Blocked sewers can occur for a variety of reasons and can affect your toilets, your sinks, your showers/baths, and can also overflow outside. Blockages, even if they appear to be only a small issue at the time you notice them, can quickly become costly and potentially damaging problems. Knowing what to look for if you believe you might have a blockage is the first step to catching the issue before it becomes worse.

Common Signs of a Blocked Sewer

There are several ways that a blocked sewer can present itself throughout your home. The most common signs including:

  • Gurgling drains. Whether it be your toilet, your bath/shower, or any of the sinks in your house, gurgling noises are one of the early signs that your sewer is starting to block.
  • Bad smells. Have you noticed a funky smell coming from your drains? This is another common sign that a blockage is forming in your sewer.
  • Slow to drain. If any of your sinks, toilets, or showers are slow to drain, it is an indication that your sewer is beginning to block.
  • Not draining at all. If any of the drains in your home are not draining at all, it is a sign that your sewer drainage system has become blocked.
  • Overflowing toilet. Is your toilet overflowing, or close to doing so? This is one of the most common signs of a blocked drain and should be attended to as soon as possible.

Causes of a Blocked Sewer

Are you wondering what has caused your sewerage system to become blocked? Sewers can become blocked due to a variety of reasons, including:

  • Build-up of hair in your shower or basin.
  • Foreign objects being flushed down the toilet which can quickly clog your drains. This includes baby wipes, paper towel, cat litter, feminine hygiene products, and toys.
  • A build-up of grease or oil.
  • Food scraps becoming stuck and building up over time.
  • Tree root infestation.

Preventing Sewer Blockages

  • Don’t flush anything except for toilet paper and human waste down your toilet. This includes not flushing ‘flushable’ wipes, baby wipes, paper towel, etc.)
  • Don’t pour grease or oil down the kitchen sink. When grease and oil cools, it solidifies and can clog your drains.
  • Don’t wash food scraps down the sink.
  • Try to avoid planting trees or other plants near your sewerage system.

Tree Roots and your Drains

Tree roots are a large contributor to drains becoming blocked and/or destroyed – especially during the warmer months. Tree root growth and high activity occurs predominantly throughout Spring and Summer. As the weather gets warmer, trees and other plants tend to grow, meaning their roots grow as well. When roots grow, they go further into the earth and tend to go through things that are in their way – such as sewer and stormwater drains. 

Tree roots also enter sewer drains when they are looking for water sources. Roots will penetrate the pipe – especially if there are any current cracks where water is slowly dripping out. If they are allowed to grow, the tree root infestation will get worse – potentially completely filling the drain and completely blocking your stormwater or sewerage drainage systems. 

Cracked drain due to tree root infestation

If left, the root infestation will continually become worse and can cause potentially costly damage to your home and your drainage system. 

Drain Maintenance

Regular drain maintenance is important to ensure your drains remain in peak working condition. At the first signs of a blockage – when your drains start to become slow – is the best time to get a plumber to come to your home and clear your sewerage system.

Drain Clearing Equipment

There are several pieces of equipment that a plumber may use to clear your drains dependant on the cause of the blockage and the area it is affecting.


A plunger is commonly used for smaller blockages. The plunger works by having the rubber cup pushed down against the opening of the drain until the cup is flattened, then pulling it up, creating a vacuum like suction that attracts the material that has caused the blockage.

The intent of using a plunger is to loosen or break up the blockage. 

Hand Eel

A hand eel is a lightweight tool that is easy to manoeuvre and is often used for blocked drains inside the home such as blocked vanities and sinks. The hand eel is specifically designed for small diameter pipes and is very similar to the electric eel, but is instead hand operated. 

Generally, the hand eels have only one type of head to cut through the blockage, however, some types of hand eels (usually the more expensive ones) can have different types to suit different drains and blockages.

Hand eels are best suited for pipes that are 25-50mm in diameter and can usually extend up to 6m to assist with your internal blockages. 

Electric Eel

An electric eel, also known as a “plumber’s snake,” is useful for larger blockages that cannot be loosened with a plunger. The eel consists of an oscillating cable and different sized heads to suit different drains and/or blockages. An electric eel can generally extend up to 50 metres but tends to lose its cutting power after approximately 30 metres.

The electric eel can be used on any drain, whether it be your sewer or your stormwater drainage system, and is suitable for drains that are 65-100mm in diameter. The electric eel, as with the hand eel, can clear anywhere between 60-75% of the drain’s diameter – this depends on the type of blockage, the drain, location, and the age of the drain.

High-Pressure Water Jetter

A high-pressure water jetter is a newer piece of drain cleaning technology. It is a specialised motor, gearbox, and pump, piece of equipment that charges up to 5000PSI (generally, up to 30 times the amount of pressure of your mains) and is driven by either petrol or diesel. Canberra Plumbing and Drains water jetter is mounted to a trailer, they can, however, come in different forms. 

The jetter can provide drain cleaning for anywhere between 60-120 metres of drain and is suitable for drains that are from 40mm to 600mm in diameter. This is dependent on the type of drain, the application, and also the access to the drain.  

The high-pressure water jetter has dozens of specialised heads to suit every application and to pierce and clear the most stubborn blockages. The high-pressure water jetters also have many variations of reels and hoses to suit internal and external application. 

In some cases, the high-pressure water jetter can be a more effective draining solution as it can clean right to the circumference of the drain, whereas the hand and electric eels can only clear up to 75% of the drain’s circumference. 

Need an experienced plumber to clear your drains? Canberra Plumbing and Drains is here to help. Our technicians are on hand and ready to attend your home and clear your drains before they become a larger problem. Call our friendly team on 0474 488 899 to book your drain cleaning appointment today!