Frequently a blocked sewer drain comes as a surprise. A common question asked of our plumbers is how do you know a drain is blocked?
To begin with, if your toilet is backing up and not draining, or your overflow relief gully is spewing out sewerage outside then, you need a blocked drains Gold Coast specialist plumber now. I guarantee DIY remedies such as baking soda and vinegar will not clear your blocked drain.
Unfortunately, not all blockages are immediately apparent. Let me assure you it is not normal to be experiencing gurgling in your drains or slow to drain toilets.
The reality is few blockages are a sudden occurrence. Usually, a blocked drain happens gradually so below we will list out common reasons to the question how do you know a drain is blocked.
How do you know a drain is blocked early warning signs
Early warning signs of an impending blocked drain are easily overlooked but below are the most common to look out for:
- foul odours in your bathroom or toilet that never go away
- gurgling noises from your toilet or floor wastes when no-one is using them
- the toilet when flushed filling up the bowl then slowly draining away
- the overflow relief gully (ORG) intermittently overflowing then slowly draining away
- the water seal in your toilet completely being sucked away
What are the causes of a blocked drain?
The most common causes that we have seen recently why a drain becomes blocked is tree roots or buildups of flushable wipes. These, in turn, are commonly caused by:
- broken sewer house drains that allow roots to infiltrate
- poorly installed drains that have an incorrect fall that will enable buildups in the drain as they cannot flow away
- low water flows in flat drains that allow accumulations of solids flushed into the sewer
- objects flushed down the toilet such as flushable wipes, sanitary products or toys that do not break up in the water
Clearing your blocked drain
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above the answer to how do you know a drain is blocked is simple you need to call us on (07) 5580 4311 before you have no functional sewer house drain.
Toilet blockages are more than an inconvenience!
How does a toilet block is a frequently asked question of our plumbers? Your toilet is after the kitchen sink the most commonly used plumbing fixture in your home. It goes without saying a blocked toilet is more than an inconvenience. For most people, a blocked toilet is an unpleasant experience that they don’t have the stomach to deal with and calling a plumber is their preferred option. So how does a toilet block seemingly without reason and ruin your day?
How does a toilet block with foreign objects?
Adhering to the three P’s rule of pee, poo and paper for your toilet ensure never having to ask how does a toilet block from foreign objects.
Foreign objects are anything that is not toilet paper, urine or faeces. Toilet pans are not waste disposal units and are designed with one function, and that is to dispose of your bodily waste hygienically.
Toilet paper, despite some popular urban myths, does not block a toilet. Toilet paper is manufactured to dissolve in water and rapidly breaks down when you flush the toilet cistern.
In our experience, the biggest culprit and an absolute foreign object in a toilet pan are flushable wipes. Flushable wipes are anything but flushable and cause toilets and sewers to block up and create horrendous plumbing repair bills.
Other foreign objects we frequently see in a blocked toilet are paper towels, facial tissues, cotton tips, Q-tips, cotton buds, ear cleaners, hair removal wax strips, cotton balls, pantie liners, sanitary napkins and our old favourite of children’s toys.
Tampons are frequently blamed for blocking a toilet or drain and yes they are a foreign object. The reality is that a tampon is too small and flexible to cause a toilet to block. We frequently see real estate leasing managers trying to blame a blocked toilet on tampons, but they are a visible symptom of the blockage, not a cause.
The best method of eliminating your toilet from becoming a rubbish bin is to keep a bathroom waste bin in the toilet or bathroom. It is also a good idea to train your children from an early age on what is safe to flush down a toilet bowl.
How does a toilet block in a toilet pan trap?
The reason there is water in your toilet is that the curved bottom part of the toilet is a trap. The toilet bowl trap is literally what it says a trap.
The trap retains water in it every time you flush the toilet. The purpose of the trap is to prevent foul sewer odours escaping from the drains and entering your home.
Foreign objects are the primary cause of a blockage in the trap, especially if they are rigid and lodge in the trap outlet. In many circumstances, they can be dislodged and the blockage cleared by using a plunger. If you are attempting to clear it yourself with a plunger, let the water drain down before trying to plunge your toilet into preventing sewage water splashing onto your floor.
Toilet paper is frequently blamed for creating a blockage in the trap. In most circumstances, there is a foreign object lodged in the trap outlet that prevents the toilet paper from flushing away.
If you are experiencing frequent blockages to your toilet, then you have one of the following:
- a toilet pan that was manufactured in the 1990s that was not compatible with the water flow from the cistern
- poor quality toilet paper that is not breaking up in the water as required
- an offset pan collar under the toilet that is restricting flow into the sewer drain
If you are experiencing this scenario, it is a process of elimination. The first thing to do is to try a different brand of toilet paper or even try limiting the amount of toilet paper being used. If that does not solve the blockages, then you need to have your toilet suite and drain connection checked out and possibly have it upgraded.
How does a toilet block from a blocked sewer drain?
Commonly the majority of blocked toilets are a symptom of a blocked main sewer drain. The toilet becoming completely blocked or slow to drain is because the sewer drains are full and there is nowhere for the water in the toilet to go.
If you have a blocked sewer drain, then all of your plumbing fixtures will cease draining. In this situation, plunging the toilet will achieve absolutely nothing. Worst of all, you will likely end up with sewerage all over your floor.
You were likely receiving warning signals from your sewer drain with gurgling sounds from the toilet, and it was slow to drain when flushed.
Gurgling sounds from any plumbing fixture should never be ignored as they seldom go away and should be investigated immediately if it continues to occur.
If you are experiencing regular blockages in your toilet or hearing gurgling sounds, then you need to call us on (07) 5580 4311 before you experience a complete shut down of your main sewer house drain system.
Back in September 2015 we here at Whywait Plumbing first alerted our clients in newsletters and blogs to the fact that flushable wipes were in fact not flushable. At the time we said flushable wipes are an environmental nightmare and we stand by that claim.
We have repeated over and over again that the only things that are flushable in your toilet are toilet paper, urine and faeces or if you like to adhere to the three P’s rule of pee, poo and paper.
But as we all know a multitude of products labelled as flushable wipes or wet wipes have been claimed by their manufacturers that they could be simply disposed of by flushing down the toilet.
Last Thursday the first of the ACCC prosecutions against manufacturers Pental and Kimberly-Clark Australia had a positive result in the Federal Court of Australia.
The manufacturer of White Kings flushable toilet and bathroom cleaning wipes Pental Limited and Pental Products Pty Ltd was fined $700,000 for its continual false and misleading claims that their products disintegrated “just like toilet paper” in the sewage system. The ACCC has separate ongoing proceedings against Kimberly-Clark Australia.
White Kings products in labelling, packaging and promotional materials included the following misleading statements:
- White King Toilet Wipes are made from a specially designed material, which will disintegrate in the sewage system when flushed, just like toilet paper
- Simply wipe over the hard surface of the toilet … and just flush away
The Federal Court ruled all these statements were, in fact, false with ACCC Commissioner, Sarah Court stating, “These White King wipes can’t be flushed down the toilet, and Australian wastewater authorities face significant problems if they are because they can cause blockages in household and municipal sewerage systems.”
This is a huge win for the sewers and house drains where blockages have been an ongoing issue creating $16000 plumbing repair bills for homeowners.
Here in Queensland Michelle Cull from Queensland Urban Utilities said it was a “real win” for sewers as “We remove around 160 tonnes of flushable wipes from our sewerage network every year. Laid end-to-end, that’s enough to stretch all the way from Brisbane to Bali. We spend around $1.5 million a year clearing blockages from our sewer pipes and flushable wipes are a big contributing factor.”
The campaign by Choice against flushable wipes has been an outstanding success. In 2015 Kleenex flushable wipes were an outstanding winner in their 2015 “Shonky Awards” which we highlighted in Flushable Wipes Win “Shonky Award” from CHOICE at the time.
On Thursday after the Federal Court, decision Choice spokesman Tom Godfrey reiterated that the false claims about flushable wipes were a “grubby marketing tactic that left households, local councils and water services organisations having to struggle with the cost of removing these wipes from the sewage system”.
The $700,000 fine is a positive message to manufacturers and the water industry and plumbers are now hopeful the manufacturers of wipes products now prominently label DO NOT FLUSH on all their products.
The $700,000 fine also sends a positive international message as the water industry worldwide has collectively committed to a position statement where all wipes and personal hygiene products must be clearly marked DO NOT FLUSH and that they can only be disposed of in the rubbish bin.
Here at Whywait Plumbing, we hope this $700,000 fine reinforces to everyone that any wipe product is never flushed down the toilet. I can only repeat if you wish to continue flushing wipes in all their forms down your toilet then I recommend you become a Whywait Plumbing Service Partner.
Flushable wipes are an environmental nightmare which is what I termed them in September 2015 when we here at Whywait Plumbing were seeing a horrendous increase in blocked drains.
At the same time, consumer advocacy group CHOICE published the results of their dirty testing of “flushable” wipes and cleaning cloths in their testing labs. CHOICE came to the same conclusions that plumbers had long learnt and that was that “flushable” wipes were in most cases NOT FLUSHABLE.
Last year we promoted to Whywait Plumbing clients to join the CHOICE campaign to get rid of “flushable” claims on products that aren’t safe to flush.
The worst offender in everyone’s eyes was the Kleenex brand. In fact, the website for Kleenex Cottonelle Flushable Cleansing Cloths For Kids claimed that the cloths break up in the sewerage system like toilet paper. As a result of this claim, CHOICE put it to the test and found that while toilet paper dissolves in a few minutes but the Kleenex wipes held together for over 21 hours.
Kleenex has responded to the CHOICE campaign by releasing an allegedly new and improved “flushable” wipes product. As a result, CHOICE has tested this new product and found nothing has changed. Kleenex new flushable wipes will still block your drains because they do not disintegrate like toilet paper.
CHOICE is now advocating that you don’t let your friends and family get caught by Kleenex and here’s what you can do:
1. Share on Facebook
2. Share on Twitter
When the CHOICE lab tests were widely published in all media last year, and the false Kleenex claims were exposed it sent a strong message to Kleenex. In fact, the message was so strong they apparently felt they needed to reinvent their “flushable” wipes.
But as CHOICE testing has found the “NEW” wipes are nowhere good enough to be considered safe to flush down your toilet. They are NOT FLUSHABLE, and they certainly do not disintegrate like toilet paper. As CHOICE states companies such as Kleenex need to deliver on their promises and should be prohibited from selling products that mislead consumers.
These Not-so-flushable Kleenex wipes put your homes sewer drains at risk of blockage still. As a community, we can and need to get these falsely marketed products off the supermarket shelves. That is why I urge you to tell your friends and family about the dangers of these dodgy Kleenex products to help keep your house drains, and the City of Gold Coast sewer drains flowing.
Like every other Gold Coast plumber, we here at Whywait Plumbing are seeing a horrendous increase in blocked drains due to the skyrocketing popularity of so-called “flushable” wipes. The term “flushable” is a catchy phrase and a favourite sales pitch presenting an image of convenience and hygiene.
But the reality of what happens to flushable wipes once they are flushed down a toilet pan is that they do not dissolve like toilet paper.
In fact, they remain intact, and these pieces of non-woven fabric when regularly used are blocking toilets, blocking house drains and blocking the City of Gold Coast sewer system.
It is gratifying to see local media taking the lead and highlighting the absolute disaster that flushable wipes are to our local Gold Coast environment. In a recent interview with Robyn Wuth that I did for the story “Gold Coast Sewerage Treatment Plant Wiped Out Once A Week” which was published in the weekly Gold Coast Sun and online at the Gold Coast Bulletin I was accurately quoted as saying wipes are an “environmental nightmare”.
Frustratingly for many businesses such as restaurants the increase in customers using their toilets and flushing wipes down the toilet has seen an increase in the number of blocked drains they are experiencing. For many businesses, the repeated flushing of wipes has resulted in costly and inconvenient consequences.
The photo on the left clearly illustrates the problem where the toilets were all blocked at a Gold Coast McDonalds restaurant. Retrieving them in this instant was critical as they had created an interwoven tail of toilet paper held together with flushable wipes from the blocked toilet all the way into the sewer drains.
Wet wipes or disposable wet wipes are a new phenonium having only gained popularity in the last ten years. The early versions of these wipes were slow to gain widespread acceptance until manufacturers re-introduced them for a broader range of applications other than being just baby wipes.
Now they are available for multiple cleaning and hygiene tasks in the home and in workplaces with them being packaged in convenient carry cases that fit into handbags, glove boxes etc. and as a result, their popularity has skyrocketed.
Frustratingly for ourselves and many Gold Coast plumbers, the durability of new generation wipes has seen blockages increase as the disposable wet wipes now come with confusing names. As you can in the photo on the right, they collect together in a drain very quickly and are a nightmare for us to remove in commercial high rise buildings.
Sadly flushable is assumed to mean biodegradable to consumers who love their convenience. As a result, when wipes are flushed down the toilet, there is a misleading assumption that the wipe will be the same as toilet paper and dissolve.
For many of our clients flushable means just that, until the problems begin from repeated flushing of wipes. If they are lucky they only experience a toilet blockage but often it is a complete blocked drain that would never have occurred but for those appallingly named flushable wipes which are in reality non-flushable.
Trust me the only things that are flushable in your toilet are toilet paper, urine and faeces. If you wish to continue flushing wet wipes or flushable wipes in all their forms down your toilet, then I recommend you become a Whywait Plumbing Service Partner.
Flushable wipes or wet wipes are creating havoc all over Australia with the cost of removing them from the main city sewer systems and sewer treatment plants now exceeding $15 million. This does not include the cost to individual property owner where the cost of repairs ranges from $500 up to $16000.
As you can see in the photo to the right the flushable wipes travel all the way through the city sewer system. Along the way, they block sewer pipes, pump stations and manholes costing ratepayers money that could be better spent on other services. This photographically illustrates the huge “fatbergs” of flushable wipes that have to be physically removed from sewer treatment plants.
Commercial building owners, restaurants, apartment blocks and factories are all having to post signs warning people not to flush flushable wet wipes down toilets.
Flushable wipes come in many guises and are available for multiple cleaning and hygiene tasks in the home and in workplaces. Unfortunately for our sewer drains they are now being packaged in convenient carry cases that fit into handbags, glove boxes and even school bags. As a result of their convenience, their popularity has skyrocketed.
For many homeowners, the repeated flushing of wipes has resulted in costly and inconvenient consequences. A simple blockage may only cost around $500 to clear.
But there have been numerous reports of these flushable wet wipes “fatbergs” so badly blocking household sewer drains as can be seen in the photo on the left that the only way to remove them is to excavate and remove the damaged section of the drain. The cost to excavate drains quickly runs into $1000’s of dollars with reports of $16000 plumbing repair bills not being uncommon.
Gold Coast Water like all of the nation’s water utilities is battling to warn people not to flush the badly named flushable wet wipes down their toilets. Around 70% of blockages in Gold Coast Water pump stations are now caused by not-so-flushable wet wipes.
The repeated warnings come as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has launched an investigation into whether the marketing of wet wipes as “flushable” is misleading consumers.
Consumer advocacy group CHOICE has been raising the alarm bells for the last year over not-so-flushable wet wipes. Last year they particularly highlighted the very popular Kleenex Cottonelle Flushable Cleansing Cloths For Kids which still held together after 21 hours of agitation in their testing lab.
The CHOICE campaign was so successful that the Kleenex has now introduced a new “flushable” wipes and again CHOICE has tested the reformulated Kleenex CleanRipple Flushable Wipes. And despite all the claims by Kleenex, the CHOICE tests found the CleanRipple wipe failed to fully disintegrate after an hour in an agitator. In comparison, toilet paper continually dissolved in a few minutes as its designed to do.
CHOICE state, “Although the new ones break down faster and are an improvement, we argue they are not entirely safe to flush and we still believe they pose a blockage threat.”
Giant multi-national Kimberly-Clark the manufacturer of Kleenex CleanRipple Flushable Wipes state that the claims made by CHOICE were disappointing as both its new paper-based and previous generation flushable wipes met “widely accepted industry guidelines”. Although no one can show approvals for these guidelines.
Even the Kleenex website puts up a smoke screen where it states Kleenex flushable wipes are “only suitable for use in properly maintained sewerage systems and commercial septic systems” and to “flush a maximum of two wipes at a time”.
Currently, the Water Services Association of Australia, (WSAA) is developing a standard for safe “flushable” wipes. However, until that standard has been completed there is no Australian Standard or industry guideline that could allow any manufacturer to market or endorse their flushable wet wipes as FLUSHABLE down your toilet.
I can only repeat what I have said many times and that is the only things that are flushable in your toilet are toilet paper, urine and faeces. If you wish to continue flushing wet wipes in all their forms down your toilet then I recommend you become a Whywait Plumbing Service Partner as you will need the benefits.