With all of the additional cooking and guests visiting during the holidays, one often overlooked function of your home is the added stress this places upon your plumbing. In this article we’ll cover some basic things you can do to keep your pipes clear and avoid an embarrassing mess that may send the in-laws to a hotel for Christmas.
A lot more wear is placed upon your kitchen during the holidays, and the nasty catch-all for this additional work is the kitchen sink. Yes, you may have a garbage disposal, but don’t rely on it solely. Garbage disposals are great for food prep and catching small particles while rinsing plates, but shouldn’t be used as a primary solution for disposing waste. You must be extremely conscious of what types of foods are going into the garbage disposal, as all of this waste eventually ends up in your pipes.
Avoid all greases and oils – never dump bacon grease, fat, oil, gravy, pan drippings or anything of the like into your sink. This is the number cause of clogged pipes, backups, and blockages. Even while running hot water, eventually down the line of your pipes, the water will cool and the oils will coagulate. They then stick to the sides of the pipes, more debris are collected until eventually the pipe stops draining. Think of it as a heart attack for your plumbing. You’ve clogged the lines with too much cholesterol and liquid can’t pass through.
All scrap and waste should first go into the trash. Wipe pans covered in grease with paper towels before rinsing. For bakers, be mindful that extra dough and flour goes into the trash. Everything should hit the trash first, and then be rinsed. Discarding old leftovers down the drain is a recipe for disaster.
If your guest bathroom isn’t regularly used throughout the year, it’s important to pop in once a week and run the faucets. This includes flushing the toilet, and briefly running the shower / bath. The reason is that the seals within your plumbing need to remain damp in order to function properly. When seals dry out, they become brittle and crack. This causes leaks.
Further, most drains include a p-trap. This “p-shaped” curve in the pipe collects debris and water. This curve is your last chance at recovering a wedding ring that slipped down the drain, but also prevents the smell of sewer gas from traveling up and out of your drain. This simple curve in the pipe allows water to collect, thus blocking the sewer air from escaping from the drain. If the water evaporates because the drain isn’t used frequently enough, the smell of sewer gas may stink up the bathroom. Simply run your faucets weekly to refill the p-trap and prevent unwanted smells.
Now that guests have arrived – your guest bathroom is going to see a lot more action than usual. It’s important to keep the bath stocked with necessities as some people may be too embarrassed to ask for additional supplies, and then get creative. Should you unknowingly run out of toilet paper, a guest may resort to readily found tissues or paper towels. These products wreak havoc on pipes and community sewer systems. These products aren’t formulated to quickly breakdown when in contact with water, and any bend or snag in your pipes will create a blockage. Snaking sewer lines is expensive, and during the holidays, probably not as timely as you’d like.
If something happens and you do end up with plumbing issues, it’s important to localize the problem. This means turning off the water to the affected area. Depending on the problem, turning the water off will stop the supply, and thus, stop the leak. Also, even if water isn’t leaking, turning off the supply will prevent someone from using a clogged drain. Putting more water into a clogged drain will cause a backup and overflow, usually leading to gross water pouring onto your floors. In short, don’t use the affected area until it has been properly fixed.
Be cautious when using plungers. A plunger should only be used when you know for certain what is causing the blockage. Grandpa fills up on the prized bird, nature takes it course, and a triumphant log leaves his body – in this case, a plunger is generally fine. Human waste is soft and will breakup or change shape when water pressure is added, freeing it from the line. However, if a kid threw a toy in the toilet, or someone used something other than toilet paper for cleanup, forcing water through the pipe with a plunger may cause additional damage or further lodge the object.
When dealing with foreign objects in your pipes, the proper solution is to get your drain scoped and snaked by a professional plumber. They’ll be able to identify the object, and then know whether a simple snaking will clear the line, or if the line must be exposed, the object removed, and the line possibly replaced.
The holidays are hectic. There’s no need to complicate things with unnecessary plumbing issues. Keep things out of drains that aren’t supposed to go into drains – simple right? You can’t be watching everyone at all times for bad drain practices, but you can avoid a lot of the problems before they begin by anticipating needs and staying ahead of them. Should you encounter the plumbing disaster of the century and need to replace your cabinetry and flooring, give us a call. We’ll only snicker a little! Happy holidays.