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Top 10 Reasons for a Clogged Drain and What to do About it

Top-down view of a woman using a plunger on a kitchen sink 05
Dec

You are taking care of your morning chores and you realise the kitchen sink is completely clogged. The water wouldn’t pass, no matter how hard you tried to plunge the blockage out of the way.

All of a sudden, your morning routine is completely ruined, and now you need to take care of a more serious yet common plumbing emergency — a clogged drain.

No one likes this situation, but fortunately, you can avoid it entirely if you identify the actual reasons behind the issue and take preventive measures.

With that in mind, let’s look at some common culprits of a blocked drain and what you should do next.

#1 Grease, Fats, and Food Oil

How often have you poured leftover cooking fat or oil down the kitchen drain due to the lack of a better alternative? We have all done it at some point - it’s okay!

But it can become a major problem if you do this too often. It might not damage your drain pipes right away, but it will start to coat the inside of your pipes. As a result, when other debris passes through these pipes, it merges with the grease and oil, which can then turn into a difficult clog. This will prevent the smooth flow of water through your pipes, and you will end up with a blocked drain! 

Instead, use a heat-proof jar to store your leftover oil, grease and cooking fats. Once it solidifies, you can wipe the jar clean with a napkin and bag up and dispose of the fat right away.

#2 Hair

This list would be amiss without the mention of the biggest clogging culprit of them all — hair.

Whether it is human hair or shedding from your beloved pet, hair can put a lot of unnecessary pressure on your drainage system. Whether the hair is short or long, it is likely to lead to a clogged-up drain eventually.

Sure, you can use an off-the-shelf product to dissolve these clogs and even resolve the problem temporarily. However, a better and more permanent solution to deal with it may be installing drain covers. You can find them in any hardware store, and they have mesh filters that can be placed over your drain pipe. This prevents hair and all other solid debris from clogging up your drain.

Drain covers are easy to discard and replace once they are completely used.

#3 Soap or Soap Scum

When we use soap, it seems to dissolve away and disappear down the drain, leaving us looking and feeling fresh. What you might not know is that soap also leaves behind some residual scum that can collect in your drainage pipes.

It’s common for soaps to be made using different kinds of oils and animal fats, so when they are washed down the drain, they act in the same way as your cooking oil and grease. The result? You guessed it — clogged drains.

This is the case primarily with bar soaps, especially ones that are made of animal fat. The easy solution to this challenge is to consider using liquid soaps and body washes.

#4 Paper Towels & Tissues

Dealing with a colossal mess in the kitchen? Of course, paper towels can be the perfect weapon of choice. Using a paper towel in the bathroom to take care of your business when you run out of toilet paper? Sure, we can wrap our heads around that. 

But it is important to dispose of them responsibly. Do not just blindly flush paper towel down your toilet or force it down your kitchen sink. 


Unlike toilet paper, paper towels and tissues are thicker and woven together differently. The same thing goes for wet wipes – even the ones that are erroneously labelled as “flushable.” When discarded down the drain in bunches, they can easily cause a clog. With that in mind, there is an obvious solution — use your rubbish bin to dispose of your tissues, wipes, and paper towels.

#5 Dirt and Debris

Repeat after us - your toilet is not a rubbish bin!

If you have returned home after a long day of trekking, covered in dirt and mud, a shower can seem appealing. But before you jump in, take a moment to shake off all the dirt outside the house.

You can, of course, rely on the shower to take care of the stubborn dirt that sticks to your skin, but try not to dump large amounts of it down the drain. Pebbles and dirt can collect in your drain pipes and completely clog your drain. Or even worse, these particles can scratch and potentially damage the insides of your pipes.

#6 Minerals

Hard water does as much damage to your drain pipes as it does to your skin and hair — there is really no winning with it, is there?

New South Wales has some of the softest water in Australia compared to states like Queensland and South Australia. If you live in an area where water hardness is a problem, install a water softener to solve all your issues.

If you are not on board with the water softener plan, you can descale and remove all the mineral build-up from your pipes periodically. You can also use hydro jetting services to eliminate all the mineral build-up. The longer you go without cleaning your pipes, the harder it will be to remove drainage clogs caused by hard water and other issues.

#7 Tree Roots

Unlike most of the factors that we have discussed so far, not all factors contributing to a clogged drain are in your control.

Tiny leaks down in your drainage pipes or sewer system can easily attract thirsty roots, and before you know it, you may be dealing with some growing roots inside your pipes. They can result in a complete blockage or ruptured pipes. 

If this happens, you are unfortunately looking at a costly solution — removing tree roots may involve a combination of excavation, pipe repair, and pressure jet cleaning. 

But the good news is that there are quite a few precautions you can take to prevent this. You can start by ensuring that you plant trees and other greenery far away from your drainage system. You can also use hydro jet cleaning to get rid of smaller tree root clogs periodically. 

Other than this, you can conduct regular inspections to ensure that you discover potential issues before they become too complicated and expensive to handle.

#8 Cosmetics Debris

Your makeup and cosmetics may be designed to bring out your beauty, but they can completely destroy your drain pipes. 

Powdery cosmetics such as foundations, blushes, and powders may be harmless on their own, but they form a net that can trap debris inside your drainage pipes. When cleaning the sink after applying makeup, it’s a good idea to wipe down the surface with a cloth instead of washing the debris down the drain.

More importantly, leftover or expired makeup bottles should definitely be emptied into the bin, and not just poured down the drain.

#9 Food Scraps

When you have a lot of food scraps and leftovers to get rid of, throwing them down the sink and flushing them to invisibility can seem tempting, but that is not a good idea!

It is understandable that some food scraps might inevitably go down the drain while you are doing the dishes. But scraps such as vegetables, eggshells, pasta, rice and fat leftovers from cooked meats can actually clog up your drain more quickly than others.

Even with a food waste disposal system installed, discarding these food scraps directly in your sink may not be a good idea. Your disposal system can take care of most of the food particles and break them down into smaller chunks, so it passes through. But the fats and oils from cooked food — as discussed earlier — can quickly turn your drain into a clogged nightmare.

It is always a good idea to scrape your food leftovers into a bin and put the more liquid or pasty leftovers into a temporary container that you can get rid of later when they solidify. This will save you a lot of grief and cost that you will otherwise incur in the process of unclogging your drainage system.

#10 Foreign Objects

If you have young children playing around your home, or you have  a crazy party that got out of hand — you probably know what we mean by foreign objects. We want to reiterate that your drain pipes cannot handle much debris other than human waste or liquids.

Foreign objects can take the form of a plastic toy dropped in the toilet, an engagement ring that slips down a sink, or a bottle cap that somehow ended up in the basin. The idea of fishing these items out of the toilet or rescuing them from a u-bend pipe might seem a bit gross, but it’s worth the effort.

Even if they are small enough to pass through your drain opening, they might not necessarily pass through the next section of pipe. And a solid substance wedged in your drainage pipe can quickly cause the flow of water to cease, resulting in a clog!

Drain covers can help you with this problem, just like they do with hair or other items, but the best course of action is to take extra care. Childproof your toilet and lay down strict rules about what can or cannot be flushed down the drain.

Conclusion: Take Care of Your Clogged and Blocked Drains

Having a clogged drain is one of the most common plumbing problems that we deal with. By identifying the causes and taking steps to prevent these factors from affecting your drain, you can save yourself a lot of money and time.
Even then, if you do find yourself in a fix, contact us today. All Needs Plumbing can send a licensed plumbing professional to take care of your clogged drain for you in no time!

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