People don’t think about how they are treating their drains, yet drainage problems can be a big headache for home owners, tenants, landlords and even local councils. Expensive to fix, awkward to endure and with potentially huge ramifications- drainage problems aren’t pretty. Just the words ‘raw sewage’ are enough to strike fear into anyone’s hearts… To keep your drains on track and your plumbing running smoothly, here are some simple ways to look after your drains, from regular check-ups to drainage best practices.
Why bother with Drain Care?
Drainage is one of the pricier things that can go wrong at home, and here’s why drain care is a smart move:
- Using your drains properly= cheap, price of a drainage emergency= costly
- Drainage maintenance is your legal obligation (depending slightly on your living situation)
- Bad drains mean bad smells, poor water-flow and an unhealthy living environment
- Drains can get infested by vermin like rats who can make their way into your house (nasty)
- Drains are part of a larger sewerage system: we all have collective responsibility for our drains
Educating yourself on key drainage terms like foul water, surface water, sewage and septic tanks may seem tedious, but understanding your drainage system is key. Not only will it help you manage your drains better, it will also help clarify what is your responsibility, and what lies outside your control.
Knowledge is power. If you haven’t done so yet, commissioning a drainage survey is a great idea. Nowadays you can get CCTV and aerial drone drainage specialists to conduct remote drainage surveys: gone are the days of three weeks of scaffolding and cherry pickers littering your front lawn. These new drains surveys are cost-effective, efficient and comprehensive, so that you can make smarter decisions on your drains. A CCTV survey can help diagnose internal drainage problems, whereas an aerial survey means you can have full visibility of your property’s roof and guttering.
Top tip: If you are buying a house, make a full CCTV drainage survey part of your other pre-purchase inspections. Insist on knowing what is actually down your drains!
Practical Ways to Minimise Drain Blockage
Throwing fats down your kitchen sink can lead to a build-up of fatty deposits in your drains, which can damage pipework and reduce healthy water flow. Fats solidify in our drains and amalgamate with other substances and materials. Huge fat islands are found in London’s old Victorian plumbing systems, like this ‘fatberg’ the size of the bus in 2013. Though an extreme example, the reality is that pouring fat, grease or oil down your drains will result in similar blockages. If you are using oil to cook, let is cool down first, and then dispose of it responsibly with other household waste.
Use a food catcher to make sure you aren’t letting larger items of food and waste go down your drains unnecessarily. Pour cold tea or coffee down the drains, but dispose of the grounds and tealeaves in your bins or compost.
Hair clogs up drains, so don’t let it all go down the drain when you shower or bathe! Use a drain hair catcher, and get involved with a fork or tweezers if you are seeing regular build-up around the plughole. Never throw anything down the toilet. Only toilet paper and human waste should go down the toilet, so keep a bin handy for everything else like cotton buds, tampons or wipes. You are OK to use an eco-flush, that won’t affect your drains negatively, but putting things down your toilet definitely will!
Unblocking Drains at Home
If you feel like your drains are not quite where they should be (a tell-tale sign will be water running out slowly, or not at all), there are a few home-grown ways that you can use to unblock your drains.
- Some elbow grease and a good plunger are your first port of call with a tricky drain! Remember to get enough suction by applying a lot of pressure.
- Hot water (close to boiling point) poured down your drains can help.
- Pour some baking soda down your drain, followed by some (clear or white) vinegar. The chemical reaction will cause a frothy, white substance to form that will help clear your drains. Rinse it all away with hot water.
- Similarly, pouring table salt down you drains, followed by hot water can also help dislodge any blockages.
- Try mixing baking soda with salt, followed by hot water.
These home remedies do work, but should not substitute you calling in the professionals if something is really wrong.
Top tip: Even if your drains seem fine, use one of these methods every now and then to keep them that way! Make it part of your cleaning routine.
Think Pressure & Proper Insulation
Having the correct water pressure is an important contributing factor to long-lasting drain health. Too much water pressure strains your pipes. Make sure your pressure is optimal by asking the professionals to check it.
Properly insulated pipes are also a must, as the cold can make pipes crack and split. Make sure proper insulation is put down and that the insulation is checked on a regular basis. Pipes freezing is on the of the most expensive drain repairs out there- to be avoided at all costs.
Top tip: Hard water build-up can also damage your pipes, so if you live in a hard water area, consider using a water softener.
Use Reputable Suppliers
When you do need plumbers or drainage specialists, use a reputable online service like Checkatrade to make sure you are dealing with the real deal professionals, rather than some opportunistic charlatans. Look for impartial reviews, and if a price sounds too good to be true- it probably is. A personal recommendation is always best.
Probably the main drainage advice we can give you is to act fast as soon as you think something is wrong. Here are some key warning signs that something is wrong with your drains:
- Bad or unpleasant smells in your house or around manhole covers
- Water pressure drops frequently or has recently changed noticeably
- Water doesn’t flow down your drains very well & you often have to wait ages for a sink to empty
- Noises (gurgling etc.) coming from your drains
- Surface water not draining from outside your property after heavy rain
- Leakage from your roof, guttering or other drainage points
If this is you and your drains, call in the professionals!
Hope these drainage tips were helpful! Have you got any others of your own? Share them with us below.