Did you know that things that shouldn’t be flushed or poured down our sinks and toilets account for 75% of all sewer blockages? These ‘unflushables’ will eventually build up and cause blockages in our drains and sewers, potentially flooding your home and polluting the environment. This is of course a terrifying prospect; however, there are some simple steps that we can all take to reduce the risk of this happening.

plate with knife and fork iconClear your plates

Scrape leftover food residues from plates, pans and utensils into the bin before washing up.

cold temperature iconLet it cool

Allow roasting dish and frying pan to cool and scrape the waste into the bin. The RSPB advise not to feed leftover fats, oils and greases to birds: the consistency can smear which can damage their feathers. Visit their website for advice on feeding birds safely.

drain strainer iconStrain the pain

A simple sink or drain strainer can stop food from getting down the pipes.

icon of a binBin it don’t flush it

It may sound obvious, but don’t use your toilet like a bin. Only pee, poo and (toilet) paper should be flushed down the toilet. Wet wipes, nappies, period products or condoms should never be flushed down the toilet; instead dispose of these items straight in the bin.

If you experience a blockage

  • Home drains are usually no more than four inches wide (100mm). So anything that isn’t pee, poo, or toilet paper will block your drain.
  • If flushing your toilet is difficult, or if you notice water draining slowly or bubbles coming from the bottom of your toilet, don’t try to flush it again because this could result in internal flooding. Instead, you should seek advice from your sewerage company.
  • If the problem is caused by a blockage or a fault in your private drain, you’ll need to hire a drainage contractor to clear it or repair it. It can cost you up to £250 to clear a blocked drain, so prevention is better than cure. Sewerage companies are only responsible for clearing “public sewers” when they become blocked.
  • If sewage from a public sewer has entered your property, your wastewater company will send someone to see you as soon as possible and may be able to assist you in cleaning up.
  • Don’t forget to check to see if your household insurance covers sewer flooding.
  • You are entitled to a refund of your annual sewerage bill (up to £1000) if flooding was caused by a public sewer.

Our ‘Sink Sense’ research observed the sink habits of 15 different households across England and Wales using motion-sensitive cameras. Despite the fact that most of us think our kitchen habits are spotless, the majority of participants were caught pouring cooking fats down the drain, increasing the risk of blocked sinks and drains. Watch how they react to their sink habits.

In order to help the public make informed decisions about where they choose to swim, paddle, catch and play, The Rivers Trust has created an interactive map that shows where the sewerage network discharges and overflows into rivers in England & Wales.

ITV recently broadcast a programme called Tonight: What’s in our Water? Which examined how wastewater is contributing to the crisis in our rivers. The programme also provided some simple tips on how making simple switches from our usual cleaning products can have a positive impact on the environment.