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5 Best Practices to Prevent Blocked Sewers

Plumbing professional fixing a blocked sewer outdoors

Let’s face it, the sewer isn’t the most glamorous part of anyone’s home, and most of us would rather not think about it too much, let alone talk about it. For most people, it’s ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and they’re happy for it to stay that way.

However, your sewer pipes are a crucial part of your home plumbing system. If they fail or block, the consequences are pretty horrible to deal with. A disgusting mess, awful smells, and a ruined lawn can all be expected if your sewer pipes get completely clogged. 

With this in mind, it’s always best to have a policy of ‘prevention is better than cure’ when it comes to the health of your sewers. Here’s how to take good care of your sewer and prevent catastrophic blocked sewer pipes.

Dirty kitchen sink with strainer for foodwaste

1. Educate family members about what should and shouldn’t go down the toilet.

Apart from human waste, the only other item that should ever go down the toilet is toilet paper. It’s easy to assume that other similar products like facial tissues and kitchen paper wouldn’t cause a problem. However, they weren’t designed to be flushed, and they won’t break down as quickly as toilet tissue.

Never flush baby wipes, diapers, feminine hygiene products, paper or plastic cotton buds, or any other household item down the toilet. They cannot break down fast enough to flow easily down sewer pipes.

So-called flushable toilet wipes are also a big issue. They still take a long time to break down and can cause sewer pipe blockages and large plumbing bills. It’s best to avoid them completely. 

The 3Ps are easy to remember and a good rule to apply when using the toilet: only pee, poo and (toilet) paper down the toilet. It’s essential that the whole family understands these rules to prevent problems.

2. Be vigilant with small children.

Small kids love to experiment and make things disappear. Most parents can tell you a funny story about their toddler putting something weird or wonderful down the toilet.

Little kids are going to find it hard to follow the rules about what should or shouldn’t go down the toilet, so it’s important to supervise them any time they’re in the bathroom. If they do manage to slip something into the toilet while you’re not looking, don rubber gloves and fish it out straight away. 

3. Be careful with what goes down the kitchen drain.

It’s equally important that you guard what goes down the kitchen drain as well. Dirty dishwater is fine, as are leftover drinks including milk.

Never ever tip anything oily down the sink. Unwanted cooking oil, sauces, dips, and salad dressings should put in your household waste in a suitable container. Do the same for any oil left in the pan after frying: let it cool, pour into an old container, then wash the pan normally in your sink or dishwasher.  

Oil is regularly responsible for clogging drains. Even if oil isn’t clogging the sewers in your property, then chances are it is doing it somewhere in your local area. Local water management authorities regularly need to remove ‘fatbergs’ — giant balls of accumulated fat and grease mixed with other items like baby wipes — from main sewer pipes. 

Fatbergs are causing enormous problems. As an example, here in the Melbourne area, Yarra Valley Water spent $1 million removing fatbergs from their systems. They recently donated a portion of fatberg to Melbourne Museum to illustrate to visitors just how big the problem is. 

4. Use plug screens.

Plug screens are brilliant little mesh devices that can be placed over plug holes to prevent unwanted items from slipping down. They are easy to find in hardware stores, are inexpensive and come in a range of sizes.

In showers and bathroom sinks, they’ll prevent hair going down the plug. Hair is notorious for causing blockages as it catches grease and other items and creates quite a buildup.

In the kitchen sink, a plug screen will prevent items of food ending up in your sewer system, too. 

Take them out regularly for a quick clean to keep them hygienic and efficiently working.

5. Know the first signs of a sewer blockage.

Despite all your best efforts to follow the above advice, sewer blockages can still happen. Old pipework collapsing and tree roots growing aggressively into pipes are two causes of blockages that are harder to prevent. 

Make sure you know the first signs of blocked pipes so that you can act fast and prevent the problem from getting much worse. Here are the signs of plumbing problems:  

  • Bad smells coming up from the drains
  • Water draining slower than usual in the shower, bath or sinks
  • Unusual gurgling noises coming after you’ve flushed the toilet
  • The water level in the toilet is much higher or lower than usual

If you notice any of the signs above, call an emergency plumbing service for assistance immediately. Leaving it too late can spell disaster, so always act quickly.

Above all, don’t worry; by following the five pieces of advice here, you should be able to prevent most sewer pipe problems and minimize the risk of a catastrophic problem arising. 

If you do need a plumber’s help with a blockage, their years of training and experience means they should be able to resolve a stressful situation quickly. 

At Blue Diamond Plumbing, we’ll assess where the blockage is and will use advanced equipment to remove it as fast as possible with minimal disruption to your household.  

So for any plumbing concerns or issues, get in touch with Blue Diamond Plumbing ASAP.