Clogged Pipes 101

May 1, 2023

How can I diagnose and fix clogged pipes? Or should I call a plumber?

Behind the walls, and under the floors, and all around your house are the all-important pipes that help to make your house a home. But just like any other system in your house, the pipes need attention and care to keep them operating properly over time. Read on to learn what can happen when pipes become clogged, what symptoms might tip you that there is a problem, and what you (or a plumber) can do to fix it.

Side Effects & Symptoms of Clogged Pipes

  • Water flow issues – if you’re seeing water drain slowly in your appliances, or if your water pressure is low, it could mean that built-up debris is blocking the water’s path, slowing down its flow.
  • Unpleasant smell – if you notice a foul odor near any drainage point, it could mean that debris is building up.
  • Contaminated water – when clogged pipes are left unattended for too long, they start to collect some pretty nasty stuff, as you can surely imagine. This means that all water that flows through those pipes are also exposed to everything that gets caught there, before reaching its destination. This water can carry germs from the debris right into your home.
  • Mold and mildew – on top of the germs that can hitch a ride on the water that run in the clogged pipes, clogs can also cause standing water, which allows for things like mold and mildew to grow. Unfortunately that can also lead to respiratory and immune system issues for people in the home.
  • Pipe leaks – when clogs go untreated long enough, they could potentially crack pipes, leading to leaks – which can lead to water damage and structural issues.

What To Look For

Luckily, clogged pipes are typically pretty easy to spot; slow draining, low water pressure, and foul odors are almost impossible to ignore. Another telltale sign of a clogged pipe is if your appliances/utilities react oddly to each other. Clogs can often overload the pipes, leading to gurgling, slowed draining, poor water pressure, or bubbling in nearby appliances. For example, if your toilet starts to make weird noises or start to bubble while you’re using the sink or shower, that could mean there’s a clogged pipe nearby.

DIY Drain Cleaning

For smaller clogs, there are some things that you can do yourself to help.

  • Snaking – you can buy a ‘snake’ at most hardware stores. These can do the trick for small clogs that are within reach.
  • Baking soda and vinegar – pour one cup of baking soda and one cup of vinegar into your drain. Let it bubble and stand for about 10 to 20 minutes, then wash it down with boiling water. This can be repeated a few times if necessary.

Preventive tricks

Of course, the best way to combat a clogged drain is to prevent one altogether. Some healthy plumbing practices include:

  • Be conscious of what you put in your drains – your garbage disposal can only handle so much. Avoid putting things like coffee grinds, eggshells, pits, and other tough materials into your disposal.
  • Every month or so, you should pour a boiling pot of water down your drains; this will help flush debris that has begun to build up, helping break up clogs as they start to form.

No matter how well you care for your pipes, you may find yourself with a backed-up pipe that requires professional help. Plumbers can not only identify exactly where that clog is, but can expertly clear it and help prevent long-term damage to your pipes. If you have a clogged pipe, call Messick Plumbing for a quick and affordable diagnosis and repair.