Blocked drains are one of the most common plumbing problems in Sydney homes and businesses.
With sinks, toilets and showers being used every day, it doesn’t take much for a foreign object or build-up of grime to turn a free-flowing drain into a clogged up mess that stops water from going where it should – and sends water spilling over your floor instead.
While a blocked drain in Sydney might not look as destructive as a burst pipe or gas leak, without proper attention a blocked drain can cause a long-term and expensive problem. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways for you to protect your drains, and steps you can take if you spot any red flags.
We know you’ve got questions, so we’ve got answers. Read on for the 15 most frequently asked blocked drain questions and all the info you need to know.
Frequently Asked Blocked Drain Questions
#1 – How do I know if my drains are blocked?
Your drains will let you know if there’s a blockage below the surface. However, these signs can be subtle so it’s worth knowing what to look out for. If you notice any of the following, you could be dealing with a blockage:
Sink, toilet or shower not draining
Slow drainage leaving a pool of water
Sewage smell around drains
Gurgling sounds (coming from trapped air)
If in doubt, it’s best to call in a professional for an expert opinion. Best case there was nothing wrong with your drains and you’ll have peace of mind. Worst case there was a problem under the surface but you’ll have acted quickly to sort it out.
#2 – What causes a blocked toilet?
Your toilet doesn’t have a filter, so if a foreign object finds its way in it’s going to pose a problem. When it comes to the items you should watch out for, the list is a long one.
Since your toilet isn’t built to handle these types of objects you can quickly be stuck with a toilet that’s refusing to drain – or worse, is pushing dirty sewage back into your bathroom. It’s not always possible to stop foreign objects ending up in the toilet (especially if kids throw toys in) but putting a garbage bin next to the toilet can help people dispose of foreign objects the correct way.
#3 – Why is my bath or shower draining so slowly?
A shower that drains slowly (or doesn’t drain at all) is known as ‘standing water’ and it’s a sign your drains are obstructed. You don’t want to be standing in dirty, soapy water, so you’ll need to fix the problem ASAP to avoid things getting worse.
The most common causes of blocked shower and bath drains include:
Build up of soap scum
#4 – Why is water pooling in my kitchen sink?
Most people think the bathroom sink is the drain that’s most affected by frustrating blockages – but the kitchen sink is just at risk.
One of the most common culprits comes from the cooking process when fats, oil and grease (known as F.O.G on the plumbing scene) finds its way into the sink after a family dinner or backyard BBQ. These materials harden over time and stick to the walls of your pipes, making it harder for water to get through.
Add in food scraps, soap scum and coffee grinds (especially with Sydneysiders loving their coffee) and you’ve got all the ingredients for a blockage.
As a rule of thumb, ask yourself if something can be dissolved in water. If the answer is ‘yes’ then it’s safe to go in the kitchen sink. If the answer is ‘no’ it’s best to throw it in the rubbish.
#5 – Why are my drains making a gurgling sound?
A partial blockage in your drain can lead to soft gurgling sounds as air bubbles are created when water tries to push through. As the bubbles escape you hear the gurgling noise, which is a red flag not to be ignored.
In the kitchen this may be due to food scraps, oil or grime. While the bathroom drain is often blocked by hair, soap scum and grime.
#6 – Are there any DIY hacks to clear blocked drains?
There are plenty of DIY hacks to unblock your drain, but these may not work depending on the severity of your blockage. Typically, the worse the blockage, the more important it is to hire a professional.
For smaller blockages, the following strategies may work:
DIY Drain Snake
Substances like grease, conditioner and toiletries have a low boiling point, and may be broken up with high temperatures.
Boiling water + 1 cup of bicarbonate soda + 1 cup of vinegar may break small blockages up.
A drain snake made out of a coat hanger may clear a blockage. In many cases though this will only poke a hole in the blockage, which is quickly plugged up again.
#7 – Why do my drains smell so bad?
If your drains are giving off an unpleasant odour you’ll need help ASAP, because living with the scent of sewage in your home isn’t a fun time.
The most common cause of a smelly drain is debris in the form of soap scum, hair, food and oil that blocks your drains and starts attracting bacteria. This can lead to a rotting smell wafting up through your drains (not a great way to enjoy your shower or kitchen time).
These conditions may also attract drain flies which lay eggs in your pipes and cause a bad smell as their numbers multiply.
#8 – Should I be cleaning my drains regularly to prevent blockages?
Cleaning your drains monthly can help reduce the chances of blockages from food, soap scum, hair and other foreign objects.
The natural cleaning hack (hot water + bicarbonate soda + vinegar poured down the drain, then rinsed out with hot water 10 minutes later) can be used so you’ll be able to save money (instead of calling out your local emergency plumber for a fix) and get in the habit of a preventative schedule.
#9 – Can tree roots block my pipes (and how can I possibly stop them)?
It’s true, no matter how closely you watch your drains, all your hard work can be undone by tree roots in your front or backyard. Roots pose the highest threat to older pipes made of clay or unsealed material. Roots only need a tiny entry point before growing into the crack and blocking your pipe, causing a clogged drain you can’t fix from above.
If there are roots in your pipes you’ll need to call in a professional Sydney plumber to sort out the problem, but prevention is better than a cure. So if you’re planting trees in your yard, keep them away from your utility lines.
#10 – How can I lower my chances of a blocked drain?
There are plenty of ways you can tip the odds in your favour and enjoy your time at home without worrying water will start spilling up and out of your drains. In the kitchen this means scraping off plates and cooking utensils before you wash them so no food goes down the drain.
You can also buy a plug hole strainer for your sink to catch any grime, hair or debris before it gets into your drains.
#11 – Help! I’ve dropped my wedding ring down the drain, can I get it back?
It’s OK, if you’ve lost a wedding ring (or any jewellery) down the drain, it’s not gone forever.
When you’re washing your hands or rinsing the dishes it’s possible for your ring to slide off and disappear, but there are ways to get your ring back. The easiest way is to turn off your water line and contact your local plumber to have an expert retrieve your jewellery without damaging the plumbing or pushing the item further away.
If you want to go with the DIY fix you can remove the p-trap (this is the curved pipe under your sink) and look for the item but when it’s got sentimental value, it’s best to leave it to the pros.
#12 – Can I clear my drains with commercial cleaners from Coles or Woolies?
The cleaning aisle at your local supermarket is handy for plenty of odd jobs around the house – but clearing a blocked drain is not one of them.
Commercial cleaning agents fall into 3 categories:
While these cleaners can clear some blockages, they typically work by increasing the heat in your pipes to melt stubborn blockages. If your pipes are made of PVC this can do serious damage, while older metal pipes can be damaged too.
As a bonus, spilling a powerful cleaner in the kitchen or bathroom isn’t good for you, your kids or your pets (not to mention your fixtures and tiles) so it’s best to leave them on the supermarket shelf.
#13 – Can you flush wet wipes down the toilet?
Flushing wet wipes is NOT a good idea.
Although you may have more wet wipes and anti-bacterial wipes in your home thanks to COVID-19, these are guaranteed to cause issues for your toilet’s plumbing.
Unlike toilet paper which is designed to break down within 24 hours of being flushed, wet wipes can stay compact and in one piece for MONTHS. Think about your plumbing trying to deal with full wet wipes and you can see why your toilet isn’t draining anymore.
Even wet wipes that have “flushable” on the packet can cause a threat, so it’s best to leave your wet wipes out of the toilet altogether.
#14 – What tricks do plumbers use to unblock drains?
Your local Sydney plumber will have a truck full of handy tools of the trade to make light work from the most stubborn blockages and obstacles. These may include:
Cable drain cleaning machines
Water hydro jet
Motorised drain snakes
It’s unlikely you’ll have any of these heavy-duty tools in your junk drawer, but all plumbers have access to this type of machinery. So when you hire an emergency plumber to unclog your drains, you’re actually paying for tools that will clear the blockage completely and save you from spending on constant trips to the shops for baking soda and vinegar to try and clear a problem that won’t go away without the big guns.
#15 – Who should I hire to unblock my drains?
This is the million dollar question when it comes to blocked drains – thankfully the right Sydney plumber won’t set you back nearly that much.
If you’ve tried the DIY hacks and nothing has worked, it’s best to call in the experts to take care of the problem and stop any damage from worsening under the surface. You want your plumber to treat your home like it was their own, so be on the look-out for:
Are you worried about the blocked drains in your Sydney home?
If you’ve been spending more time at home during the last 12 months you may have noticed your drains were removing water a little slower than usual.
Thanks to the pandemic, Sydney families are at home more often and placing more pressure on their plumbing, so it’s normal to spot a few signs of poor drainage from time to time. When this happens, don’t let a small problem spiral out of control.
At Emergency Plumbers Sydney we offer a GUARANTEEd same-day service on ALL blocked drains, so whether you live in the Hills District, the Inner West, Western Sydney or the CBD, there’s help available when you need it.