Taking care of the plumbing in your home isn’t just a matter of dumping some Liquid-Plumr or Draino down the sink every time it backs up. In fact, in many cases this is the worst thing you can do for your plumbing. Many homes still use cast iron pipes, and each time corrosive chemical products are used to chew away at a clog, they also chew away at your pipes as well. Sooner or later, your plumbing will begin to fail and leak, and you will need to call up your local drain cleaner or plumbing contractor for a service call.
Here are a few tips on how to care for your plumbing and minimize any future plumbing service calls.
Do NOT pour boiling water down your sink or toilet.
In recent years, DIYers looking to find a green alternative to chemical products have suggested pouring a potful of boiling water into a clogged sink or toilet to clear a clog. While it’s probably okay to dump boiling water in the sink when your pipes are clear, a clog will trap the water in the pipe. This can melt PVC piping and pipe seals, causing serious damage.
In addition, using boiling water to clear a clogged toilet can melt the wax ring around the toilet, or even crack the porcelain bowl, leading to a pricey trip to your favorite hardware store.
The also widely suggested solution of pouring baking soda into a drain, followed by vinegar, isn’t nearly as problematic, as vinegar isn’t very acidic. In fact, it may clear very mild clogs. However, this likely won’t accomplish much with more severe clogs, as all the fizzing reaction does is shift around whatever is clogging the pipe.
To clear a clog, use a snake or other physical implement, rather than a chemical-based solution. Also, don’t use boiling water.
Physical drain cleaning tools are actually very inexpensive, and are cheaper overall when compared to one-time-use products after you’ve cleared even a couple clogs. There are three types of clog removal tools that can be effective.
The easiest to use is a plunger. In addition to the ever popular toilet plunger, there are specially made sink plungers which are very inexpensive. These may either resemble a child-sized version of a toilet plunger, or utilize an accordion design, like the one below.
For shallow clogs, one of the most under-appreciated and handy drain tools is a plastic toothed drain snake.
The names for this tool can vary wildly—you may also find them in your local store or online described as a clog remover, drain opener, auger wand, drain cleaning tool, or something else entirely. This tool isn’t appropriate for clearing a kitchen sink or toilet, but can be a lifesaver when you’ve got a stubborn hairball lodged a couple feet down your shower drain or bathroom sink. The teeth are perfect for grabbing onto hair and pulling it up. However, its small size limits its suitable applications.
For more stubborn, deeper clogs, there’s the well-known drain rooter, also referred to as an auger. These can vary widely in design: they may use a drum or wand to contain the snake, and some use an electric or even gas motor. But the old crank-style augers are what you’ll find in the average homeowner’s garage.
Drain augers can be very helpful for removing small to mid-size clogs. But be careful not to get too aggressive when attacking a stubborn clog. Otherwise, you risk providing a bit of amusement for the plumber who has to remove both the original clog and the drain snake jammed in your pipes.
A few additional tips on how to maintain your plumbing and avoid plumbing service calls.
- Watch what you put down your kitchen sink. Dumping grease, chicken scraps, and tough fruit peels down your kitchen drain is a sure fire way to clog your sink, no matter how good your disposal is.
- Use a hair trap. A metal or plastic hair trap that fits over the shower drain is a cheap, effective way to prevent annoying clogs and having to pull nasty hairballs out of the drain.
- Don’t flush wipes and hygiene products down the toilet. Hygiene products are not plumbing safe, and even the wipes that are supposedly flush-friendly are not. Toss them in the trash.
- Watch out for leaks. Not only do leaks waste water, they can also cause mold and dry rot. Check your pipes occasionally for any sign of water leaks, and call a plumber ASAP if you see one.
- Reduce your water pressure. For about 8 to 10 dollars, you can buy a water pressure test gauge that twists onto your garden hose. If your water pressure is over roughly 80 PSI, then your plumbing is being strained, and there’s a high risk of leaking and failure. If the pressure is too high, hire a plumber to install a pressure reducer (this is not the same thing as the water flow reducers often used in sinks and showers).
We know it’s annoying to call a plumber. But sometimes, it’s the right thing to do to protect your home and ensure your family’s comfort and convenience. If you’ve got a stubborn plumbing problem, Gilmore Heating Air & Plumbing can help. For assistance, call us at 888-868-2316, or use our online appointment scheduler, and we’ll send out a plumbing pro to assist you as soon as possible.
Don’t worry over that clogged sink or toilet: call Gilmore and let the professionals take care of it!