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What’s In Your Pipes?

The mystery of the missing sock may have finally been solved - drainage engineers in the UK recovered over 5,000 pairs of pants, knickers and socks from the nation’s pipes last year, according to figures released today by home emergency experts HomeServe.

Bizarre objects including garden furniture, fireworks, dog bowls, shuttlecocks and a £10 note have all been discovered in blocked pipes around the UK – and gadgets such as mobile phones and handheld gaming devices regularly find their way down the drain.

The most common causes of blockages, apart from food and waste, were children’s toys, food packaging and underwear, according to a survey of 2,000 of the 65,000 customers whose drainage emergencies were serviced by HomeServe in 2010.

More than one in twenty callouts resulted in the discovery of a dead animal, the u-bend being a perennial favourite for parents looking to avoid uncomfortable questions over the whereabouts of a small family pet. Almost as many man-hours were spent retrieving lost jewellery, including wedding rings that had fallen down a kitchen or bathroom plughole.

Steve Bailey, a HomeServe engineer from Liverpool , said “You’d be surprised at some of the things I have found whilst servicing blocked pipes and drains over the years. I once discovered a quarter of a chicken stuck in the U-bend of a toilet causing it to over flow. The customer had enjoyed a family barbeque the previous day, but was pretty bemused as to how it got there. You find children’s toys all the time – it’s amazing what fun kids can have with toilets.”

Five Simple Drainage Dos and Don’ts

1. Don’t pour leftover fat down the drain. An estimated 500,000 sewer blockages per year in the UK are caused by waste fat solidifying in pipes. Keep food packaging to store leftover fat, before disposing of it with the rest of the rubbish.
2. Do buy a plughole sieve for your kitchen sink. As well as catching stray food pieces, this will prevent smaller items from being accidentally lost down the drain.
3. Don’t flush the family goldfish. Whilst it may seem the most convenient method of disposal, a proper burial ceremony affords you much more satisfactory closure , as well as reducing the risk of a plumbing emergency.
4. Do remove jewellery before doing the washing up.
5. Don’t allow small children to take their toys into the bathroom unsupervised – the logic behind this should be obvious.

The Top Ten :

1. Household waste (hair, fat, food, dirt, general build-up) – 71% (46,150 callouts per year)
2. Children’s toys – 9.7% (6,305)
3. Food packaging – 9.7% (6,305)
4. Underwear – 7.7% (5,005)
5. Dead animals – 5.5% (3,575)
6. Animal/Bird nests – 4.4% (2,860)
7. Jewellery – 4.2% (2,730)
8. Cigarette packets – 3.7% (2,405)
9. Bottles – 2.4% (1,560)
10. Mobile phones and other gadgets – 1.1% (715)


Notes to editor:

For further information about HomeServe or their services, imagery or to speak to a HomeServe spokesperson please contact:

Ellie Marsh Josephine Ellis
0207 861 3927 0207 861 3013

About the Research
In July 2011 the above research was conducted on 2,000 adults in the UK by 72Point on behalf of HomeServe.

About HomeServe
Every 30 seconds a HomeServe engineer comes to the rescue of a British household.
With over 2,800 directly employed and sub-contracted engineers, HomeServe is a national emergency home repair service backed by a 24 hour claims handling and repair network.
HomeServe's new tradesmen service provides households with access vetted tradesmen who are qualified to carry out hundreds of different jobs around the home. 0800 247 999
HomeServe tradesmen are guaranteed to turn up on time, to hold the necessary qualifications to do the job at hand, to provide a price before they start the job and will even guarantee their work for a 12 month period afterwards.
HomeServe also offers insurance cover for plumbing, drains, electrical wiring and gas central heating. It has over 7 million policy members in the UK and a further 3 million in the USA and France.