Why have my home’s drains become so slow?

by | Apr 12, 2024

Every homeowner and renter knows the feeling and the frustration. Sometimes it’s a kitchen sink that drains so slowly. Often, it’s a shower that has you wading in ankle-deep water. At other times, it’s just a disgusting smell wafting through your home. All three situations are the result of what we commonly refer to as slow drains. When your home’s drains become slow, they can disrupt daily routines and lead to frustration. And if the slow drain isn’t just frustrating enough, wait until you try that miracle drain cleaner the home center sells (you know, that one that’s packed full of industrial chemicals for which OSHA forces employers to provide protective gear).

Common reasons home drains become slow

If you want to address the underlying issues most effectively so you can restore proper drainage in your home, you need to develop an understanding of what causes slow drains — and why they won’t usually fix themselves.

Less space means lower flow

The scientific reason drains get slower is that if a tube like a sewer pipe becomes thinner, it can’t carry as much liquid as quickly. If you have a drainage line made from pipe that has a three-inch diameter, it can carry a lot of wastewater from your sink, shower, or clothes washer. But if the walls of that pipe start to become coated with solid materials like cooking fats, the effective diameter shrinks. Say the buildup of the fats is a half-inch thick all the way around. That means your 3-inch pipe has basically become a 2-inch pipe. It can’t hold as much wastewater, and the fat that’s lining the pipe slows whatever can get through.

Accumulation of Hair and Soap Scum

One of the most common culprits behind slow drains is the accumulation of hair and soap scum in bathroom drains. When combined with soap residue and other debris, hair forms a sticky mass that obstructs the pipe, causing water to drain slowly or pool in the sink or bathtub.

Buildup of Grease and Food Residue

When grease is poured down the drain or food scraps are washed away without proper disposal, they can solidify and adhere to the walls of the pipes, forming stubborn clogs. Starchy foods like pasta and rice can swell and create blockages when dumped down kitchen sinks.

Mineral Deposits and Hard Water

Hard water, which contains high levels of minerals such as calcium and magnesium, can contribute to slow drains by causing mineral deposits to accumulate inside pipes. Over time, these deposits can form scale buildup, narrowing the diameter of the pipes and impeding water flow.

Foreign Objects and Debris

Objects such as sanitary products, cotton swabs, dental floss, toys, and even small pieces of jewelry are sometimes accidentally flushed down the toilet or washed down the drain. They can become lodged in the pipes, creating obstructions that hinder the flow of water and lead to slow drains.

Tree Roots

Tree roots can infiltrate underground pipes in search of water and nutrients. As roots grow and expand, they can penetrate cracks, joints, and seams in the pipes, causing blockages and restricting water flow.

Structural Issues and Damage

Structural issues such as misaligned or damaged pipes can impede the flow of water, as can cracked, collapsed, or corroded pipes.

Aging Plumbing Systems

As a home’s plumbing system ages, drainpipes may develop leaks. It’s particularly an issue in older homes with galvanized steel or cast iron pipes that may corrode and deteriorate. Upgrading to modern plumbing materials such as PVC or copper pipes can improve drainage and reduce the risk of leaks and blockages.

Turn to the drain cleaning experts

There’s no need to waste time trying to make your drains work more quickly. The simple fact is that most of what’s available to homeowners is nowhere near as effective as the equipment used by professional drain cleaners like the team at Indiana Leak detection. They have the right kind of equipment for every type of drain. Plus, not only will they get your slow drains back up to speed, but they’ll share advice that can prevent problems from returning.



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