Regular maintenance prevents urinal blockages, says Lanes

Bad smells and blocked urinals are a common gripe for customers of pubs and restaurants when they use the men’s toilets – yet the problem can be easily avoided with regular maintenance of drainage systems, says Lanes Group.

The discovery made by one of the national drainage company’s teams when they were called to a public house and restaurant in Leeds, West Yorkshire, proves what can go wrong when proper attention is not given to urinal maintenance.

Customers had been complaining about the urinals becoming blocked for a number of weeks, so the pub called in drainage engineers from the Lanes depot in Leeds to investigate.

Once a plumber had removed the urinals from the wall, the problem became immediately clear – the waste pipes had become almost completely blocked with scale.

Lanes Operations Manager Tony Moore said: “It was as bad as it gets in terms of urinal waste pipe blockages. There was almost nowhere for the waste to go but back into the urinal bowl. No wonder customers were unhappy.”

Scale build-up in urinals can be caused by minerals in the water used to flush the system. More commonly, it is made up of deposits of uric salt crystals from urine. Over weeks and months, the salts coat the inside of pipes, creating uric scale, restricting the flow.

Tony Moore said: “The problem of uric scale can be made worse by the design of the pipe systems. Sharp bends in the pipes, which are not uncommon in public toilets created in confined spaces, slow the flow of the waste, increasing the chance of deposits forming.

“There is also a tendency for pub and restaurant companies to reduce water flush rates and frequency to a minimum to reduce water costs, which increases the risk of urinal blockages occurring. Chewing gum or other debris discarded in urinals can also add to the problem.

“This particular public house was a large and popular venue, so thousands of men used the toilets every week, which would have made the uric scale build up all the faster.

“There are ways to use chemicals and bacterial agents on the market that can be used to break down the uric salts, preventing them from depositing in the urinal waste pipes.

“But for many high volume public toilets, the most effective solution is to carry out regularly preventative drainage maintenance.”

One of the most common methods Lanes uses to clear uric scale from small bore pipes like urinal waste pipes is to use an electro-mechanical cleaning device. This is a flexible rod with a vibrating steel coil, which loosens the scale, allowing it to be flushed into the main sewer.

It is the safest and cleanest alternative to high pressure water jetting which might not be practical for an above-ground drainage system.

In the case of the pub in Leeds, however, the uric scale problem was so bad, the most cost-effective and quickest way to solve the problem was to replace the blocked pipes with new ones.

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