Blocked drains, pipes and toilets are a frustrating experience for home or commercial  residents; this article looks at the most common causes and offers some hints to help you avoid the hassle and expense of fixing them.


There are many reasons why blockages happen but these are some of the most regular culprits of blocked drains:


Clip on Toilet Fresheners Can Cause a Stink

Woodorth plumbing has been helping property owners for over 40 years but in our experience one of the most recent regular causes of blocked toilet drains are clip-on toilet fresheners.

Although these products might seem attractive they can quickly turn from leaving your toilet with fresh fragrance to leaving your bathroom with an awful odour. clipon

The danger in these products is that if they fall into the toilet and get flushed down the drain the clip which usually holds them onto the toilet basin becomes an anchor fixing them to your drain pipe where they are unable to be flushed away.

The toilet freshener then begins to trap anything which is flushed down the toilet and causes a blockage that can only be removed by digging up the pipe. We recommend that householders refrain from using all such clip on fragrance holders. A better solution is to use a tablet that is dropped into the cistern which adds a freshener to the water used to flush the toilet.

Tree Roots and Broken Pipes due to Old Age

broken_pipeAnother common cause of blocked drains is tree roots breaking into the pipe. The root system of trees and especially bamboo is very aggressive and is drawn to any source of water. It senses the water in the pipe and will eventually crack into it if left to its own designs.

However, if the drain or sewer pipe is old cracks and damage will occur due to normal wear and tear. The pipe will either collapse or collect refuse on broken pieces that stick into the drain and obstruct the free flow.

Modern Technology Makes Finding Blockages Easy

It used to be quite difficult to find a blockage and often a large trench needed to be dug to find the problem area. Today we use modern technology for example ground penetrating radar or we feed a camera into the drain to find exactly where the blockage is making the job quicker to repair. Here is an example of the film footage we obtain when looking for a blockage in a pipe.

Caustic Soda is good for clearing drains - and blocking them!

Caustic soda is sometimes used by handymen to clear blocked drains but surprisingly – it can also make them worse. It is also a very dangerous material to use and should be handled with great caution.

Due to its hazardous nature it is imperative that you keep it out of reach of children of any age. caustic_soda

Used properly caustic soda can clear some blockages but if not properly flushed through the pipe the residual hardens like cement leaving you with - a blocked drain.

The right way to use caustic soda is to pour hot water down the drain so the pipe is warm. Then carefully pour the caustic soda into the drain. Be careful not to stand too close and especially protect your eyes as there may be some bubbling and splutter that spits up. Caustic soda is very dangerous if it gets on your skin or in your eyes (see first aid not below).

Leave the caustic soda in the pipe for 2 minutes then flush the drain with hot water again until all the caustic soda has been washed away. If the drain is still blocked call a plumber (Woodorth’s plumbing services all of the Sydney Metropolitan area and can be reached on 9897 2133)

If it does get on your skin or in your eyes follow these first aid instructions:

Caustic Soda First Aid

The caustic soda solution must be removed as quickly as possible after bodily contact by washing with large quantities of water only.

Eye Contact

Wash eyes immediately and continuously with plenty of water preferably from an eye wash fountain for at least 30 minutes while holding the eye lids open and rolling the eyes back and forth.

Call a doctor immediately and continue flushing until the doctor advises you to stop.

Any time lost prior to such washing with water could cause serious and irreparable damage! Do not use soap. Do not attempt to neutralize the caustic soda with chemicals.


  • Immediately give the person large quantities of milk (preferable) or water.
  • Call a doctor
  • Immediately transport to hospital.

The Things we Find in Your Drains

The last most common cause of blocked drains is objects flushed down the toilet or entering the drain through an open pipe. On a recent call out to fix a blocked drain we discovered the blockage had been caused by a 90cm soft ball lodging itself in the pipe. (insert picture from Matt) We have no idea how it got there and can only imagine it was flushed and / or pushed down the toilet.

Children can often be the culprits of putting objects down the toilet either intentionally or unintentionally. This year a four year old boy accidentally flushed is puppy down the toilet in England while attempting to wash him after his twin brother got the puppy dirty.

Thanks to some quick plumbing work the puppy was rescued and is now safe at home with his family and a very apologetic little boy.


To avoid blocked drains and pipes

  • Don’t use clip-on toilet fresheners,
  • Don’t leave caustic soda in the drain for a lengthy period of time,
  • Don’t play soft ball in the bathroom and
  • Don’t wash puppy’s in the toilet.

However if you do need a plumber Woodorth Plumbing Services would be happy to help you with all your plumbing needs. Call us on 9897 2133 or for after hours emergencies we have a 24 hour Emergency Plumbing Hotline: 0414 694 814 or click here.

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