Oh, the stories plumbers can tell.
Odds are most of their tales of terrible things going in or coming out of pipes sound too crazy to be true.
But what many plumbing professionals will happily tell you are some easy strategies to keep your toilets, sinks and water heaters flowing well.
Watch What You Flush
One biggie is to watch what you put down a drain, since many people assume that if something is small enough to fit or at least be pushed along with extra water or a extra flushes, it’s gone forever. This isn’t the case – even after it leaves your home plumbing, items could easily get stuck, cause obstructions or back-ups, or potentially damage the entire sewer line.
Items that can easily clog pipes include:
- Hair. What harm can a few loose strands or trimmed whiskers do? Nothing, really. But day after day, these items never dissolve and often come together into a big snarl that blocks the passage of water.
- Soap scum. Like hair, it seems like a little bit of soap or shampoo regularly goes down the drain and no one gets hurt. But over time, these materials can build up and bond with other items and cause larger blockages.
- Grease. When cleaning or cooking, it’s easy to pour your grease down the sink or disposal. Plumbing experts say this is an easy way to cause clogs. The grease may be liquid when it’s warm and moving down the pipes, but at some point, it can solidify as it cools.
- Coffee grounds. While some people say they can help scrape away some residue in your system, aid your garbage disposal and cover up harsher smells, others say they can damage septic systems, especially when combined with other residue like grease. Then they can turn into more of a sludge.
- Cat litter. Some people keep their litter box near the toilet, so pets and humans all use the same room. But scooping and flushing the litter can actually easily clog the system, especially the material that clumps or is water-soluble.
- Cotton balls. People who do their make-up rituals in the bathroom may find it easy enough to toss dirty puffs in the toilet. But these can clump together and block water flow.
- Dental floss. It seems skinny, but enough of it can form a snarl and also catch, block or wind around other items.
- Wipes. They’re easier to use and dispose of than toilet paper or paper towels, but they also don’t break down like other paper products.
- Gum. Whether you’re washing it down the sink or flushing it, gum takes a long time to break down and can also get stuck to other flushed items.