From Hair to Tree Roots: Understanding What’s Clogging Your Drain

Dealing with plumbing issues is an inevitable part of homeownership. One common problem that many people face is a blocked drain. But what actually causes these clogs? This post delves into some of the most frequent culprits and gains an understanding of how they contribute to drainage issues.

Hair: The Sneaky Culprit

Hair is one of the most common substances that leads to clogged drains, especially in showers and bathtubs. Over time, strands of hair can bind with grease and other sticky substances, forming large clumps that obstruct the flow of water. While it might seem harmless to lose a few strands here and there during a shower, they can accumulate quickly and cause significant obstructions. The longer these hairballs remain, the more challenging they become to dislodge. Investing in a good drain guard can reduce the chances of hair entering the drain. Regularly cleaning these guards ensures that hair doesn’t build up and wash down all at once.

Soap Scum Build-Up

Traditional soaps are made from fat, which can combine with minerals in water to leave a hard residue known commonly as soap scum. This residue not only sticks to the sides of the pipes but can also trap other debris, amplifying the risk of blockages. Over time, soap scum can harden and reduce the diameter of the pipe, making it easier for other materials to cause a clog. In areas with hard water, the soap scum problem is often exacerbated, making regular cleaning crucial. Eco-friendly cleaning agents can be a great way to combat soap scum without introducing harmful chemicals. It’s also worth considering switching to liquid soap, which often produces less scum than traditional bars.

Grease and Food Particles

Kitchen sinks are particularly vulnerable to blockages from grease and food particles. When warm grease goes down the drain, it can solidify in the pipes. This greasy layer then catches food particles that go down the sink, leading to an obstructed flow. Over time, this build-up can even lead to foul odours emanating from the sink. It’s a good practice to dispose of grease in trash containers rather than down the sink. Incorporating a garbage disposal unit can also assist in breaking down food particles before they become a problem.

Foreign Objects

Sometimes, the cause of a drainage problem isn’t something that degrades over time. Items such as toys, tissues, or even jewellery can accidentally find their way down a drain. These objects can instantly block the flow of water, and often, a professional might be needed to remove such obstructions. Parents should be mindful of where their children play and should educate them about the dangers of dropping objects into drains. Simple mesh screens can act as effective barriers to prevent larger items from falling into the sink or tub. If an object does get trapped, it’s essential to act swiftly to avoid further complications or damage.

Natural Interference: Tree Roots

Tree roots can be a silent and unseen menace to the drainage system. As they grow, they might penetrate the pipes in search of water, especially during dry spells. Once inside, these roots can catch other debris, making the blockage even more severe. It’s essential to regularly check the areas around outdoor pipes and keep trees and large plants at a safe distance. Homeowners can also consider root barrier solutions to redirect roots away from plumbing lines. Regular inspection of the sewer line, using technologies like camera inspection, can give early indications of root intrusion.


From the everyday debris like hair and soap to the unexpected challenges posed by tree roots, understanding what might be clogging your drain is the first step to effective prevention and maintenance. Ensuring regular checks and adopting simple preventive measures can help homeowners keep their drainage systems running smoothly and avoid the unpleasant surprises a blocked drain might present. By staying proactive and informed, homeowners can ensure a hassle-free and efficient plumbing system throughout their homes.

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