Let’s face it, there is no good time to get a clogged drain, but it always seems to occur during a family meal or when you have company to stay. The drain in the shower or tub can become clogged after you’ve had your relaxing soak, and then you are stressed again. A drain clog is a pretty common occurrence, but some clogs are persistent and harder to remove. If you can remove a drain clog with a cup plunger or drain snake, in many cases, this will be sufficient. But, if you cannot remove the clog, it’s time to contact your local professional plumber for expert help. In this article, we will take a closer look at how drains become clogged and some DIY solutions.
Is a Drain Clog Preventable?
This is not an easy question to answer because any drain can become clogged for a wide variety of reasons. Even if you are careful with your drains, there may be debris lurking there from a previous homeowner or tenant. For this reason, we recommend an annual health check for your plumbing system, which includes the drains and drain line. That being said, if you do adopt a proactive approach to protect your drains you can mitigate the risks of a clog significantly. As the old adage goes, prevention is better than the cure.
7 Common Causes of Drain Clogs
Let’s take a closer look at seven of the more common drain clog causes, they are:
1. Soap Scum
One of the more annoying characteristics of hard water is that it prevents the natural formation of soap suds. The elevated mineral content instead creates a hard waxy material that we call soap scum. This material can be found on the surfaces of plumbing fixtures and it is a breeding ground for bacteria. So, it’s no surprise that people want to clean this dirty material away, but all too often it ends up in the drain. This is bad because the soap scum is sticky and it tends to attract other material leading to a drain clog. If you clean soap scum away, place it in the trash and your drains will be healthier.
2. Fats, Oils and Greases (F.O.G.)
Many people pour F.O.G. into their kitchen drain or garbage disposal with no thought of the consequences. These sticky liquids tend to cool and harden inside the drain and other materials stick to them much like soap scum. Gradually, a large clog will form and it may be tricky to remove without professional assistance. The drain is only designed to handle wastewater and very tiny particles of material contained in it. So, if you avoid placing certain items, such as: egg shells, coffee grinds, large chunks of food, vegetable peels and more, you can keep your drain clear.
3. Paper-Like Products
The toilet is designed to handle toilet paper and human waste only. Placing other items in the toilet and flushing them away is a common cause of toilet drain clogs. Some of the worst offenders include cotton balls, “flushable” wipes, diapers, kitchen paper, and feminine hygiene products. These materials should go in the trash where they belong and your toilet drain will be healthier.
4. Human Hair
If you take a look in any sink after washing your hair or the shower/tub drain after bathing, you will notice hair in the drain. This is a very common cause of clogged drains and it’s one of the easiest things to prevent. Installing a drain cover at each drain will hold the hair in a place where it’s easy to remove. Hair is very fibrous and binds easily with soap scum, F.O.G., and other sticky materials to create a formidable clog that’s hard to remove. When you consider the modest investment to purchase drain covers, it makes a lot of sense to get them installed in every drain.
5. Dirt and Debris
If you’ve been out in the yard working or you just came back from playing sports, you may be covered in a layer of dirt and debris. This material can enter the drain, if you’re not careful before you take a shower or clean your clothes. If you adopt the habit of shaking the grass and dirt off before you enter your home, you can avoid a lot of problems.
6. Foreign Objects
If you know any plumbers and ask them about some items they have found clogging drains, you may be amazed at their responses. One of the more common problems, when toddlers are in the home, is toys and other items that have been flushed. It’s a fascinating game at that age to see what you can flush away in the toilet! This is hard behavior to correct because you have to catch your toddler in the act and tell them what they are doing wrong.
7. Excessive Toilet Paper
The toilet is designed to handle toilet paper, but excessively large wads of paper can be a problem. The best way to approach this problem is with a courtesy flush before the amount of waste and paper becomes too much. If you want to avoid a clogged drain, two flushes may be better than one in certain circumstances.
DIY Drain Clog Clearance
Many minor drain clogs can be removed with a simple cup plunger. If you want to remove a toilet clog, you need a special plunger with a rubber flange around the rim. Another handy tool for your home plumbing kit is an augur or drain snake. These inexpensive tools can be fed into the drain to break apart clogs and the remnants are flushed away with water. Chemical drain cleaners should be avoided because they damage your plumbing pipes and they are not a lasting solution. If you want to make kinder cleaning solutions, pour a cup of baking soda in the drain and add a cup of white vinegar. At this point, a chemical reaction will occur and the drain will be filled with white fizzing liquid. Leave the mixture to work for around 20 minutes and then flush the drain with hot (not boiling) water. If this process doesn’t work, you can repeat it multiple times, but there is a point when you should consider calling your local professional plumber.