While a clogged drain can be problematic in the kitchen or the laundry room, a drain clog in the bathroom can be really nasty. Given the nature of the activities you and your family engage in throughout the day, every day, bathroom drain clogs are best avoided at all costs.
A severe clog could easily cause bacteria-laden waste to end up all over your bathroom floor, and no one’s keen on cleaning up smelly refuse even if they produced it. Luckily, avoiding bathroom drain clogs is pretty straightforward if you’re willing to assess your bathroom habits and keep a few drain-clogging culprits out of your pipes.
Common Signs of a Clogged Bathroom Drain
Whether your bathroom plumbing has a minor clog or a major blockage, you’ll likely notice one or more of the following issues:
Water draining slowly from your sink, bathtub, or shower.
Incomplete toilet flushing.
Low water level in the toilet after flushing.
Unpleasant odors coming from sink, shower, or tub drains.
Gurgling drain noises when faucets are running.
Toilet gurgling when you run the sink, shower, or tub faucet.
Odorous, discolored water backing up into your shower or tub when you flush the toilet.
If you observe any of the red flags listed above, you’ll first want to stop using the water and toilet in the affected bathroom. Use a toilet plunger if your toilet is acting up. If you have a smaller sink or tub drain plunger, try using that to see if you can dislodge the clog.
If the problem persists despite forceful plunging, you’ll need to call a drain cleaning specialist who can perform a drain camera inspection to locate the clog. From there, a pro can either snake the drain or perform a water jetting procedure to eliminate the blockage and clean any remaining residue from the interior of the pipes.
Drain Clog Culprits
What kind of culprits are we talking about? Here are some of the most common causes behind bathroom drain blockages.
1. Strings & Things
If you’re like most people, you floss over the bathroom sink. If you dispose of the floss in the sink or the toilet, you could cause the drain to back up. Standard dental floss is not biodegradable and will collect inside the pipe (probably in the p-trap) over time. As it accumulates somewhere in the drain, it can snag other pieces of incoming debris, and together, they’ll form a slimy, nasty clog.
Keep floss out of your bathroom sink drain to avoid a floss-related drain clog. That’s true even if you happen to use eco-friendly, biodegradable floss.
If you don’t already have a small trash can in your powder room, get one. And if you’re grossed out by the idea of taking that trash out, line the can with an old plastic shopping bag so you can dump it mess-free.
Kids are naturally attracted to toilets. The swirling water, metal handle, and swishing noise are enticing to naturally curious toddlers. So it’s no surprise that toddler toys often end up in the toilet bowl. And it’s hardly surprising that a curious toddler might choose to see what would happen if they try to flush said toys.
Most of these toys are small enough to make it partway down the toilet drain but large enough to get lodged in the pipe. Lodged toys don’t exactly break apart like toilet paper, so they can be quite challenging to remove.
In most cases, you’ll have to contact a professional drain cleaning service to remove the object.
How do you avoid this type of clog? Get a toddler-proof toilet seat lock, install it on your existing toilet seat, and lock it down.
You can return to a lock-free commode when your kiddo is old enough to understand that the toilet isn’t a fun pool for rubber ducky to swim in.
3. Cat Litter
Dumping cat litter in the toilet might sound convenient since it’ll keep your garbage can from smelling bad. But convenient isn’t the word that’ll come to mind when you end up with a severe, litter-related drain clog.
If you have a septic system, a clog of this type could easily prevent your toilet from flushing and cause sewage-laden water to back up into your bathtub or shower.
Cat litter is clumpy, heavy, and doesn’t dissolve. It can easily and quickly clog up a toilet, drain pipe, or septic system, especially if you put it down the toilet drain daily. Even if you toss litter in the toilet less often than that, you’ll still end up with a clog at some point — it’ll just take longer to develop.
4. Wet Wipes
Something that all plumbers and drain cleaning technicians agree with is that the term “flushable” is misleading. While it is true that flushable wipes are better than non-flushable wipes, the comparison doesn’t justify their use.
Flushable wipes are so destructive to a plumbing system that they can back up an entire city sewage system. How many people live in the Minneapolis area? That’s a lot of sewage problems!
Hair is nothing more than protein, which means it’s fully biodegradable. However, body hair (or pet hair) still isn’t great for your drains.
Once hair enters your plumbing system, it can take months or even years to break down if it remains inside the pipes. And even if it makes it to a septic tank packed with proteolytic bacteria (bacteria that break down proteins), those bacteria can still take several months to hydrolyze it.
When those blobs build inside your drains, they also inevitably catch incoming sludge and solids as they move through the drain. Ultimately, a super-slimy, nasty, stinky drain clog develops.
Fortunately, preventing hair-based clogs is exceedingly simple. Just pick up a few shower drain hair stoppers at your local home supply store (or order them online) and set those strainers over your shower and/or tub drains. Empty them after each bathing session or whenever they look questionable, and you’ll be good to go.
If you shave over the bathroom sink, plug the drain before you start clipping, remove all hair, and toss it in the trash when you’re done. Whatever you do, do not wash hair clippings down the drain with water!
Think you might have a hair clog? Check out 4 Signs You Need Shower Drain Cleaning for more info.
Avoiding Bathroom Drain Blockages
Grossed out by standing water when you take a shower? Is your sink blocking up when you brush your teeth or wash your hands? Good news: You can avoid this issue altogether by practicing some preventative drain maintenance, and here’s how.
Install a Drain Cover or Strainer
The average person loses several strands of hair during a shower, which usually flow directly into the drain. To avoid hair-based drain blockages, all you need to do is install a drain strainer (sometimes called a cover) to catch hair as it flows toward the drain opening.
Flush the Drain
Since soap scum buildup is common in showers and bathtubs, it’s never a bad idea to flush those drains with boiling water on a routine basis. The hot water will soften any buildup and carry it through the remainder of the pipe.
Avoid Using Oil-based Moisturizers in the Shower
Though in-shower moisturizers are popular, they’re not ideal for maintaining free-flowing drains. When you use an oil-based, in-shower moisturizer, you must rinse it off before exiting the shower. And unfortunately, those oils travel straight into the drain, where they accumulate along the pipe's inner walls over time. When enough sludge builds up, it can slow or halt water flow.
Stop Using Excess Toilet Paper
Using excess toilet paper is probably the most common cause of toilet drain clogs. Though that paper is designed to break down, it doesn’t begin dissolving instantly, and when there’s too much of it in the pipe, it can’t get past the p-trap or floor drain. If you need to use a bunch of toilet paper, use a little bit, flush the toilet, use a little bit more, and flush again.
Keep the Lid Closed
In households with children, foreign objects (usually toys) are a common cause of drain blockages. To help prevent those items from falling into the toilet in the first place, always keep the lid closed when the toilet is not in use.
Do Not Put Grease in Your Toilet
Grease, oil, and other fats never belong in your household drains! When you flush oily substances down the toilet, the cold water in the pipes immediately causes those substances to solidify. They then build up along the inner walls of the pipes, and when enough of that sludge accumulates, it can slow or prevent water flow through the system.
Clean the P-trap
Plenty of things can get stuck in the p-trap of your bathroom sink, and when they get lodged in there, they’ll prevent water from flowing freely down the drain. To avoid these types of clogs, clean the p-trap regularly, and if you have a slow drain, check the p-trap first.
All you need to do is detach the u-shaped section of the pipe beneath your bathroom sink, pull out any stuck gunk, and give it a thorough scrub with an old toothbrush or long-handled scrubber.
Flush Drains Regularly
Often, soap scum accumulates inside bathroom drains, and when it begins to coat the pipes, it can slow water flow. To control that buildup, all you need to do is flush your drains with boiling water regularly. The hot water will soften the scum buildup and allow it to flow through the remainder of the pipe.
Dependable Drain Cleaning Service in Minneapolis, MN
If you need a drain cleaning service for your home or business, contact Drain Blaster Bill’s Sewer & Drain Cleaning. We use the most advanced technology available and offer a wide range of drain cleaning services for all plumbing system components, providing you with a professional and efficient experience you can trust!
To schedule a drain cleaning service or learn more about how we can help you clear stubborn clogs, give us a call at 763-913-8719, or message us on our contact page.