Drains can be wonderful things. Whenever you flush the toilet, wash your hands, do the dishes, or have a shower, we all take it for granted that whatever we flush away will disappear down the drain – out of sight, out of mind.
But what happens when it doesn’t? Oil and grease, cooking liquids, soap scum, and hair are all things that can build up in the pipes, causing the water to stop draining away properly and actually come back up the drain. This looks gross, smells gross, and can actually pose a very serious public health risk to you and your family. There are typically more than 500,000 bacteria per square inch in the drain.
If you notice any strange odours or bubbles coming from your drain, or simply notice that it’s taking longer then usual to empty, it’s likely you have a blocked drain.
Instead of trying to figure out where the blockage is and attempting to clear it yourself, call the professionals. That way you can be sure that it will be cleared quickly, and in a way that will minimise damage to your drains and pipes.
Plumbers use several approaches to clear blocked drains, depending on the cause of the blockage.
Identifying the cause of a blocked drain
Generally a video snake inspection system is used, which allows the plumber to work out where the blockage is and what is causing it. In turn, they are then able to choose the most effective method of clearing the blockage, as not all methods will work for all causes.
If your blocked drain is being caused by damage resulting from tree roots growing into the pipe, there are a number of tools that can be used to unclog it.
Some of the most common include hand snakes for smaller blocks and drain machines for larger blocks. These consist of bendy cables which are fed through the pipes to the blockage. An attachment on the end of the cable allows your plumber to cut, scrape, or manoeuvre the blockage to remove it from the pipe.
A high-pressure hydro jet is another option, which blasts away stubborn clogs that were not able to be removed using a hand snake or drain machine. In doing this, it will dislodge the blockage, allowing water to correctly move through the drain and pipes again.
As mentioned, blocks can commonly be caused by people putting things down the sink or toilet that they shouldn’t be.
In this case, plumbing rods can be used to remove blockages from your sewer pipes. They are extendable and can be screwed into one another to create a rod that is long enough to reach the blockage, wherever it is in the pipe. Like the hand snakes and drain machines we discussed before, different attachments can be screwed onto the end depending on the nature of the blockage and what it’ll take to remove it.
Note that this method is not suitable where the pipes are damaged from the blockage, as regardless, the pipes will need replacing, which calls for a professional.
If you do decide to give plumbing rods a go yourself, always make sure they have been screwed together properly and in the correct direction. Failure to do this could mean the rods actually come apart in the pipe, which would of course make the blockage worse! A lost plumbing rod usually means you’ll need to dig up the pipes to get it back, which is why it’s usually best to avoid this by consulting a professional in the first place if you’re a plumbing novice.
Depends on where blockage is located
The approach taken by your plumber may also vary depending on where the blockage is. There are two common places – sewer pipes and fixtures.
Larger sewer pipes usually feature manholes – specifically, a lid that can be lifted to provide your plumber with access to the pipe. This allows them to look down into the sewer and check for evidence of a clog.
This is definitely a job for a professional, as it requires extreme care. Explosive gases can build up in sewer pipes, causing extreme injury if an unprepared person were to open the lid. For this reason, if you do decide to ignore this advice and open it yourself, always stand back and wait a few minutes after opening so that any explosive gases can escape. Secondly always wear protective equipment and breathing apparatus if you choose to enter the manhole. Seriously though, this is a job for a professional.
Instead of manholes, some sewer pipes feature inspection openings, which are plastic or cement caps on top of a length of pipe. These may be above or below ground. If you do decide to go digging in search of then, always get a copy of the sewer pipe plans from council or your local wastewater authority, as hitting the pipe wrong could be disastrous.
Sometimes the blockage might be in the sink, bathtub, or shower fixtures rather than the sewer pipes. These blockages are easier to fix.
The old tried and true plunger is often the best way to remove blockages here. By placing the plunger over the blocked fixture’s opening and plunging (or thrusting) it up and down rapidly, the suction created should help to dislodge the clog. If you don’t have a plunger, a mop could be used in the same manner.
If this doesn’t work though, the blockage will need to be located through an inspection opening, and removed with drain rods.
Contact the Professionals
Or you could just let us take care of it. Here at Manariti Plumbing, we take the hard work out of the jobs that nobody likes, like dealing with drain blockages. Got a blockage – give us a call on 0401 093 520.
Chris served several years in the Australian Defence Force and since leaving went on to complete his mature age apprenticeship in plumbing and having been in the industry for many years, has gained a wealth of knowledge in the plumbing industry.