Having a clogged drain in your kitchen sink or bathroom shower can be a very frustrating thing to deal with. But not every clog is an emergency. They can absolutely lead to emergencies, but it’s always best to assess the situation before you panic.

In most cases, minor drain clogs can be fixed on your own without needing to call a plumber. You can use a simple pipe snake, or any one of a variety of different chemical or enzyme drain cleaners.

When Clogs are Emergencies

While the majority of clogs in your home are nothing more than a temporary nuisance, there are some extreme red flags to look out for. If you notice any of the following problems in addition to your clogged pipes, it’s time to make a call to an emergency plumber immediately.

Toilet Clogs

If you are unable to get your toilet to flush, or notice water backing up when you attempt to flush it, this can be a plumbing emergency. If using a toilet plunger doesn’t free the clog and allow the toilet to flush properly, it’s time to make a call to a plumber.

Stubborn toilet clogs can be hazardous to your health, especially if water starts to overflow the bowl and get on your floor. This is extremely unsanitary, and can also lead to mold breakouts along the baseboard of your floor.

Sewage Backup

Filthy looking and foul smelling water backing up into your sinks is a definite plumbing emergency. This is usually a sign of a clog or damage to a main sewer line in your septic system. This could be due to a tree root damaging the pipe, or something being flushed that shouldn’t have getting caught later in the system.

Sewage backups can severely damage your home and should be dealt with immediately. Your first step should be to find the water valve, usually in your basement, and shut off the water system as much as you possibly can.

Other Clog Issues

Clogs that are a nuisance but not necessarily an emergency can include minor clogs or slow draining water in a bathtub or shower. If you have access to another shower or tub in the home and can keep up your hygiene, this can usually wait until normal business hours at the local plumber instead of paying for an emergency call.

You can also try to remedy the situation on your own before making a call to your local plumber. With tubs and showers, the most common culprit is hair building up in the drain and causing a clog. This can be dealt with by using a small plastic hair catcher, or by using a chemical drain cleaner.

However, keep in mind that even aggressive chemical drain cleaners may not work well on hair. They are much more effective on softer organic material such as shed skin cells and other general gunk. Hair can be a generally tough clog to take care of.