What to Do When the Toilet Keeps Clogging

From small kids trying to flush toys, shoes, or wads of toilet paper to adults flushing dental floss, all sorts of wipes, and sanitary products, our toilets tend to get a real workout year after year. But it’s important to remember that everything that goes down the drain is not necessarily safe or completely gone. 

If your toilet keeps clogging up, it’s important to figure out what’s happening and then fix it before it becomes an even bigger issue like fatberg. Ignore the warning signs and eventually, a fatberg will end up clogging your sewer system. That’s when things get scary. Basically, a fatberg is just as disgusting as it sounds. It’s made from all the kinds of stuff your parents always yelled at you not to flush down the loo. You did it anyway, and now all of it is coming back to haunt you like the clown from IT. 

Once a fatberg begins forming in your pipes, your plumbing problems will gradually become more frequent as it grows in size. Left unresolved, clogged drains and toilets due to fatberg can result in major plumbing emergencies, such as broken pipes or leaks that can cause significant damage to your home and threaten your health. With a bit of knowledge and preventive measures, you can avoid fatberg and the associated toilet and sewer line clogging.

What is Fatberg?

In 1912, an iceberg sank the Titanic. In 2013, a 15-ton fatberg nearly sank London. OK, that’s a bit hyperbolic, but when you picture a big congealed mass of grossness the size of a city bus blocking the sewer, you can see how it could cause some serious overflow problems. Fatberg forms from hair, grease, diapers, wipes and other non-biodegradable matter that collects over time, building into bigger and bigger blockages. In 2018, an 820-foot long fatberg was found blocking a Victorian stretch of sewer more than twice the length of two football fields. In 2019, a fatberg bigger than a jumbo jet wreaked havoc on a seaside town.

Of course, Americans aren’t far behind in the fatberg competition. In 2017, an enormous fatberg in Baltimore sewers caused many city sewage pipes to overflow, pushing 1.2 million gallons of raw sewage into a local watershed stream. In 2018, divers had to navigate through 90 feet of raw sewage inside of the sewers in Charleston, South Carolina, feeling for the blockage with their BARE HANDS. It took three days to clear the huge clog, and divers had to be bathed in bleach daily. New York City is regularly struggling with fatbergs. These examples are clear demonstrations of how fatbergs can become a public health hazard, and why we all need to be diligent about what we flush down our toilets. 

Warning Signs of Fatberg

Your main sewer line is the artery that moves all of your home’s wastewater (from toilets, sinks, dishwashers, etc.) away from the house and into the sewer. The main sewer line is connected to every plumbing fixture in your home, so you can understand why a clog in that line is such a big deal and can create such a big mess. 

Warning signs of a fatberg is plumbing that is continually acting up or a seemingly endless string of clogs. If you live in an older home with an older plumbing system, corrosion due to wear and tear and hard water mineral build-up have likely created jagged edges and ledges inside the pipes where debris can catch and build up. Instead of just one toilet clogging up, all of them might backup at once. The toilet might make weird noises every time you run the dishwasher. Another symptom of a clogged main sewer line due to fatberg is if you have more than one slow drain.

What Causes Fatberg?

It all starts with us. Fatberg forms from all the things that generally shouldn’t be flushed down the toilets, but gets flushed down the toilets rather than tossed into the trash. Don’t make this mistake. Pee, poo, and TP are the ONLY things you should be flushing. Use your trashcans for everything else. Ignore the warning at your own peril. Over time, a fatberg can form from human waste combined with the usual clog suspects such as:

  • Hair, Hair, Hair
  • Fats, Oils, and Grease
  • Dental Floss
  • Baby Wipes
  • Dirty Diapers
  • Sanitary Products
  • Wet Wipes/Cleaning Wipes
  • Paper Towels
  • Facial Tissues
  • Band-Aids
  • Discarded Medicine
  • Q-Tips, Cotton Balls, and Makeup Pads


How to Avoid Fatberg 

Sometimes plumbing clogs can be quickly cleared by snaking the drains. Regular cleaning of your sewer lines can help prevent fatberg. The question of how often to clean your sewer line depends on many factors including:

  • The age and condition of your pipes
  • Sewage demand (usage) at your home
  • A history of flushing non-biodegradable materials

How to Sink a Fatberg

When you’re dealing with a fatberg, there a huge mass that needs to be broken down in order to clear the pipes, so it will require plumbing professionals who have the knowledge, specialized equipment, and experience to tackle the greasy beast. 

Indirect pressure drain cleaning, also known as hydro jetting, is a procedure used by plumbers when there is a substantial amount of blockage in pipes – hello, fatberg – this means you. Hydro jetting uses a hose to pump large amounts of pressurized water through a special nozzle The strength of the hydro jet blasts through blockages and can clear large quantities of corrosive buildup inside sewer pipes where debris can get caught up and begin building into fatberg. Hydro jetting is an alternative to plumbing snaking, which only breaks up waste debris and temporarily solves the problem. 

And here’s a tip that many people don’t know – with typical use, homeowners are advised to get their sewer line cleaned professionally about once every 18-24 months. 

So when is the last time you had your sewer line cleaned? If your answer is never, or you’re already experiencing fatberg symptoms like frequent toilet or sewer line clogs, it’s time to call the Comfort Heroes at Donley. Book your sewer line service today!