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Picture this scenario, you are rushing to get ready for work one morning, running terribly late and you go to have a quick shower. To your horror, you suddenly realise that you have water rising around your ankles. Not a good sign at all. Quickly turning off the shower, so you don't flood the whole bathroom, it becomes evident that the water you are now ankle-deep in, is actually going nowhere. The drain must be completely blocked as no water seems to be draining away. This is the last thing you want to deal with, but you have to call an emergency plumber.

At some point in our lives, many of us have dealt with a similar situation. Whether it is a blocked shower or sink drain, or an un-flushable toilet, there can be early signs of potential problems that often go unnoticed. Here are common causes for blocked drains to look out for.

Slow drains

A drain will rarely block suddenly; often it will start draining more and more slowly for days or even weeks before it finally blocks completely. This is the most common early sign that there might be a problem building. If you notice your drain is emptying more slowly than normal, it might be time to take some early, preventative action in unclogging drains.

Gurgling or noisy drains

It's an odd sound and may or may not be accompanied by a bad smell. If you start hearing a strange gurgling sound regularly when you empty the sink or flush the toilet, this could also be an early sign that your drains are starting to block. The noise is made when the water is trying to escape around a blockage and trapped air bubbles up, around the blockage and through the water, making that distinct noise.

Smelly drains

Foul smells coming from your drains may be a sign of blockages starting to build. The smells can be coming from trapped and decaying food, fatty deposits or soap build-up that is gradually growing into a monster in the bends of your pipes. Eventually, the blockage will reach a level above the natural waterline of the drain. At this level, the gunk is exposed to air and able to release those horrid odours.

Too much or too little water in toilets

This can be a tricky one. If your toilet bowl fills with water when you flush it, it can be a clear sign that there is a blockage in the pipe, as the water and waste can't escape, even with the pressure of the flush.

However, there is another sign that might not be so clear. Little known by most people is the fact that if there are low or fluctuating levels of water in the bottom of the toilet before you flush, or if the water drops very low or disappears completely after flushing, it may be because of a blockage in the drain. This is due to the fact that when the waste that is flushed manages to pass the building blockage, it does so with a 'whoosh' and the change in pressure pulls the water out of the bottom of your toilet. So keep an eye on it, it may be an early, telltale sign of a bigger problem.

Bits and pieces of food in the bottom of the dishwasher

It's really frustrating when your dishwasher doesn't clean your dishes properly, but take a minute also to check how clean the inside of the machine itself is. If you regularly find small bits and pieces of food on the floor of the machine, it could be a sign that water (and the waste it carries) is not disappearing easily or freely enough. This could be due to a blockage in the draining pipes that needs some attention.

Unclogging drains

If you notice any of these signs, it may be that you need to take some unclogging drains preventative action. To avoid a blocked drain situation in the first place, avoid putting anything down the drain that is not water-soluble or easily dissolved. Using a drain cleaning powder, tablet or liquid regularly to keep drains flowing freely can avoid a larger problem in the future. If all else fails, consider hiring a drainage plumber to fix your clogged drains.

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