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You've Made It Through The Winter: Now What title next to woman in yellow coat in the snow

You've Made It Through Winter: Now What?

This winter was a tough one for much of the country. There were several feet of snow on the ground in many places, sub-freezing temperatures for days at a time and seemingly no end to winter in sight. If you suffered from frozen pipes this season, you'll be especially glad that warmer temperatures have arrived.

However, even though frozen pipes won't be a concern for another several months, that doesn't mean you can neglect your plumbing until next fall. Follow these tips for caring for your plumbing this spring, now that frozen pipes no longer pose a threat.

Unclog Drains

The easiest way to keep your drains clear is to nip blockages in the bud. If your drain starts to back up, send 1/3 cup salt, baking soda and vinegar down the drain. Wait one minute, and then chase the bubbling concoction with two quarts of boiling water.

Avoid using chemicals to clear clogged drains. These products may remove obstructions, but they can do more harm than good over the long term, corroding pipes and causing leaks. Plus, chemicals tend to remove only a portion of the clog, allowing the problem to resurface so you end up using the chemicals over and over.

If the clog gets out of hand and the salt/baking soda/vinegar approach doesn't work, rely on a sewer snake to clear the drain. You can pick up your own at the hardware store and try removing the clog yourself or you can hire a plumber to do the work for you. Either way, it's more thorough and safer on your pipes than using chemicals.

Reduce Water Pressure

As much as you love high water pressure when showering or filling a stockpot, it could be putting extra strain on your pipes, thus increasing the risk of failure at a pipe joint, faucet or appliance valve. As these plumbing parts work harder, the likelihood of a leak increases.

Now that it's warmer outside, you can measure your water pressure with a hose bib gauge. Attach the gauge to a spigot on the outside of your house and open the valve all the way. Normal water pressure is anywhere between 40 and 85 pounds per square inch (psi). If the hose bib gauge delivers a reading above this range, consider hiring a plumber to install a pressure reducer.

Soften the Water

If you live in an area with "hard water" (which is particularly prevalent in the Southwest and Northeast US), that means the water has a high mineral content. Greater amounts of magnesium or calcium in the water can shorten the lifespan of your plumbing and hot water heater. Scale builds up inside the pipes and water heater tank, reducing water flow, increasing pressure and reducing water heating efficiency. Hard water can also corrode plumbing joints and fittings.

If you're not sure if you have hard water, examine your showerheads and faucets. A white buildup is a telltale sign. Fortunately, you can decrease water mineral content and preserve your plumbing with a water softener. Soft water also tastes better and is less irritating to your skin.

In the end, caring for your plumbing - even when frozen pipes aren't a concern - helps prevent clogs, leaks, pipe corrosion and other plumbing emergencies that require costly repairs. Addressing problems early is your best bet for avoiding mold growth and property damage caused by corroded or leaky pipes.

For more information about keeping your pipes in good shape, or to schedule plumbing services, please contact Mr. Rooter®. We're your go-to source for all plumbing maintenance, repairs and upgrades.