Common Drain Blockages & How to Avoid Them


There’s no other way of saying it – blocked drains can be highly problematic. For homeowners and business owners alike, drain blockages aren’t just inconvenient; they can have unpleasant consequences, cause hygiene issues, and also end up costing you money to put right. Here, we take a look at some of the main causes of blocked drains, and offer our tips on how to prevent or unblock them.


Excessive hair build-up is an extremely common cause of drain blockages in pipes leading from bathrooms. Failing to regularly remove hairs – particularly if you have someone in your household with long hair – can lead to a build-up that can create problems further down the line.


The best preventative measure is to regularly remove hair from plugholes by hand; alternatively you can buy very inexpensive drain clog removers.


We use relatively small quantities of toiletries such as shampoo, shower gel and toothpaste all the time. But it’s surprisingly common for people to discard out-of-date toiletries down the sink or bathroom plughole … and that can cause problems both within your own pipes and in the larger drainage network. The nature of many of these toiletries is that they soak up water and expand, which in turn can cause blockages.


In short: if you need to dispose of toiletries, they should go out with your rubbish, not down the drain.

Cotton Buds

It should go without saying, but don’t flush cotton buds down your toilet. The combination of plastic and cotton wool has tremendous potential to cause harmful blockages.


Always dispose of cotton buds in the rubbish bin, not down the toilet.

Wet Wipes

Wet wipes and baby wipes – including those which are sold as “flushable” – can cause big problems when it comes to drain blockages. A recent news story revealed that these products are responsible for up to 93% of blockages in UK sewers.


Always avoid flushing non-flushable wipes down the toilet, and you may also want to exercise caution with so-called flushable wipes. Water UK recently introduced a new ‘Fine to Flush’ standard, so make sure you check for this logo prior to flushing.


Drain blockages outside your house are often the result of natural debris. Leaves, shrubs and trees are some of the most common causes of blocked drains, particularly after autumn and spring.


You can help by keeping your garden well maintained, regularly clearing fallen leaves and other debris. Keeping trees well watered can help ensure roots don’t go seeking out drains as a source of water.

Heavy Rain & Storms

The unfortunate fact is that most household drainage systems aren’t really built to handle heavy storms and ongoing downpours. They can all too easily become blocked and cause bigger problems.


Homeowners should make efforts to ensure gutters are cleared of leaves and any other debris, particularly if you are entering a rainy season or heavy downpours have been forecast. It can make sense to get your gutters and drainage pipes cleaned by a professional plumber.

Fat, Oil & Grease (FOG)

If you’re not careful, grease fat and oil can collect over time in your kitchen drain and potentially cause serious problems. Fatty and oily substances flushed down the kitchen sink rarely flush away cleanly – they tend to build up on the pipes’ inner walls, potentially until the blockage is so serious that it won’t allow liquid to pass.


Try to avoid draining grease and fat down your sink where possible – it’s better to allow these substances to cool and harden and discard with your regular rubbish. If fatty build-ups do start to clog your sink, try pouring boiling water down your sink to loosen and flush away the blockage, or have a go at unclogging the blockage with a combination of baking soda and vinegar.


We’re all probably guilty of letting a little food waste go down the kitchen sink, but this can be problematic. Some foods, such as rice, pasta and noodles, soak up a lot of water and can expand to cause blockages in drainage pipes.


Our advice is to always scrape any food scraps from your plate into the bin, rather than the kitchen sink. The same advice applies for used coffee grounds, which can build up in drains – use a spoon or kitchen roll to dispose of your coffee grounds in the bin, not down your sink.

Professional Drain Unblocking

If you have a stubborn drain blockage that you’re not able or qualified to fix, get in touch with Drain Doctor today. Our friendly, professional team are on hand 24/7 for any plumbing and drain blockage emergency.