Common Causes of Clogs

August 16, 2011

Kitchens, bathrooms and even utility sinks can experience clogs. Clogs are not only inconvenient, but can also be costly and create major problems in your home’s plumbing system.

Listed below are some materials that can obstruct your plumbing pipes, as well as how these items cause blockages. Proper maintenance can help you avoid clogs, however, major clogs may require a the assistance of a professional plumber.

Causes of Clogs

  • Food. Kitchen sink clogs are usually caused by food. Food washed off of plates and down the drain can become trapped in the pipe system under the sink. Sinks usually have what’s known as a P- or J-trap that catches larger items to keep them out of the rest of the pipe system in your home. These bits of food, over time, collect and form a clog. In order to remove them you’ll need to use a drain cleaner or plumbing snake.

    • Try an environmentally “friendly” drain cleaner with bacteria and enzymes. We don’t recommend chemical drain cleaners for several reasons; most drain chemicals are very toxic in nature, not a good thing to keep around the home if you have children or pets, and the toxic chemicals can also have a negative effect on your pipes as well. Over time these chemicals can deteriorate your pipes from the inside out. If a drain cleaner doesn’t work you may need to have a plumber come clean out the drain.

    • It’s best to avoid putting food down the drain and/or install a garbage disposal to help decrease the chances of a clog.

  • Grease. Grease is a particularly common clog causing substance. It creates sticky sediment that will trap other food and over time create a clog. A grease clog is a difficult type of clog to remove. Even a disposal cannot dissolve liquid grease, which will easily form again and collect in the pipes.

    • Pour grease into a can or scrape into the garbage. You should avoid putting oils, grease and fat down your drain. If these items do go down your drain make sure to run your garbage disposal with cold water. This will help chop up the fat and allow it to move through your pipes.

  • Hair. Hair clogs are common to both bathroom sinks and shower or tub drains. Hair gets trapped in the sludge in the pipes and accumulates over time. This will form a very solid type mass and will need to be removed by a environmentally “friendly” drain cleaner that can dissolve the hair or with a pipe snake that frees the mass.

    • Use sink guards to keep hair out of the drain.

  • Small objects. If you have small children in your home, you know how easy small objects, especially toys, end up getting stuck in the drain. These objects cause clogs, especially when they are not detected right away. Food particles, hair and even grease can become caught on these objects and form clogs that completely shut off the pipe.

    • To remove these objects you often will first need to shut off the water, then unscrew the P- or J-trap to fish them out.

Items to avoid putting down the drain:

  • Fats, oils, or grease from cars or lawnmowers

  • Coffee grinds

  • Egg shells

  • Produce stickers

  • Chunks of garbage

  • Feminine hygiene products

  • Paper towels

  • Flushable cat litter

  • Rags

  • Condoms

  • Motor oil, transmission fluids, anti-freeze or other toxic chemicals

  • Solvents, paints, turpentine, nail polish, polish remover

  • Flammable or explosive substances

  • Corrosive substances that are either acidic or caustic

  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications

Have more questions? Contact A.J. Perri on our Ask An Expert page.



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Last Updated: July 02, 2024