Let's learn about blockages

Learn about the biggest culprits for sink blockages in Yorkshire, as well as what you can do to prevent it from happening.


Did you know that people putting the wrong things down their toilets and sinks cause around 40% of all blockages in Yorkshire’s sewers?

With over 20,000 miles of sewage pipes to take care of, this costs millions of pounds a year to fix! But with your help, we can stop this from happening and help to save our precious environment.

In this section, you’ll learn about the biggest culprits for sink blockages in Yorkshire, as well as what you can do to prevent it from happening.

What are the most common plumbing issues?

Have you ever noticed the water in the sink not doing down as fast as it should? You might also get a funny smell when you wash your hands or brush your teeth.

If the water in the sink is slimy and has little bits floating around in it, chances are there’s something blocking it. This usually happens when things are disposed of down the sink or drain that shouldn’t be there.

The bad news is it’s not a very fun job to fix, but the good news is there are lots of things you can to stop nasty drain clogs from happening again.

How to prevent sink blockages

If you flush things down the toilet or pour things down the sink that shouldn’t be there, you could cause a blockage in your pipes.

The easiest way to stop this from happening is to remember this one simple rule.

Only flush the three Ps:

  • Pee
  • Poo
  • Paper

The biggest causes of sink blockages

Here are some of the biggest culprits that you should never flush or put down the sink or drain.

Grease and cooking fat

Kitchen sink drains clog when waste cooking fat or other oils build up inside the pipes. This can lead to giant deposits of fat in the sewer system, often called ‘fat-burgs’, which cost us millions each year to remove.

Wet wipes and paper towels

Flushing wipes blocks pipes! Toilets are only designed to remove human waste and toilet roll. Even when it says ‘flushable’ on the packet, these pesky things can take years to break down. Remember the rule? Only flush the three Ps: pee, poo, and paper.

Dental floss

Despite being very thin, dental floss is usually made from nylon or Teflon, two very strong materials that don’t break down naturally. This can cause serious environmental damage if flushed down your toilet. Remember to always floss, but never flush.

Coffee grounds

Coffee grounds when combined with liquid or grease form a sludgy sticky nightmare. No wonder they are one of the main causes of blocked sinks. And you don’t even need to throw them away. Instead, spread them in the garden to repel insects and help your plants to grow!


Nappies are made from a material designed to expand when it comes into contact with water. That makes them the perfect for blocking drains and sewage systems. This can cause the water to back up from the sewer and into your house. Not a situation you want to find yourself in.

How to drain a blocked sink

Hopefully, you will remember what not to pour or flush and never have to worry about unblocking a sink, but in case the worst happens, here’s a couple of easy ways to try and solve it.

Always have an adult present when unblocking a sink or tampering with the plumbing in any way.

Fishing with a coat hanger

First, take a wire coat hanger and carefully straighten it out as best you can. Then, create a small hook on one end and prepare to start fishing.

Secondly, thread your wire fishing road down the sink until you reach the blockage. Be careful not to push the gunk even further down, have a wiggle around, and then pull it back out to see what you’ve caught.

Once you’ve pulled out as much as you can, run the hot water and see if it’s done the trick!

Baking soda and vinegar

For this one, you’ll need the following:

  • A cup
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar

First, mix one-third of a cup of baking soda with one-third of a cup of vinegar. The mixture will immediately start to fizz. Now quickly pour it down the blocked drain. The fizzing action will get to work removing the gunk from the inside of the pipe.

Let it sit for at least an hour, then flush with hot water.

If this doesn’t work, your parent/carer may need to invest in a shop-bought chemical drain unblocker!

What are we doing to help?

Here at Yorkshire Water, we take blockages seriously - the damage they do to our sewer systems costs millions of pounds every year to fix. And with over 20,000 miles of pipework across the region, it’s not an easy job to do.

The easiest way we can prevent it from happening is to ask you to think carefully about what goes down your sinks and toilets, but we realise we need to do our bit too.

That’s why we’re spending £252 million to improve the quality of our 20,000 miles of sewerage pipework over the next 5 years alone.