Do Your Pipes Clog Often? The Type of Pipe May Be to Blame
Many people are surprised to learn that the type of plumbing pipes you have can affect the risk of clogs. If you flush bulky items, such as diapers, down the toilet, your pipes will most likely become blocked — no matter what plumbing pipe type you have. However, if you've tried everything you can think of to stop the blockages to no avail, the answer may be that you have clog-prone plumbing pipes.
Knowing what kind of pipes you have and how the type impacts the chance of clogs can help you identify the cause of the issue.
Plumbing pipes made from materials prone to hard water buildup and corrosion are more likely to develop clogs, especially if you live in a hard water area. Over time, minerals in the water can solidify inside your pipes, forming a stubborn deposit called limescale. Significant limescale accumulations can get bad enough to clog the line. Debris, such as grease and food waste, can become caught in limescale buildup, making the issue worse.
Sometimes, corroded (rusty) plumbing pipes can cause clogs. As the materials used to make the pipe break down, small pieces of debris come away. These pieces can mix with grease and other types of waste to form blockages.
Galvanized steel pipes are the most likely to clog because this material is highly prone to corrosion. The material is longer routinely used for plumbing fixtures, although you may have some galvanized steel pipework if you live in an older home. These pipes are particularly prone to corrosion if they have seams, as rust can build up where the two sections join.
Any plumbing pipe type can eventually clog because of limescale deposits, but some present a lower risk than others. Generally, the least likely pipe materials to clog are:
- Stainless steel
- High-Density Polyethylene Piping (HDPE)
Copper is the most commonly used material to make plumbing pipes because it offers excellent corrosion resistance and can tolerate heat. It's also recyclable and doesn't pollute the water. However, copper piping is relatively expensive compared to materials such as PVC.
PVC is a popular alternative to copper piping because it's cheap and straightforward to install. It's also highly resistant to corrosion. However, you can't use PVC pipes for drinking water or hot water fixtures, and exposed PVC pipes are prone to UV light degradation.
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Unless a plumber tells you your pipes are damaged beyond repair, replacing your entire plumbing system is usually a drastic solution to the problem of clogged pipes. However, it's worth considering using less clog-prone materials when installing new fixtures. Other effective clog-prevention measures include:
One of the most effective ways to prevent clogged pipes is to only flush human waste and toilet tissue down the toilet. Items such as sanitary products, diapers and wet wipes are all likely to cause a blockage, regardless of what plumbing pipe type you have. Even wipes and products labeled as biodegradable can take a long time to break down, increasing the chances of a clog.
Don't forget to be mindful of what you pour down your kitchen sink. Oil, grease and food particles can form clogs inside your pipe, especially if they cling to rusty areas.
Installing a water softener can reduce the likelihood of clogs caused by limescale buildup, especially if you have hard water. Water softeners remove mineral deposits from your water before it enters your plumbing system, reducing the amount that settles inside the pipes.
Be wary of relying on chemical drain cleaners to clear clogged pipes. These products can unclog a pipe effectively, but the chemicals they contain can damage your plumbing and speed up corrosion. Therefore, using them frequently can actually increase the chance of more clogs in the future. If you're experiencing frequent blockages, a professional plumber can inspect your pipes to diagnose and fix the root cause.
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