4 things you can do to prevent blocked drains

PUBLISHED: 14:32 12 November 2019 | UPDATED: 14:56 12 November 2019

A blocked sink is no laughing matter. Picture: iStock/PA

A blocked sink is no laughing matter. Picture: iStock/PA

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Want to stop feeding the fatberg? Liz Connor reveals what you can and can't flush.

When it cools, cooking oil solidifies and adds to the congealed matter in sewers. Picture: iStock/PAWhen it cools, cooking oil solidifies and adds to the congealed matter in sewers. Picture: iStock/PA

We all know about grotesque fatbergs, but what exactly are they, and what can we do to stop them growing?

Despite the name, personal hygiene products that have been mistakenly (or otherwise) flushed down the toilet make up the bulk of these large lumps of solid waste, but solidified fat can add to the problem.

And as fatbergs show no sign of abating, actor Andy Serkis has lent his voice to a new prevention campaign by anti-plastic pollution organisation City to Sea, to help raise awareness around how we can prevent them.

Want to do your bit? Here are a few simple steps that could help banish fatbergs in your area, and could significantly reduce the likelihood of your drains becoming clogged in the process...

1. Don't flush wet wipes down the toilet

A study from Water UK found that most fatbergs are comprised of up to 93 per cent non-flushable wet wipes, and just 0.5 per cent household cooking fats.

Although many hygiene wipes advertise themselves as 'flushable', many are actually made with plastic materials, which means they could take up to 100 years to biodegrade.

It's best to try to avoid wipes altogether (a damp flannel should work just as well), but if you're a parent, they can be an essential part of keeping your baby clean and hygienic. Thankfully, eco-friendly wipes do exist, like Aqua Mum (£2.89 for 64 wipes, superdrug.co.uk) - whose wipes are made from natural materials. We still recommend throwing them in a bin, instead of flushing them away though.

A plughole strainer can save you hundreds of pounds on your plumbing in the long run. Picture: iStock/PAA plughole strainer can save you hundreds of pounds on your plumbing in the long run. Picture: iStock/PA

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2. Don't pour hot oil down the sink

It seems all too easy to pour hot oil down the plughole. After all, it's liquid and glides down the sink with such ease.

The problem is, when it cools, cooking oil solidifies and adds to the congealed matter in sewers. It can also wreak havoc on your pipes and trigger expensive plumbing repairs.

The best way to dispose of home cooking oil is to pour it into an empty container, such as an old margarine tub. Allow the oil to cool and solidify, before scraping it into the bin. Alternatively, your council may offer a collection service.

3. Invest in a plug screen

A plughole strainer is a really inexpensive household tool that can save you hundreds of pounds on your plumbing in the long run. They only cost a couple of quid but help prevent blockages over time.

Make sure you only flush the 3Ps - pee, paper and poo. Picture: iStock/PAMake sure you only flush the 3Ps - pee, paper and poo. Picture: iStock/PA

Acting like a small sieve, it catches any food debris that's mistakenly found its way into your sink, allowing you to tip it into the bin before the tap water sends it down the plughole, where it can easily build up.

4. Don't treat your toilet like a bin

Tampons, sanitary towels, condoms, cotton pads, ear buds... all of these items should never be flushed down the toilet, yet they often find their way into the sewage system.

Most hygiene products are not designed to break down in water the way toilet paper does, which means they can easily get caught in your pipes.

As City to Sea explain: "There is a golden rule, whenever you're on the bog, make sure you only flush the 3Ps - pee, paper and poo."

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