By Alan Humphrey on 23/10/2018
Trying to Clear a Drain Yourself?
Blocked drains are a common problem. The cause of the blockage could be any number of things, whether it’s food, hair and toilet paper or other materials that should not find their way into the foul waste system in the first place, can build up over time and eventually block your drains completely.
The natural reaction for most people is to try and deal with it themselves, but as you’ll see, this is rarely the best option. In fact, there are a number of mistakes householders make that can cause serious and potentially expensive problems.
For many people, the first response to a blocked drain is to pop to the local builders’ merchant or supermarket to buy the most powerful drain cleaner you can get your hands on. Unfortunately, many of the chemical drain cleaners that are available, either won’t work or are so powerful that they don’t just attack the blockage, some can even eat away at the pipes themselves or the jointing compound that has been used to connect the pipes together, and the equipment you trying to use.
You also run the risk of causing harm to yourself or others that may be close by, as some of these products do contain acid, which, under certain conditions, give off toxic fumes, and when in contact with water the acid might “boil” causing it to expand rapidly, almost exploding, giving a high risk of burns if it contacts your skin. We have seen a case where a customer had a blocked toilet, tried to clear it themselves by pouring a bottle of one of these products down the toilet. The result? The toilet was no longer blocked. In fact, there was no longer a toilet, by pouring the product into the toilet, the chemical reaction literally blew up the toilet.
In many cases the use of such chemicals may well clear a path through the blockage which will allow water to once again flow away. Unfortunately, what this doesn’t do is tell you what has caused the blockage, or how big the blockage is, whether it is likely to return sooner than you think nor what the condition of the pipework is.
Risk of Bacterial Infection
We wouldn’t want to scare you off, or give the impression that you shouldn’t try to clear your blockage, we just want to give you the information, good, bad and ugly, as to what can happen. There are many different types of bacteria found in sinks and of course sewage that can present a serious risk to your health. Anyone attempting to clear a drain should wear appropriate safety equipment. PVC gloves, goggles and a face mask are absolutely essential to protect you from bacteria like salmonella, E. coli to name a few.
It is not just the things that you can see that are bad for you, there are also gases that can cause serious damage to your health. Methane, ammonia and carbon monoxide are all extremely dangerous gases that are a by-product of decaying matter and can be particularly dangerous in a confined space.
Damaging Your Home or Your Health
Another danger associated with trying to clear out a drain yourself is the risk of inadvertently damaging your home. A sewage backup is not likely to be high on anyone’s list but it can cause a huge problem. As well as smelling awful, it is also filled with bacteria and viruses that can lead to diseases and make those who come into contact with it very ill.
Tools such as plumbing snakes are a popular choice when trying to clear drains in the home, but in older homes with galvanised pipes, they can scrape the sides and even lead to cracks that can cause the pipes to break, or if there is a break in the pipe the can get stuck and then you have the expense of get it removed. A cracked pipe or a pipe with a hole in it can undermine the surrounding soil, in extreme cases this may well be the cause of subsidence on a property or a sink hole.
Our final danger involves the use of “domestic drain rods”. In some cases, eager homeowners have purchased a domestic set of drain rods to tackle the issue themselves. These tools usually cost around £30 and seem like a good idea at the time. However, more often than not, these sets are not as robust as the professional ones and often come undone resulting in a few rods being left down the drain, adding to the initial blockage. In extreme circumstances, they cannot be removed, and the road needs to be dug up to retrieve them. In lesser cases, if this happens, professionals usually have to first unblock the drain and then use a specialist tool (combined with a CCTV drain camera), to retrieve the rods resulting in a more expensive invoice than if a professional had been called out in the first place.
Just take a moment…….
If you know what you’re doing with blocked drains and have the right tools, by all means, have a go at trying to solve the problem yourself. However, given the risks, it’s usually best to leave it to the pros. We can return your plumbing system to working order, making any repairs that may be required and avoiding future damage. If you do experience a sewage backing up, then give us a call and we will be on hand to give you professional advice and peace of mind.