Most of us have been in this scenario before: you step into the shower in the morning, looking forward to that first act of cleanliness in the day. Before you know it, you look down to see that you’re standing ankle-deep in dirty water. It’s a clogged drain! What could have done it?

Fortunately, Robins Plumbing, Inc. has some answers. Read on to learn about the most common causes of a clogged drain.

Hair

Hair can clog up a drain pretty quickly. On average, humans shed around 50-100 hairs per day, so it’s not surprising that some of those will end up at the bottom of your bathtub or sink. People with longer hair tend to lose more, due to the fact that long hair is more prone to damage and exposure to the elements.

Usually, it’s relatively easy to remove hair that’s clogging a drain by pulling it out with your fingers. If this won’t work, you can resort to a commercial device like a drain stick. Using chemical drain cleaners is not advisable, as these can oftentimes corrode the inside of your pipes.

Bar Soap

You wouldn’t think soap is capable of clogging your drains, but it definitely will. Bar soap has a habit of re-solidifying in your drains, leading to clumps of it forming into a large, goopy mass over time that will eventually cause a blockage. There’s really no way to avoid soap buildup, short of switching to a liquid soap for your daily use.

Not only is soap buildup in your pipes a nuisance, it can be unhealthy — soap scum attracts bacteria, and nobody wants to end their morning shower wading through an inch of germ-riddled water.

To clean soap scum out of your pipes, try pouring boiling water down the drain, followed by running warm water for a few minutes; this will break down the scum and allow it to pass through the pipe. Another technique is baking soda mixed with water at a ratio of 1 teaspoon per gallon of water. As with hair clogs, avoid using chemical drain cleaners.

Grease

Fatty substances like grease and oil will clog your drains quicker than almost anything else. Avoid pouring animal fats, cooking oils, and grease down the drain and instead collect them in a sealed container for later disposal with the rest of your trash.

Unlike a lot of other items on this list, grease and oil can be unbelievably difficult to get out of your pipes as it hardens and sticks to the inside, and repeatedly dumping such substances down a drain only allows them to accumulate that much quicker, eventually blocking water completely. Sometimes a drain stick will get enough of it out to allow for proper water flow, but in most cases you’ll end up calling a professional to do the job for you.

As tempting as it is to dump that bacon grease down the drain, just don’t do it; you’ll save yourself a lot of stress in the future!

Toiletries

It may be common sense to most in this day and age of environmental awareness, but you should never flush so-called “disposable” toiletries down the toilet. Due to their manufacture, these types of items are not meant to be disposed of in such a manner, and they can really wreak havoc on a home’s plumbing system if they are allowed to accumulate inside pipes. Here are some examples of what we mean by toiletries — 

  • Tissue paper
  • Tooth floss
  • Sanitary napkins
  • Cotton swabs and cotton balls
  • Diapers
  • Adhesive bandages
  • Baby wipes/hand wipes

Sometimes a simple plunger is enough to get items like these out of a clogged toilet, but if they are allowed to accumulate they are guaranteed to cause moderate or severe issues down the line. Ask any apartment complex manager, and they’ll tell you: diapers and baby wipes can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage to a single apartment building’s pipe system, and it always requires a professional plumber to fix the problem.

Avoid the urge to flush those used cotton balls down the toilet, and throw them in the trash instead.

Improperly Installed Pipes

There are plenty of reasons to hire a licensed plumber to install and repair pipes in your home instead of doing the work yourself, but one of the most important is that improperly installed pipes can eventually lead to a wide range of issues, including blockages in your drains. 

Most do-it-yourselfers just don’t have the experience required to do a proper job of installing or fixing pipework, and the potential for damage in those kinds of scenarios is a concern. Trust us, you’re better off leaving that kind of activity to a professional.

Foreign Objects

As adults, we know that putting certain items in the sink or toilet isn’t a good idea. Kids, on the other hand, love to experiment and will take any unsupervised opportunity to find out what happens when a favorite toy gets flushed down the john. Even an object the size of a Lego piece can cause a blockage in your drains. The lesson to be learned here? Watch your children!

Of course, some adults never learned from childhood experience. It isn’t uncommon for plumbers to find cigarette butts, safety pins, and plastic bags lodged inside of pipes. Given that solid objects are quite difficult to remove from a drain or toilet, you’ll want to avoid attempting this yourself and potentially causing more damage. Call a licensed plumber instead!

Tree Roots

Trees are amazingly resilient, partly due to the fact that they will find any way they can to access a nearby water source. That includes pushing their roots through cracks or stress lines in concrete, stone, and metal objects like the sewer pipes running under your home. Once tree roots find their way into a pipe, they can cause massive and widespread damage that may eventually lead to clogged drains.

To properly diagnose a root invasion of your home’s pipes, a plumber has several methods available, the most effective of which is using a sewer inspection camera. Essentially, an inspection camera consists of a miniature video camera mounted on the end of a semi-rigid cable, which is itself attached to a monitor that allows the plumber to view whatever the camera is seeing in the pipe. It’s the cheapest and least intrusive way for a plumber to find out what’s blocking your sewer lines.

For ways to avoid tree root clogs in your pipes, you’ll want to consult with a landscaper or licensed plumber. Depending on whether you’re currently residing in a used home or are planning on building one, they can provide some handy tips and solutions.

For The Toughest Clogs, Contact Your Local Plumber

In the cases where you can’t get that stuffed toy or clump of hair out of your drains, contact your friendly neighborhood plumber. The folks at Robins Plumbing, Inc. have been fixing clogged drains in the Phoenix area since 2004. In addition to cleaning your drains and pipes, they can help you with a variety of services from sewer inspection to backflow prevention to general plumbing. With years of experience behind them, you can depend on Robins Plumbing to do the job professionally and honestly.

Contact Robins Plumbing Inc. today!