Dealing with blocked drains: a guide

Blocked drains are a common household problem that is largely preventable. If you want to avoid the issues by averting the problem in the first place or you need to rectify damage that's already been done, read the following guide.

What causes blocked drains?

Drains can become blocked in a number of ways, commonly as a result of a buildup of garden debris like leaves and twigs. The wind can blow these sorts of items into gutters and drains, making it harder for water to drain away. Tree roots are another cause of blocked drains as these can grow into the pipes over time and cause them to crack or become blocked.

Another common cause of blocked drains and pipes is a buildup of hair from things like the shower or the bath plughole, while foreign objects can also result in blockages if they become lodged between the drainpipe and the pipes underneath a property. A single object may not fully block the pipe or drain but it's likely that other debris will cling to the item and collect.

Grease and fat can pose another problem for drains as when these substances are washed down the sink they can stick inside the pipework. The grease can then build up to the point that liquid cannot pass through the pipe anymore.

How to prevent your drains from clogging up

It is possible to avoid the problem of blocked drains with careful maintenance. Taking steps like disposing of fats and oils in a different way to pouring them down the sink can help you avoid a buildup of grease.

To prevent hair from collecting in the pipes and resulting in a blocked drain, invest in some little devices which you can fit over the plugholes in the bath and shower. These objects are known as hair collectors and resemble tiny strainers with holes big enough for water to pass through but small enough to reduce the amount of hair that can make it down the plughole.

In the garden, you should check your gutters and drains regularly for leaves and other objects that may have been blown in and remove them as soon as possible. This is especially important at the end of seasons like autumn and winter when dead leaves are shed and regularly collect in nooks and crannies in the garden.

You can also avoid flushing foreign objects away by reading product packaging so you know how to correctly dispose of sanitary items, and by explaining to any children in your household the potential repercussions that flushing entire toilet rolls or toys down the toilet may have!

What to do if your drains are blocked

If you've discovered that one or more of your drains is blocked, you'll need to call out a professional tradesperson to unblock them for you. If the problem is simply one of water clearing very slowly from the sink or bath, try using a plunger to push away any blockage. If the problem is recurring however, it's a good idea to seek the advice of a qualified plumber. You can browse plumbers in London or your own area on You might also want to check your insurance policy to see whether you're covered for blocked drains, in which case you might want to make a claim for the repairs.

Meanwhile, if more than one household in the area is experiencing the problem of blocked drains, or if there's sewer flooding, the blockage could be in the shared drains or public sewer, which you'll need to report to your water board or local council.