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Diagnosing a Blocked Drain
Diagnosing a Blocked Drain

Home Improvement

Diagnosing a Blocked Drain: Tell-Tale Signs and What to Look For

Blocked drains in your kitchen or bathroom are simple and common plumbing issues that are usually quick and cheap to rectify. The big issue is that many people don’t know when to take action to get a fast result.

If a blocked drain is left unchecked the problem can become significantly worse and get out of hand. Learning how to spot when your drains are blocked will help keep your plumbing clear and flowing smoothly.

4 Signs of a Blocked Drain

There are four tell-tale signs you’ll notice early on that indicate you need to take action to unblock your drain:

Foul Smell

Trapped or clinging matter can cause a real stink. Sometimes this is due to the material decomposing, like food particles and paper, other times it can be bacteria growing in clumps of hair or stagnant water pooling against a congested pipe corner.

The festering material sends up a clear message that your drain needs attention. This is usually one of the first signs that there is a blockage forming in your pipes. While smells might be slight to begin with they will build along with the trapped waste so getting a plunger to it early will stop the stink in its tracks and get your water flowing.

Slow Draining

If your sink or bathtub is slow to empty or water is pooling before it drains, it’s a pretty good sign something is blocking the pipe. It may seem like there is a plug in your shower and you may find backwash, dirty water and bubbles pushing up as air is forced backwards. If you leave this any longer you’ll soon be seeing standing water that doesn’t drain or even overflows.

Gurgling Sounds

When waste and debris become lodged in your pipe it slows and disrupts the water flow. This causes pockets of air to form that need a rapid exit point. What you will hear loudly and early on when your drain is blocked is the gurgling or sucking noises of air escaping. It can cause noises in a number of drains even if there is only one blocked point so doing some investigative work to determine the blocked point is your next task.


Overflowing drains are usually caused by bigger items that block pipes and completely prevent water flow. Common culprits are sanitary products, wet wipes (including flushable wipes), tissues and paper towels. While smaller blockages accumulate over time close to the drain point, these bigger items are designed to swell with water, which means they might make their way much further into your pipe system before fattening up and getting wedged. This might mean you need some professional help to get them free. If you don’t have any luck with plungers or hooks, ask a plumber for advice on what to do.

Not all blocked drain issues are simple enough to fix yourself, you may need a plumber to further diagnose your blockage. As well as helping to unblock your drains the right way the first time, a professional plumber can identify the reason behind your block drain and give you preventive tips to avoid future problems.

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