New Survey: UK’s Drainage Habits Revealed

As the pandemic has seen a surge in fatbergs and drainage issues, we wanted to investigate how much of the UK’s problems with blocked drains and sewers were down to bad habits and a simple lack of education among the general public. 

We’ve conducted a national survey to discover some of the UK’s worst habits when it comes to contributing towards fatbergs. From the weirdest items flushed down the toilet to some common misconceptions around drain best practices, you can find out more about our survey results below. 

Key Findings 

We spoke to a total of 1,152 people for the 2021 survey, which meant we were not only able to collect new yearly data, but also create a clear pre- and post-pandemic comparison of people’s attitudes towards fatbergs and drains. 

72% of respondents say they have heard of the term ‘fatberg’ 

Expanding media coverage of the fatberg phenomenon is the main factor in improving awareness levels, with 37% of those polled saying they had heard about fatbergs through national news

When asked about the items that contribute to fatbergs, fat, oils and grease (FOG) was the most common answer (55%), followed by wet wipes, sanitary towels and nappies

92% of people have never heard of the term ‘concreteberg’ 

64% admitted to knowing that wet wipes contain hidden plastics 

31% of Brits admit to still flushing tampons down the toilet 

Pre-Pandemic Habits VS Post-Pandemic Habits 

Since the start of the pandemic, headlines have shown an increase in fatbergs across the country, which is likely due to the amount of time we have spent at home as a nation as well as the disruption caused by multiple restrictions causing people to lose focus on the importance of being environmentally friendly. 

Here, we analyse the difference in people’s drain habits before and after the pandemic by comparing our 2021 data results with our 2019 findings. 


Figures show that despite fatbergs becoming an ever more prevalent problem, people’s awareness of them is not increasing:

77% of people had heard of the term ‘fatberg’ in 2019, with 72% aware of the term in 2021 

55% claim they are “very aware of what should and shouldn’t go down the toilet and sink”, compared to 64% in 2019 

Nearly 100 out of the 1,152 participants have experienced issues with their local drains and sewers during the pandemic 

Attitude and Habits 

Despite people claiming to have made efforts to be more eco-friendly during the pandemic, the stats still show a shocking amount of people still have bad habits when it comes to their drains at home:

45% of people still admit to pouring oil or fat generated from cooking down the kitchen sink, compared to 48% in 2019 

68% of people believe that laziness is the main barrier to changing people’s behaviour that contribute towards fatbergs, compared to 67% in 2019 

63% admitted to being more eco-friendly during the pandemic 

Netflix’s Seaspiracy had some positive influence on people’s habits, with 52% claiming they are now more conscious of the impact plastic waste has on the sea. and 38% reducing the amount of plastic bags they buy when shopping

Soup, Dental Floss and Toy Spider Among Items Brits Flush Down the Toilet 

When it comes to disposing of certain household items, surprisingly Brits have openly admitted to flushing a lot of these down the toilet. Not only is this damaging to the sewers, but it also has a direct negative impact on the environment – not to mention the drain issues it could cause in your home and local area. 

The survey showed that wet wipes labelled as flushable were the most commonly flushed item (39%), followed by tampons (31%). Below are some of the other surprising culprits contributing towards blocked sewers, based on our survey participants’ answers. 

Items people admitted to flushing down the toilet: 

  • Soup 
  • Dental floss
  • Toy spider 
  • Cigarette 
  • Fish 
  • Hair (common answer) 
  • Nail clippings 
  • Hot fat from cooked meat

Education and Prevention 

Education is crucial for helping us collectively improve our everyday habits in order to prevent fatbergs and drainage issues that impact the environment. Some people feel this should be approached in different ways, but the overall message is clear: more needs to be done in order to increase awareness. 

61% of Brits don’t know how to correctly dispose of household paint and cement, compared to 65% in 2019 

64% believe teaching children in primary schools is the most effective way to change behaviours and prevent issues regarding drain habits and blockages 

41% believe an awareness month would be most effective for educating people on drainage best practices – this is the goal of our annual Unblocktober campaign

42% feel a device designed for the sink or toilet to stop items going down there would be the best method of prevention 

30% of people believe those that contribute towards fatbergs should be the ones to clear them up

Who Should Be Responsible for Clearing up Fatbergs? 

Full Survey Findings 

To read about our results in further detail, you can find our full survey findings here. 

Help Fight Fatbergs and Save our Sewers and Seas! 

If you want to take a step towards saving our sewers and seas, sign up to our national campaign Unblocktober here where we share tips and information about how you can improve your everyday habits to prevent damage to the UK’s waterways. You will also receive an exclusive information pack with everything you need to take part. 

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