Everyone loves the holidays; it’s a time to catch up with friends and family and reflect on the year gone by in good company. Unfortunately, a holiday period can easily be ruined by a plumbing emergency that could be caused by damaged or blocked pipes. With a little advance planning the risks associated with many plumbing related problems can be a mitigated. Here are seven ways that you can avoid a holiday plumbing emergency.
- Clearing Your Kitchen Sink
A kitchen sink will see a lot of use over a typical holiday period, and it needs to be clear of any clogs and blockages. If the sink isn’t clear it could easily become blocked and then it may need to be cleared when you have guests.
A humble sink plunger will be able to remove many stubborn food related clogs. Place the plunger head over the sink, establish a good seal, then pump the plunger up and down gently. The vacuum like seal will work hard at dislodging any material that is trapped in the drain.
If a plunger doesn’t work, boil some water and pour it into the drain. This will melt any soap scum clogs that may present and you can run the hot tap for a few minutes to remove any remaining residue. If the clog is especially stubborn add in 1 teaspoon of baking soda to clean and deodorize the drain.
Avoid using commercial drain cleaning products that come in a granular, liquid or gel format. These cleaners are very caustic, and they can easily damage your plumbing pipes. They are not very effective, and the clog will often return in a few weeks anyway.
- Clearing the Toilet
A toilet plunger is a good first option to remove a clog, but if this fails a drain augur can be used instead. An augur is a flexible cable that has a hand crank on one end and a drill bit or augur on the other. The augur is fed into the drain until it hits the clog, then you turn the crank and the augur bites into the clog and breaks it up. This is a fairly specialized plumbing tool, but a basic augur is inexpensive and available at most hardware stores. It’s one of the tools that you won’t use often, but every now and again you will be glad to have it in your toolbox.
- Get a Trash Can for the Bathroom
If you don’t already have a trash can in your bathroom get one for the holidays. If you do have one, make sure that it’s clean, empty and ready for use. A clogged or overflowing toilet is often caused by people putting items in the toilet that don’t belong there. Only toilet paper should be put in the toilet and other items, such as wipes, tissues, wrappers and grooming products, need to go in the trash. It’s also a great idea to move away any clutter that could accidentally fall into the toilet.
- Make Your Faucets Sparkle
A cleaned faucet looks great for a guest to use, but if you clean away a buildup of soap scum and other debris, it will flow better too. The aerators can be removed and cleaned to make sure that there isn’t any foreign material leaching into the water. For really sparkling faucets, spray them with vinegar and then wipe away and buff them up with a soft cloth. Always avoid mixing vinegar with chlorine bleach or ammonia based products as this could produce a toxic gas that’s dangerous to breathe.
- Prepare the Garbage Disposal
A big part of the holiday entertaining is the food that you will prepare, eat and then the leftovers that need to be disposed of. A garbage disposal unit is a godsend in these situations, but it needs to be used correctly if you want to avoid a blockage. Materials, such as coffee grinds, carrot peels, celery stalks, cheese, meat, potato peelings, and fruit pits, should go in the trash. These items are prone to creating blockages and forming clogs, and your garbage disposal unit will work better without them.
- Keep Grease and Oil Out of the Drain
Many people dispose of their grease and oil by simply pouring them into the sink. This is a very bad idea; fatty materials like this are extremely prone to causing a blockage in your drain or further down into the pipes. It’s a better idea to set aside an old coffee can or plastic bottle and place these materials in there instead. Then you can dispose of them in a more environmentally friendly way at a recycling area that has an oil disposal bin. It’s also worth mentioning that some cooking oil can even be recycled at home and used again. Simply let the oil cool, strain it through some kitchen paper and store it in an appropriate container until you’re ready to cook with it again.
- Fit Mesh Sink Strainers
If you’re going to be doing some hand washing after cooking or you’re having guests staying overnight and using bathrooms get some mesh sink strainers. These are a cheap and easy way to stop unwanted materials from finding their way into your drains. Fit them in the kitchen sink, bathroom sinks, shower stalls and in the tubs. In the kitchen, they will prevent food debris from getting into the drain where they can become trapped and form clogs. In the bathroom, a sink strainer will stop hair and debris form combining with soap to form soap scum clogs. Blockages and clogs can be hard to remove manually if the go further into the pipes. Avoiding them forming in the first place is the best way to keep your drains clear and ready for use.
If you have any problems removing a stubborn clog or you need to get your garbage disposal ready for the holiday, contact a local professional plumber
for expert help.
By Giovanni Longo President Flood Brothers Plumbing
Giovanni Longo is a 3rd generation master plumber who has been practicing his craft and trade in the greater Los Angeles area for well over a decade and a half. A plumbing and hydraulics-engineering innovator, Giovanni’s particular world-class expertise focuses on dealing with challenging sewer system designs as well as resolving complex commercial and residential draining issues. As a certified Flood Mitigation expert, he is also well versed in a wide variety of water damage and remediation solution.