5 Common Causes of Blocked Drains

Blocked drains are a perennial problem for homeowners across Australia, leading to inconvenience and unexpected expenses. From bathrooms to kitchens, the implications of a clogged pipe can be both annoying and costly. Blocked drains attract pests, lead to dirty water, or even no water at all. Understanding the common causes of these blockages is crucial for effective prevention and management.

This blog post explores five typical sources of drain obstructions that every homeowner should be aware of. By familiarizing oneself with these common issues, it becomes easier to take proactive measures to prevent them.

We will delve into each cause in detail, providing insights and practical tips to help you keep your drains clear and fully operational. From hair accumulation to the invasion of tree roots, we cover all bases to arm you with the knowledge needed to tackle this pesky problem head-on.


Hair is one of the most common culprits behind blocked drains, especially in bathrooms. Every day, hair sheds during showers and while grooming over sinks, gradually accumulating in the drainpipes. Over time, these strands can form significant clogs that impede water flow.

stainless steel cover of drain in modern shower

The mechanics of hair blockages are simple yet problematic. Hair strands tend to tangle and trap other debris, such as soap scum and small particles, creating dense, stubborn blockages in the pipes. These clogs are not only difficult to dissolve but also can lead to slow draining sinks and unpleasant odours.

Preventing hair from blocking drains is manageable with the right tools and habits. Installing a drain guard can catch hair before it enters the pipes, and regular cleaning of these guards helps maintain clear drains.

Such simple measures can significantly reduce the risk of hair-related blockages, keeping your plumbing running smoothly.

Grease and Fat

Grease and fat from cooking are notorious for causing blockages in kitchen drains. When washed down the sink, these substances are often in liquid form but quickly solidify as they cool in the pipes, leading to the formation of stubborn clogs that can be challenging to clear.

These blockages occur because grease and fat stick to the inner walls of the drainpipes, accumulating over time. As more grease builds up, it attracts and traps other debris, compounding the blockage. This can result in slow drainage and can even cause the water to back up, bringing with it a foul smell and the risk of kitchen floods.

To prevent these greasy build-ups, it's advisable to dispose of oil and fat in the trash rather than down the sink. Pouring hot water mixed with dish soap down the drain can also help dissolve small amounts of remaining grease, maintaining clear and functional plumbing.

Sanitary Products

Sanitary products such as wipes, nappies, and sanitary towels are significant contributors to blocked drains. Despite some products being labelled as flushable, many do not disintegrate quickly enough to pass through the sewage system without causing issues. These items can accumulate and form substantial blockages that are not only difficult to clear but also potentially damaging to the plumbing infrastructure.

The problems caused by these products extend beyond home plumbing to impact municipal sewage systems. Blockages can lead to sewage backups, environmental pollution, and expensive repairs both for homeowners and local councils. It's a widespread issue that calls for better consumer awareness and stricter regulations on product labelling.

To avoid these complications, it's essential to dispose of all sanitary products in the bin. Providing proper disposal bins in bathrooms and educating household members about the risks of flushing these items can greatly reduce the incidence of such blockages.

Foreign Objects

Foreign objects that inadvertently end up in drains can cause significant blockages. These items, ranging from children’s toys to paper towels, are not designed to be flushed or washed down a sink. However, they often find their way into drainage systems, particularly in households with young children.

When these objects lodge in pipes, they can obstruct the flow of water, leading to backups and potential damage. Unlike organic materials that may eventually break down, foreign objects remain intact, complicating the blockage further. This can result in costly professional interventions to remove the obstructions and restore proper drainage.

Preventing such scenarios is largely about education and vigilance. It’s important to teach all household members, especially children, about what should and should not go down toilets and sinks. Additionally, keeping small objects away from bathroom and kitchen areas can help mitigate the risk of accidental flushes or drops into drains.

roots of tree

Tree Roots

Tree roots can be a surprisingly destructive cause of blocked drains, particularly in older homes where pipes may be more susceptible to cracks and leaks. As trees search for moisture, their roots naturally grow towards the water and nutrients available in sewage lines. Once a root finds a crack in a pipe, it can infiltrate the system, growing and expanding within, eventually leading to significant blockages and damage.

The intrusion of roots into pipes not only blocks the flow but can also cause the pipes to break, leading to more severe issues like leaks and even property damage. This type of blockage is challenging to clear because it often requires mechanical cutting or the use of chemicals to kill the roots without harming the tree.

Regular inspections and maintenance are vital to prevent root-related blockages. Homeowners can also consider installing root barriers around sewage lines to deter root growth towards the pipes.


Understanding the common causes of blocked drains is crucial for any homeowner. From hair and grease to foreign objects and tree roots, each cause has its specific prevention strategies that can save time, money, and the inconvenience of dealing with clogs. Regular maintenance and awareness are key to keeping your drains running smoothly.

Adopting the right habits and interventions can significantly reduce the likelihood of blockages. Whether it’s installing drain guards or disposing of grease properly, taking proactive steps will ensure your home’s plumbing remains in good condition. Remember, when in doubt, consulting a professional is always a wise decision to prevent severe problems.

Author - Fred Felton
Fred Felton          

Content Creator / Editor

Fred Felton is a copywriter, editor and social media specialist based in Durban, South Africa. He has over 20 years of experience in creating high end content. He has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world. Currently Fred specialises in the wooden arts and crafts space, focussing on innovative wooden product design. He is also a keynote speaker and has presented talks and workshops in South Africa.


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