Common Causes of Clogged Drains and How to Fix Them

Clogged drains are a common household nuisance that can disrupt daily routines and lead to water damage if left untreated. Understanding the root causes of drain blockages is essential for effective troubleshooting and prevention. From hair and soap scum buildup in bathroom drains to food particles and grease accumulation in kitchen sinks, various factors contribute to clogs. Fortunately, many clogged drain issues can be resolved with simple DIY solutions or professional assistance. In this guide, Austin Floor & Design helps you to explore the most common causes of clogged drains and provide practical tips on how to fix them. By identifying and addressing these issues promptly, you can maintain smooth-flowing drains and prevent costly plumbing emergencies.

1. Hair and Soap Scum:

Clogged drains due to the accumulation of hair and soap scum are a common nuisance in bathrooms. Over time, as we shower or wash our hands, strands of hair and soap residue find their way into the drain, forming a stubborn clog. If not addressed promptly, this can lead to slow drainage and, eventually, a complete blockage.

To address this issue, consider using a drain snake or a zip-it tool. These tools are designed to reach down into the drain and pull out the accumulated hair and debris. Regular maintenance with these tools can prevent clogs from becoming severe. Additionally, installing a hair catcher in the shower or bathtub drain is an effective preventive measure. These catchers trap hair before it enters the drain, making it easy to remove and dispose of.

2. Food Waste:

Kitchen sinks often face clogs caused by food particles and grease. It’s essential to be mindful of what goes down the kitchen drain to prevent these blockages. Dispose of food scraps in the trash or compost rather than letting them go down the sink. To catch larger particles, use a sink strainer and clean it regularly.

If you notice slow drainage in the kitchen sink, it may be due to a buildup of grease and fat in the pipes. Pouring hot water and dish soap down the drain can help break down these substances. Avoid pouring grease down the drain altogether; instead, collect it in a container and dispose of it in the trash. By adopting these practices, you can maintain a healthy flow in your kitchen sink and prevent unwanted clogs.

3. Grease and Fat Buildup:

Grease and fat buildup pose a significant risk to drain health, particularly in kitchen sinks. When hot grease is poured down the drain, it may appear to flow smoothly, but as it cools, it solidifies and adheres to the pipe walls. Over time, this can lead to a substantial blockage.

Prevent grease-related clogs by adopting proper disposal methods. Instead of pouring grease down the drain, let it cool and solidify in a container, then dispose of it in the trash. Running hot water and a small amount of dish soap down the drain regularly can help break down any existing grease, maintaining a clear pathway for water to flow through.

4. Foreign Objects:

Foreign objects, such as toys, jewelry, or toiletry items, can accidentally find their way into drains, causing blockages. This issue is particularly common in households with young children who may be curious and prone to dropping items into drains.

If you suspect a foreign object is causing a blockage, attempt to use a plunger or a drain snake to dislodge the item. In some cases, you may need to remove the trap under the sink to retrieve the object manually. It’s crucial to address this issue promptly to prevent further damage to the pipes and restore normal drainage.

5. Toilet Paper and Hygiene Products:

Toilet clogs often result from flushing excessive amounts of toilet paper or non-flushable items. While toilet paper is designed to break down easily in water, using an excessive amount or flushing items like wipes, sanitary products, or cotton balls can lead to blockages.

To address toilet clogs, start by using a plunger to attempt to clear the blockage. Apply firm, even pressure to create a seal and then push and pull the plunger to dislodge the clog. If the clog persists, consider using a toilet auger, a tool designed to break up and remove stubborn blockages. In severe cases, it may be necessary to call a professional plumber for plumbing service for your Austin places to assess and resolve the issue.

By being mindful of what is flushed down the toilet and using appropriate tools for unclogging, you can maintain proper toilet function and prevent the inconvenience of a clogged toilet.

6. Mineral Buildup:

Mineral buildup in drains is a common issue in areas with hard water, where high mineral content can lead to deposits accumulating in pipes over time. These deposits can restrict water flow and eventually cause clogs if left unaddressed.

To tackle mineral buildup, use a descaling agent or white vinegar. Pour the solution down the affected drain and let it sit for some time to dissolve the minerals. Follow up by flushing the drain with hot water. Regularly treating drains with these solutions can help prevent mineral buildup and ensure smooth water flow.

In areas with persistent hard water problems, installing a water softener can be a long-term solution. A water softener reduces the mineral content in the water, minimizing the chances of deposits forming in your pipes.

7. Tree Roots:

Tree roots seeking water can infiltrate underground pipes, causing significant blockages and potential damage to the plumbing system. This is more common in older homes with aging pipes, as well as properties with large trees in close proximity to the plumbing.

If you suspect tree roots are causing a blockage, it’s crucial to seek professional assistance. Plumbers can use specialized equipment like a rooter or hydro-jetting to clear roots from the pipes. In some cases, it may be necessary to replace sections of damaged pipes or explore long-term solutions, such as rerouting pipes away from tree roots.

Regular maintenance, such as monitoring tree growth near your plumbing and addressing issues promptly, can help prevent extensive damage caused by invasive roots.

8. Collapsed Pipes:

Older pipes may be prone to collapse or deterioration, leading to blockages and drainage issues. This can be a more severe and complex problem, requiring professional assessment and intervention.

If you suspect collapsed pipes, consult a professional plumber to inspect the plumbing system. Plumbers may use cameras to assess the condition of the pipes and determine the extent of the damage. In cases of collapsed pipes, replacement or repair may be necessary to restore proper water flow.

Routine plumbing inspections, especially in older homes, can help identify potential issues with pipe integrity before they escalate into major problems. Addressing collapsed pipes promptly is crucial to prevent further damage to your plumbing system. There is a comprehensive guide for you if you are considering the bathroom remodeling in Austin homes.

9. Soap and Detergent Residue:

Soap and detergent residues can accumulate in drains, particularly in areas where water hardness is not an issue. These residues, combined with other debris, can form a sticky mass that contributes to clogs over time.

To address soap and detergent residue, flush the drain with hot water regularly. This helps break down the residues and wash them away. Alternatively, you can use a mixture of baking soda and vinegar to create a natural cleaning solution. Pour the mixture down the drain, let it sit for some time, and then flush with hot water.

Using minimal amounts of soap and opting for low-residue or liquid detergents can also reduce the likelihood of buildup in drains. Regular maintenance and cleaning will help keep drains free from soap and detergent-related clogs.

10. Inadequate Ventilation:

Inadequate ventilation can lead to slow drainage and gurgling sounds in drains. Vent pipes are essential for allowing air to enter the plumbing system, facilitating the smooth flow of water.

If you notice issues with drainage and suspect inadequate ventilation, it’s best to consult with a professional plumber. Plumbers can assess the ventilation system, identify any blockages or obstructions, and make necessary repairs or adjustments.

Regularly inspecting vent pipes and ensuring they are free from debris or obstructions is crucial for maintaining proper drainage and preventing issues related to inadequate ventilation. Addressing ventilation problems promptly will contribute to the overall health of your plumbing system.


In conclusion, clogged drains can be a frustrating and inconvenient problem, but understanding the common causes and how to fix them can help prevent future issues. Whether it’s hair, grease, food particles, or foreign objects, regular maintenance and proper disposal practices are key to keeping drains clear and flowing smoothly. Simple preventive measures like using drain guards, avoiding pouring grease down the sink, and flushing drains with hot water can go a long way in preventing clogs. When clogs do occur, a variety of DIY methods such as using a plunger, plumber’s snake, or natural cleaning solutions can often resolve the issue without the need for professional intervention. However, if clogs persist or are particularly stubborn, it may be necessary to enlist the help of a licensed plumber to assess and address the problem. By staying proactive and addressing clogs promptly, homeowners can maintain the functionality and longevity of their plumbing systems.

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