Blocked Drains – Causes, Complications and Cures

Drainage systems are what ensures we have dry, clean and healthy buildings to live and work in. Because drains and pipes are out of sight and generally work efficiently, most people take them for granted. Property owners only pay attention to blocked drains when the damage is done, giving them drains little regard when all is well.

Ideally, every property owner should know what causes blocked drains and pipes, how to prevent them, and what to do when the worst happens.

Drain Blockage Prevention

Often, the best way to deal with drain problems is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. The causes of most drain blockages are build-ups of domestic or commercial waste. Try to minimize this by not using toilets as a waste bin, place strainers into plugs to catch hair, pieces of broken soap and food waste, and on a weekly basis flush your drains with hot water.

Causes of Blocked Drains

However, all drains, whether domestic or commercial, inevitably suffer from similar blockage problems during their lifespans. These are mainly build-ups on the inside of the pipes of substances such as grease, leaves, silt and litter. As well as reducing the efficiency of the drain, these deposits, if left to build up over time, may possibly cause a blockage.

When a drain blocks, the water that is trying to escape can not flow through the drain and fills the pipe, backing up to its source and can lead to flooding. The source can be anything from a kitchen sink to a toilet bowl, from a washing machine to a bath. Not only does this cause water damage to the property's structure and wiring, electrical appliances can be damaged irreparably.

Health and Safety

Drain blockages are more than just an inconvenience; they can be a health and safety issue. Most water that we throw away is dirty water. Water that has been backed up in a blocked drain is much dirtier than water that has just been thrown away from a kitchen, bathroom or utility room. It has been lying as a breeding ground for harmful bacteria, and is especially worse if the back up water is from the toilet.

In the event that a drainage system becomes blocked and is back-flowing into the property, the blockage must be attended to immediately to reduce the spread of dirty water and risk of infection. After the blockage has been deal with, the affected areas of the property must be sanitized to Health and Safety Inspectors' standards.

If you are concerned about whether or not your blocked drain is a health risk, a professional drain cleaning company will give good advice, or contact your local Environmental Health Department.

Modern Drain Cleaning Methods

In the event of a blocked drain, there are two main cleaning options: High Pressure Water Jetting and Electro-Mechanical Cleaning.

High Pressure Water Jetting

High Pressure Water Jetting is the quickest, simplest and most effective way of cleaning drains depending on the type of blockage. A continuous jet of water is "fired" into the pipe and blasts away at deposits and blockages, which are then expelled out of the pipe.

Electro-Mechanical Cleaning

This method is mainly used to unblock smaller bore pipes such as toilets and sinks rather than drains. In contrast to water jetting, a flexible rod is pushed into the pipeline and removes blockages by careful, manual force. Where necessary, a variety of attachments are fitted onto the end of the rod to either cut or scrape away debris. It is ideal for removing hard debris such as uric and limescale, roots, twigs, computeded leaves and other foreign objects.

Advantages of Professional Drain Cleaning

The most recent advance in drain cleaning is the use of CCTV surveying. A long, flexible cable with a camera at the end is fed into the drain. As it is pushed further in, the camera sends back images to a monitor enabling the engineer to see the condition of the drain's interior and detect the blockage. A recording of the survey is put onto a CD or DVD disc. The client is also given a CCTV survey report and drainage sketch layout.

Always consult an expert when dealing with drain cleaning. It may seem like a simple, cheaper option for you to grab a domestic high pressure power jet or length of piping and start attacking your drain, but knowing where the blockage is, how to prevent more flooding, and clean the drain without damaging it is by far the safer, cheaper-in-the-long-run option, so always call an experienced professional.