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Is a clogged drain the sign of a bigger problem?


Jun 06, 2018

Is a clogged drain the sign of a bigger problem?

 
drain
 
After a few weeks of heavy rainfall in Northern Virginia, we’ve received a lot of calls from our customers with questions about how the weather in the upcoming months (hurricane season is here!) might affect their plumbing systems — concerns about flooding, whether or not they need a sump pump, etc. 
 
The greatest threat to your plumbing system this summer, however, is not weather-related at all. One of the most common plumbing issues we deal with is clogged drains. Let’s dive into the ways homeowners can identify clogged drains, the causes of clogs, and the best — and worst — solutions for clogged drains. 

 

Signs of a clogged drain 

 
Clogged drains can seemingly come out of nowhere, but most clogs actually form slowly over time, so it’s possible to catch a clog early if you know what to look for. 
 
Some of the most common and easy-to-spot signs of a clogged drain include:
 
Slow-draining plumbing fixtures. There’s a chance a slow drain could simply be the result of an old plumbing system, however, a majority of the time slow-draining fixtures point to a clogged pipe. 
 
Toilets that won’t flush properly. Keep an eye on the water level in your toilets — sudden changes, whether the water level is higher or lower, indicate a clog somewhere in the sewer line. 
 
Strange noises coming from plumbing fixtures. Gurgling sounds coming from your plumbing signal that an obstruction is trapping air in your pipes. 
 
When using one plumbing fixture causes water to backup from another drain. If you notice water backing up into the shower when you’re using the sink, or even worse, you see water pooling around floor drains when the water is running, call one of our plumbers in Warrenton, Va. to check for a clog in the main sewer line.  

 

Causes of a clogged drain

 
Some causes of drain clogs are beyond a homeowner’s control, like invasive tree roots and old, broken pipes. There are, however, many clog-causing items making their way down your drains and into your pipes that can wreak havoc on your plumbing system:

 

If the clog is in the kitchen…

 
Grease. When hot grease cools, it sticks to the pipe walls and can create a blockage that prevents water from passing through your plumbing system. 
 
Fruit peels and eggshells. Your garbage disposal isn’t a trash can — a lot of what you try to break down makes it through into your pipes. If you wouldn't eat it, don't put it down the kitchen drain.
 
Starches. Starchy and fibrous foods like potatoes, pasta, and celery continue to absorb water and expand in your pipes, leading to a clogged sink drain.
 
Coffee grounds. Wet coffee grounds clump together in your pipes and, over time, can form a clog in the drain. 
 

If the clog is in the bathroom…

 
Soap. Like grease can clog your kitchen drain, soap builds up on pipe walls and can cause clogs in your bathroom drains. 
 
Hair. Hair is one of the most common causes of clogged drains. Frequently remove small amounts of hair from bathroom drains to prevent larger clogs from forming in the pipes.
 
Toiletries. The only item you should flush down the toilet is toilet paper. Even wipes that are labeled as flushable should not be flushed. Tampons and baby wipes are two of the most common drain blockers — these items expand in your pipes, quickly causing a blockage. 

 

Home remedies for clogged drains DON’T work — Here’s why

 
An all-too-common reaction homeowners have to realizing their drain is clogged is to search “DIY plumbing solutions” and hope they have some of the listed materials on hand. When it comes to serious plumbing issues, like a clog in the main sewer line, a home remedy for a clogged drain isn’t going to cut it. In fact, these “solutions” can sometimes make your problem even worse: 
 
Plunger. Plungers can be useful for small clogs but aren’t strong enough to correct a clog deeper in the pipe or in the main sewer line. 
 
Drain snake. Although this type of equipment is relatively easy to use, using the wrong size of model of drain snake for your plumbing can actually cause more damage to your pipes. 
 
Wet & dry vacuum. A shop vacuum used on its highest setting can be powerful enough to dislodge a clog from your pipe. However, it doesn't always work and can make a serious mess if not used properly. 
 
Dish detergent & boiling water. This method only works if the clog is small and accessible from the drain, not deep within your home’s plumbing system, and should not be used to remedy toilet clogs — boiling water can crack the porcelain and lead to costly damage. 
 
Baking soda and vinegar. While baking soda and vinegar are both useful household cleaning products, this combination isn’t able to clear clogged drains. The chemical reaction between these substances occurs instantly, usually right at the top of the drain — this won’t help dissolve a clog deep within a pipe. 
 
Bent wire. You’re essentially creating a DIY drain snake, bending a long piece of wire or a wire hanger to create a small hooked end that can break apart clogs. Not only can this method cause damage to your plumbing, but you’re likely just pushing the clog further into the pipe.
 
Caustic soda. This is one of the main ingredients in store-bought drain cleaners. Also known as sodium hydroxide, caustic soda is a very strong chemical that can cause severe burns if not used properly.
 

Fix your plumbing problem the right way

 
The best way to diagnose your clogged drain problem is to actually see the blockage. Our Virginia plumbers have the tools to assess any plumbing problem, from minor clogs to major ruptures, through video drain inspections
 
Video drain inspection technology allows our five-star technicians to see exactly what’s going on inside your plumbing system. 
 
A small video camera attached to the end of a sewer cable is inserted into the drain and uses infrared light to illuminate the inside of the pipe. 
 
Our technicians monitor a live video feed as they maneuver the camera through the pipe to determine the location and cause of the clog — as well as how they can best remove the blockage. 
 
“We can also record and save our findings to a flash drive and offer it to the customer free of charge to help with insurance claims and such,” explains Shawn Douglas, one of our plumbing team leaders. 
 
 
Are you tired of dealing with a drain that just won't work? Are you sick of the stress you feel whenever you have to run your faucet? Let's take care of the clogged drain problem once and for all. Call CroppMetcalfe at 1-877-740-6657 or contact us online today to schedule an appointment with one of our plumbers in Warrenton, Va.

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