Keep it clear – dealing with blocked drains

Each year we spend over £250,000 on drainage, a lot of which is on unblocking drains. Whilst most cases are out of our customers’ control, improper disposal of waste products in particular, wipes and nappies, as well as fats, oil and grease are the most common causes of the drainage problems we deal with.

Improper disposal of waste products can clog up sinks, drains and sewers to the point that they increase the risk of flooding in the local area, while streams and rivers can often end up polluted due to oily cooking waste entering rainwater pipes and gullies.

How do you dispose of cooking oil and grease? Is it safe to put oil down the drain?

Most people understand that pouring fats, oils and grease down a narrow plughole creates a risk of blockages, but fewer are aware that pouring oil directly into a drain or down the toilet is just as risky. Even though these substances flow easily in their hot liquid form, they will solidify when they make contact with the colder water inside the plumbing and sewage system, leading to the development of blockages and ‘fatbergs’.

Can smaller food scrapings be washed down the sink?

It can seem harmless enough to wash a few loose food scrapings down the plughole instead of disposing of them all in the bin, but be aware that even smaller food scraps and crumbs can accumulate in the drains – particularly in U-bends – or clump together with fat deposits that are already in the pipes to add up to a much bigger problem.

Can boiling water be used to dissolve fat and grease in the pipes?

For many, the first course of action when dealing with a blocked drain is to pour boiling water down the plughole to break down the obstacle, but be warned that this does not work with serious fat, oil and grease blockages that have solidified over a long period.

Can wipes and nappies be flushed down the toilet?

No, these items will clog up your toilet. Even if one actually gets down your toilet’s line, it can get easily get caught in the system’s turns and bends, causing a backup of the sewer into your house

What to do...

  • The easiest change to make to prevent fat, oil and grease blockages is to make sure those plates, pans and utensils are scraped clean of solid food waste prior to washing. Be disciplined about brushing even the smallest scraps into the bin, and make sure to wipe down the items with kitchen roll to mop up the oil and grease before running them under the tap.
  • Remove waste oil manually and ensure it is disposed of responsibly
  • Larger quantities of waste oil – for example, the liquid left over in pans and trays after cooking – should be collected in a designated container before they have a chance to cool and congeal. Once solidified, please contact your local Council to discuss the best method of disposal.
  • Make use of tools like sink strainers & grease traps
  • A simple sink strainer can make a huge difference in helping you to ensure that solid food waste is not accidentally washed down your sink. Special grease traps can also be fitted in the drainpipes to separate fat, oil and grease from the rest of the wastewater,

Get in touch

We will attend to resolve issues with;

  • External drains including drain clearance and minor blockages that you cannot unblock using plungers and drain cleaning materials
  • Minor blockages to sinks and wash hand basins that you cannot unblock using plungers and drain clearing materials

Dealing with minor blockages to sinks and wash hand basins is your responsibility. We will attend to assist if you have followed the steps below and have not been able to clear the blockage, although there may be charges for this if we consider the blockage was caused by you.  

  • Try to unblock using plungers and drain clearing materials
  • Contact neighbours to see if they are experiencing a similar problem with their drains
  • If the manhole is blocked and is affecting more than your property, please contact United Utilities, If it is just affection your property please call the Trust

If you are worried about a blocked drain, please contact us on 0300 303 9848.