Humans have had some kind of indoor plumbing ever since back in Ancient Roman times. Most of us probably don’t think about it all too often, but what would our lives be without plumbing? Unfortunately, some people have had a glimpse of what that world would be like after dealing with a clogged drain or sewer.

Almost every plumbing fixture can become clogged or blocked. Whenever clogs or blockages start happening, it might only be a minor issue caused by some kind of obstruction inside your pipes. But without the proper attention, it can very easily escalate and become a much more major problem requiring some pretty costly repairs.

In order to ensure a plumbing problem doesn’t send you back to the dark ages, here are some of the common causes of a blocked or clogged drain. Because once you know the most likely reason why your drain is blocked, it will help you understand how to clear a blocked drain successfully.

Blocked kitchen drains

Easily the most common cause of drains becoming clogged in the kitchen sink is the build-up of grease. Whenever cooking oil or grease is left to get washed down the kitchen drain, it attracts and captures particles of left-over food and washing detergent scum. Then as the grease cools down, it starts to harden and solidify on the sides of the pipes. And because this continues to happen all the time, water flow is increasingly reduced as more grease and debris is added until the blockage eventually stops the water completely.

Blocked bathroom drains

Similar to kitchens, the most common cause of blocked and clogged drains in bathroom sinks, baths, and showers is the accumulation and combination of gunk. But instead of grease and food particles, it’s the build-up of soap scum inside bathroom pipes that captures foreign particles and gets clogged up.

While the soap by itself isn’t causing clogs inside your drain, it’s when the soap residue gets combined with other things that end up being a problem. With substances like flakes of dead skin, dirt, and especially clumps of hair, all combining with soap scum inside the drain, it can very quickly build up over time and become solid clumps.

Blocked swimming pool drains

If you forget to regularly skim the top of your swimming pool after using it, clogged drains can become commonplace. This is because all the debris that floats on top, from leaves to sticks to pollen and hair, gets stuck in the drain. It’s so important therefore to keep your pool clean and regularly maintained, and this is even more important if you don’t have a good filtration system.

How to unblock drains

One of the most obvious options here is to use a plunger. After all, that’s what it’s made to do. Just make sure you are using the right size plunger, and that it’s making an airtight seal. Because you need to force all of the air from beneath the bell through the pipes without the water splattering everywhere.

Bending a wire coat hanger is one of the possible home remedies which can be used to unclog blocked drain pipes. Start by bending the coat hanger until it is as straight as possible, making sure you keep the hook at one end. Once the coat hanger has been bent into shape, simply push it down through your drain while attempting to fish out the blockage.

Because the build-up of grease and soap scum is such a common issue, it might be a good idea to purchase a drain cleaning product that has been specifically designed for that purpose.

Otherwise, you can try clearing out your clogged drainage pipes using a homemade solution of a one-third cup of baking soda with a one-third cup of vinegar. Pour it down the drain as soon as it starts fizzing, as that will help break down the clogged-up gunk. Leave the solution there for at least an hour or two, or even overnight for really stubborn clogs, before flushing it all out with hot water

How to prevent blocked drains

If your drains are getting clogged with any regularity, it can very quickly become annoying for you and everyone else. Even if you’ve become so good at clearing blocked drains that you’re almost a professional, you’d obviously much rather not having to waste any time dealing with them. The good news here is that blocked drains are actually quite often preventable.

In fact, it’s much easier to eliminate the causes and prevent them altogether than unclogging them. Thankfully there is plenty of advice online for the most effective methods of preventing clogged drains altogether. For example, the best way to avoid kitchen sink blockages is by avoiding pouring any oil or grease down the sink at all.

Remember that using too much force can cause permanent or expensive damage to your plumbing fixtures. So if you find that you’re unable to clear a blockage, contact a licensed and professional plumber to take care of it for you.


Luke Fitzpatrick has been published in a variety of publications such as Forbes, Tech In Asia and The Next Web. He is also a guest lecturer at the University of Sydney, lecturing in cross-cultural management and the pre-MBA program.