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The Homeowner's Ultimate Guide to Preventing Clogged Drains
When you step into a nice hot shower getting ready for work what is one of the worst case possibilities?
That the water backs up around your feet confirming you have a clogged drain.
While this is a headache for any homeowner, take solace in the fact that you can prevent most common clogs with ease.
Here we give you all the insider tips and tricks to prevent clogged pipes all over your home.
The Homeowner's Ultimate Guide to Preventing Clogged Drains
When considering how to prevent clogged pipes there are key areas of your home that come to mind.
We will be covering tips for the top three areas clogs appear; the kitchen sink, the bathroom sink and shower, and toilets.
How To Avoid Kitchen Clogs
The kitchen sink is one of the busiest places in the entire home. It's used multiple times a day and faces a variety of drain challenges.
Since there are so many different things going into the kitchen sink you have to keep in mind what is bad for your pipes.
Stop Putting Everything Down The Garbage Disposal
Clogged garbage disposals are one of the most common kitchen repairs we handle.
Since the kitchen sink drain sees all types of food items it makes sense that we would wash food chunks down the garbage disposal. But, there are a number of things you should never put down the disposal.
There is a common misconception that egg shells are good to put down the disposal because they sharpen the blades.
However, the membrane inside the eggshell can get lodged into the shredding blades of the disposal. This can cause the blades to seize up in the disposal.
Pasta and Rice
This may come as another surprise but these are big no-nos for drain land.
Pasta and rice both swell as they absorb water. Just because these items are cooked doesn't mean they stop swelling. So if you put them down your garbage disposal, even if they get chopped into tiny bits, they will become like stuffing in your pipes.
Just because you watched your mom or grandma do this all the time it doesn't mean it's a good idea. Potato peels and other starchy vegetables create a film inside the disposal. This becomes a soupy, gunky mess that's super hard to clean.
So, instead of risking it just toss those peels in the actual garbage, or better yet, compost them!
Celery and Other Fibrous Veggies
While celery may seem easy to grind the problem lies in what happens once it breaks down.
Celery is very fibrous and breaks apart into long strands. The strands can then wind around all the gears inside your disposal. This will mean a jam and could cause the whole machine to stall out and die.
Garbage disposals shouldn't be used as secondary trash cans. They can only tolerate the little bits of food that gets into the sink after you've scraped your plate.
Coffee grounds, while seeming pretty small and easy to handle, can cause a mess in your garbage disposal.
They clump together and form a thick sludge that is hard to clear out of the disposal. The grounds work their way into every nook and cranny of the machine and are hard to get rid of once they've worked their way in.
You may not realize it but cooking oil is a major problem for garbage disposals and pipes in general.
They end up sticking to the sides of the machine and coating the pipes underneath. This leads to a major blockage issue.
This one is so bad it deserves its own section.
Never Pour Grease Down Your Drains
So you've just fried up a batch of bacon and it was delicious, possibly even magical. Now you're ready to clean up the kitchen.
It may be tempting to pour the used grease down the kitchen drain. DON’T DO IT! Cooking oils are fat. What does fat do when it cools down? It becomes a solid.
The pipes under your sink and beneath your house are made of cold metal or plastic. As soon as the oil hits them it starts to cool and solidify. This leads to clogged pipes as layers and layers of fat build up. These clogs can get so bad that they become extremely difficult to clear.
Always pour the grease into a heatproof container until it cools and toss it in the trash. A great container to save for this purpose is a metal coffee tin or a large glass mason jar.
Just make sure they have a lid because critters love to nibble on the used cooking grease. You can also save this grease and use it for cooking other things. Bacon fat is particularly good in this application (although your doctor may disagree). This way not only are you saving your drains, your saving money, and you're recycling all at the same time.
Keep in mind that there is always a small amount of fat going down the kitchen sink drain from doing dishes. While it is usually a small amount it will build up over the years and eventually slow the drain down. If you are noticing that your kitchen sink drain is getting slow, give us a call. We have some low cost options to consider before it gets to the point where it is clogged completely.
Use A Strainer In Your Drains
It may seem simplistic but using small drain strainers is one of the best ways to avoid clogs. You can get these from any home improvement store and the small investment can save a ton in repairs.
Just place them over your drains and use your sink like normal. They collect any food particles and then you clean them out over the garbage. This proves that keeping your pipes in tip-top shape doesn't need to be expensive. The best prevention methods are usually very inexpensive.
Dealing with Grease Deposits
There is lots of advice online suggesting to routinely pour boiling water down your drains to help melt away the grease and sludge that can build up over time. While pouring boiling water can help with a grease buildup, it ends up just moving it down the line a little further along your drain pipe, making things worse in the long run. It can even cause the grease that was on the top of the pipe to fall causing a complete blockage where it was only partial before.
There are also fat emulsifiers that act in a similar fashion to remove grease, but they usually tend to have the same outcome. The grease will move further down the pipe but the problem will ultimately remain.
We suggest that homeowners use a bacterial drain maintenance product to deal with grease and organic deposits. These products introduce bacterial cultures into the pipes which feed on fats, oils, grease, and other organic materials. Over time they consume these greasy deposits which starts allowing the drain to flow like it should. Call us today to ask about BioChoice ES, our bacterial drain care product!
How To Keep Drains Clear In The Bathroom
The bathroom is the next trouble area prone to clogged drains. We have a few great tips to keep the bathroom sink, tubs, and toilet free of clogs and flowing quick.
Clean Your Drain Stoppers Often
These little doodads are removable for a reason. Everytime you clean your bathroom make sure to remove them and clean them well.
Their job is to catch debris that falls down the drain so they get really dirty fast.
For the bathtub, it's a good idea to take out the stopper completely. Get a small mesh drain strainer for the bottom of the tub. This will collect any hair that falls during showers. This way it's easy to throw it away and none of the hair collects in the drain.
Only Flush Toilet Paper
Even if the package says "flushable" don't put anything down the toilet other than waste and toilet paper.
If you need to use wipes make sure you toss them in the trash can, not down the drain. These get wrapped up together and can clog the pipe.
While these wipes do break down faster than say, baby wipes, they don't immediately fall apart. So, even if they stay separate they still can cause some issues because they stay whole a long time.
Another thing to avoid flushing at all costs is feminine products. Tampons and pads have one job, absorption.
Have you ever put a disposable diaper into a swimming pool? It nearly triples in size. Feminine products continue to absorb any liquid until they are at their max capacity and are built to not break down. This can cause havoc on your bathroom pipes.
Hot Water Again?
Just like in the kitchen, some online communities suggest you run hot water down each of your bathroom drains once a week.
Again, we advise against this. The majority of bathroom sink and shower clogs are caused by hair and grime caught in the strainers. The proper way to fix this is to disassemble the drain by removing the stopper and removing the hair and grime manually.
If you have a clog that is serious enough that you are considering using chemicals or hot water, we suggest you call a professional. Powerful drain cleaners will erode both the clog and your pipes so they really aren’t a great solution.
If you have cleaned up the strainer but still have a clog it’s definitely time to call the pros. You can read more about why it's not a good idea to clear a clog yourself here.
Toilets Keep Clogging?
If you have a toilet that keeps on clogging there are some tips you can try. Just like all of the other plumbing fixtures in your home they are susceptible to hardness deposits (if you don’t have a water softener). Hardness and scale build up in the jet at the bottom of the bowl and along the inside of the rim of the bowl which reduce the amount of water that can flow. When the flow is reduced the toilet will flush with less force than it used to and clogs will become more frequent.
An easy thing to try if you don’t want to replace the toilet is to scrape out that harness along those openings with a screwdriver or similar object. Just be careful, it is easy to damage a toilet! Often this can really help to revive an old toilet if you are looking to get a bit more life out of it. This is a sign that the toilet is nearing the end of its life though as the pathways that lead to these openings will be slowly plugging off as well, and it isn’t very practical to clean these.
Something to consider with toilets is that you get what you pay for. There is a vast range in toilet quality available ranging from poor to excellent so it is important to remember that not all toilets were created equal so be sure to do some research or ask for a professional opinion so you don’t end up buying a dud!
Make Sure You Know How To Use Your Toilet
Ok, I’ll admit this sounds silly, but lots of folks aren’t using their toilet right!
The problem that often arises is that some toilets require that you hold down the flush lever until the water is running at full velocity while some simply need to be pressed and released. If the toilet requires that the flush handle (or button) be held and it doesn’t happen, you’ll be in for a pretty sad flush which often ends up causing clogs.
You don’t need an instruction manual to figure this one out, just flush and hold once and then flush with a quick press next time and you’ll know what type you have.
How To Keep Drains Clear On The Outside Of Your Home
In some instances you might have drains to worry about outside of your home as well.
Regular maintenance doesn't only apply to the inside of your house. If you have a swimming pool or other drains on your property you should pay attention to them.
Not only will this keep your property looking its best but can prevent major repairs being needed in the future.
Preventing A Pool Drain Clog
Your swimming pool has its own drain called a skimmer.
This skimmer collects any debris that falls in the pool to keep the main swimming area beautiful and clean.
Depending on where you live you will want to clean the skimmer often. If you have a screened in patio and not much falls in the pool you can check the skimmer once a week.
If you have a lot of debris that falls in the pool you'll want to check it every couple of days. This drain makes sure the water keeps circulating into the cleaning pump. If the skimmer is clogged it means the pump won't be effective and can make your pool dirty.
Just like inside the house, make sure you are cleaning out this skimmer on a regular basis. Keeping it clean will lengthen the life of your pool.
Taking Care Of Your Deck and Yard Drains
Some decks and patios have a drain for rainwater and melt. These drains collect overflows of rainwater or pool water and take the water to the main termination point. This is usually the storm or sanitary sewer in the street.
The first step to maintaining these drains is removing the grate. Using a garden hose spray down the grate and make sure it's clean and free of debris. You then want to look inside the small collection chamber under the drain.
Make sure to pull out and throw away any leaves or lawn clippings that may be trapped in there. Finally, take your hose and spray down the chamber.
Make sure the drain is flowing smoothly by leaving the hose filling the chamber and checking the termination point of the drain. You should see the water flows freely out the end.
An Ounce Of Prevention Is Worth A Pound Of Cure
Taking some simple steps around your home to prevent clogged drains can end up saving you a ton of headaches. Get the family involved and create a regular maintenance schedule for the drains around the house.
Make sure you are addressing every drain on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Put hot water through your bathroom and kitchen drains regularly to keep them flowing smoothly.
Don't forget the drains outside your home too. These drains are there to protect big investments. Not only pools and jacuzzis but larger yard drains can prevent your home from flooding during storms and heavy rains.
Remember that even if you do everything you can to prevent a plumbing emergency they can still happen. Plumbing issues are not something you should handle yourself. It's always best to call in a professional.
Didn't prevent a clog in time and now you have a cracked or burst pipe? Read our blog here on why you shouldn't attempt that repair yourself.
Plumbing isn't something you want to try and DIY. Having an issue and want some professional insight? Contact us here and we will be happy to help.