “do not flush.” And so to that warning, we can add very little.

Baby wipes are intended to be wrapped up inside the soiled diaper, and thrown out. In the garbage can, not down your toilet.

For the Persistently Clogged Drain

The truth is, this list could be nearly endless. A clogged drain can occur in countless ways. But, with proper care, you can enjoy fully functioning drains and pipes for years.

 

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