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  • Written by Samantha Ball

What starts out as a minor issue quickly can balloon into a major problem when it comes to clogged pipes and drains. Clogged drains and pipes cause slow drainage, corrosion, and, in some cases, sewage backup.

Avoid these 10 mistakes to keep your drains and pipes free of clogs and your home sanitary. 

1. Tree roots

Small cracks or leaks in underground pipes can encourage the growth of tree roots. Once they are inside your pipes, tree roots grow quickly and can obstruct water flow. Eventually, they may cause pipe damage, requiring expensive repairs or total replacement. Collapsed pipes will require a plumber. We recommend reviewing the root structure of trees and plants near water lines and drains.

2. Toiletries

Toiletries and other personal grooming products should never be flushed down drains. This includes “flushable” wipes, baby diapers, and female sanitary products. Because they are not designed to break down, these products can easily build up in your drains and cause clogs and backups.

3. Foreign objects

Toys, cleaning cloths, and any other foreign material not intended to be flushed down the toilet or the drains should be disposed of properly. Even if a foreign object appears small enough to clear a drain and not cause backup issues, it could lead to problems later. For instance, that kazoo your child accidentally flushed down the toilet. It may have cleared the initial flush, but it could become lodged in the drain at an odd angle and prevent other material from clearing the drain.

4. Cooking oil

Cooking oils are used in kitchens daily. They also are a major cause of clogged drains. Coconut oil, grease, and some vegetable oils should never be flushed down a sink drain or garbage disposal. While they may appear as a liquid when used for cooking, these oils harden and solidify when they come in contact with cold water in drains. The stiff fat deposits that result can block drains. It is best to pour oils into the bin once the fats coagulate.

5. Food scraps

Food scraps belong in the disposal or bin. Even tiny scraps of food that easily clear the drain opening will eventually contribute to blockages. Tea and coffee leaves and grounds are the biggest culprits as they do not break down over time. Drain cleaners and plumbing snakes can help clear these kinds of clogs, but it is best to avoid them by tossing scraps where they belong.

6. Mineral buildup

Hard water produces mineral deposits that can clog drains over time. Using a water softener or de-scaling agent can help prevent these kinds of clogs.

7. Soap

Soap scum builds up in drains over time, slowing drainage and sometimes resulting in backups. Pressure cleaning can help remove built-up soap scum in the drains.

8. Hair

Human hair is another top drain clogger. When combined with soap scum and hard water, it can form a perfect drain clogging trifecta. A baking soda and vinegar cleaner can help dissolve built-up hair in the drain. Plunging the drain will also work on occasion.

9. Natural debris

Sometimes we get a little dirty. Caked on mud, dirt, or other debris is easily washed away in the shower. But sometimes that natural debris builds up in our drains, causing backups. Hosing off outside to get the bulk of the debris off may help prevent clogs in your pipes. Manual drain augers can be used to clear clogs from natural debris if necessary.

10. Cat litter

Dumping cat litter down the toilet or other drain is the worst thing you could do for your pipes. Litter is made of clay, silica, and sand, and is great at soaking up your cat’s urine. It also causes the worst clogs and backups due to its ability to absorb moisture. Dispose of used litter in a sealed bag and toss it out with the rest of your household trash.

Attention to care with these 10 items will help reduce the likelihood of a visit from a plumbing professional. 

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