Drain Cleaning 101: What Causes Clogged Drains?

  • Author : KreateCube
  • 29-Mar-2023

A clogged drain is one of the most common plumbing issues plaguing homeowners. Some issues only cause minor hassle, such as a slow-draining kitchen sink. Others can inflict significant water damage and create a disgusting sight like a toilet backing up.

That said, knowledge is the best solution to such issues. Knowing what contributes to a drain clog is essential to prevent yourself from experiencing this trouble. This post enumerates some of the most common causes of why your drain can get clogged.

What Causes Clogged Drains

Regardless of the cause, you must call a professional drain cleaning service in your area. This is particularly true if you have a major drain clogging at hand. The experts have the necessary experience and tools to locate and properly remove a clog to prevent further damage to other parts of your plumbing system.

Man-Made Causes of Clogged Drains

Drain clogs are most often caused by what you allow to go down your drains. And most of us are guilty of throwing something into a sink or toilet that could block our drains. Below are some of the most common man-made causes of clogged drains.

1) Food Scraps

When washing the dishes, small food scraps may seem harmless but can accumulate over time. Even if you have a garbage disposal, it can only handle a specific amount of food scraps before it starts to clog. In addition, specific food waste types shouldn’t be thrown in the garbage disposal.

For instance, large bones, seeds and nut shells may be too tough for the blades to cut through. Meanwhile, coffee grounds, eggshells and pasta can absorb water and form a thick paste in your drain, which traps other particles and creates significant clogs.

2) Oils And Grease

You may think that because oil and grease are liquid, they’re automatically safe to dump into your drains. Unfortunately, unlike water, oil and grease tend to coat the walls of your drain and are slow to evaporate. Plus, when oil and grease cool down, they solidify and cause other food particles to stick, creating clogging issues

3) Hair

Whether it’s your hair or a shedding pet, hair is one of the most problematic drain clogs, particularly in the shower. Hair of all lengths can knot up and stick to parts of the drain to form clumps that trap more debris, such as soap, to create annoying clogs.

4) Soap Residue

Did you know that most bar soaps have fat derivatives? When this fat mixes with water, it forms soap scum or residue. Over time, excessive soap scum can accumulate in your drains, causing pipes to get clogged.

5) Tissues, Wipes, Cotton Swabs, And Feminine Products

Most homeowners are guilty of using their toilet bowl as a trash can. From tissue and wipes to cotton swabs and napkins, flushing these items down the toilet can create significant blockages. Even the so-called flushable hygiene wipes can form tough clogs inside your toilet drain.

Meanwhile, feminine products and other bathroom items like dental floss don’t break down or dissolve, blocking your drains. 

6) Foreign Objects

Sometimes, blockages are caused by foreign objects that accidentally find their way into your plumbing drains. Anyone with kids can relate. Whether they used the toilet bowl to practice their basketball shooting skills or imagined it as a small pool with disappearing ‘slides’ for their dolls, these foreign objects can get caught in the pipe’s u-bend, creating a severe obstruction.

Aside from children’s toys, jewelry, toothbrush caps, and soap blocks can also accidentally fall into sinks or toilets and create blockages.

7) Cat Litter

For homeowners with a feline buddy, cat litter should never find its way into your plumbing drain. Composed of silica, clay, and sand, cat litter is designed to absorb moisture and create clumps that cause significant clogs in your pipes. So, fight the urge to dispose of litter-covered cat waste in your toilet and throw it outside instead.

Natural Causes of Clogged Drains

Even if you protect your plumbing pipes from common debris and items going down the drain, it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t experience a clog. Natural deterioration and even nature can also contribute to blocked drains.

Here are some of the most common natural causes of drain blockages:

1) Mineral Buildup

If your home uses hard water, mineral buildup is one of the most common natural causes of blockages. Hard water refers to water rich in mineral deposits, including magnesium and calcium. It’s often characterized by a white, crystalline formation on your water fixtures and pipes.

Over time, these mineral deposits can accumulate on your plumbing pipes and fixtures until they grow to an obstructive size.

2) Tree Roots

Did you know that tree roots are attracted to underground pipes, especially if it has small leaks? As these roots move towards the water source, they can grow and puncture your pipes. This can lead to significant pipe damage causing simultaneous drain clogs and cutting off the main water line’s flow. If invasive roots are the culprits for a clogged drain, you will need an excavation, drain repair and pressure jet cleaning to clear tree root clogs and damages.

3) Nature

Aside from the roots, other tree parts can also create clogging. For instance, accumulated dead leaves and sticks can work into water or sewer lines, creating underground obstructions. In particular, leaves are efficient clogging elements. So, please don’t wash them down your storm sewer drain and ensure your yard is clear of them.

4) General Wear and Tear

Pipe deterioration, particularly in older homes, can also cause severe clogging. Aging clay, concrete, or terra cotta pipes can disintegrate. Also, significant seasonal fluctuations can create continuous pressure, causing pipes to expand and contract, increasing wear and tear.

This creates leaks or causes pipes to be pushed out of connection, affecting the flow from your home to the sewer system. If there’s a disconnect, water can’t flow freely and, thus, causes slow draining or backups.


Nobody likes experiencing a clogged drain, especially the more serious ones. By recognizing the common causes of clogged drains–man-made or natural–you can implement the necessary precautions to prevent damage and expensive repairs to your plumbing system.

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