Plumbing Problems Prevented: How to Maintain Drains and Fixtures

Think about everything your plumbing system does for you: It brings clean water in, takes dirty water out, provides a hot shower at the end of a long day, and gives you potable water with the twist of a handle. You owe it to yourself to keep it in good working order.

While your pipes and drains are sturdy, certain bad habits and neglect will take their toll. Many plumbing problems can be prevented by being more cautious about what you put down your drains and giving your pipes and fixtures a little TLC.

Here’s how to keep your water running freely.

Careful What You Flush

Your toilet is designed to flush two things and two things only: Waste and toilet paper. Flushing anything else is risky.

Think twice before putting any of the following in your toilet:

  • Q-tips

  • Cotton balls

  • Feminine hygiene products

  • Floss

These items belong in the trash, not your drain. And be wary of anything advertised as “flushable.”

A ‘Flushable’ Fallacy

The packaging can scream “Flushable!” all it wants, but that doesn’t necessarily make it true. Products such as kitty litter and wet wipes make bold claims such as being biodegradable, therefore, flushable. However, these things can make a real mess of your plumbing, especially if you have a septic system.

Flushable wipes: They’re only technically flushable. They’ll go down your toilet but cause problems farther down the line. Wet wipes get tangled up when they hit a 45-degree elbow within the drain pipe. And because they don’t dissolve like toilet paper, they’ll pile up within the pipe, creating a stubborn obstruction. Even if they manage to slip through your drain, they’ll be a nightmare for the wastewater treatment plant.

Flushable wipes won’t break down in your septic system, either, contributing to the solid matter in the tank. As a result, you’ll have to pump your tank more frequently.

Flushable kitty litter: It’s advertised as a convenient alternative to conventional clay littler, but the flushable variety still poses problems. For one, some flushable kitty litters aren’t compatible with a septic system. For another, many toilets today are low flow, meaning they use 2.5 gallons of water per flush or less. That’s not enough oomph to push clumps of litter through the drain. And if the litter isn’t the problem, then the cat feces are. Litter absorbs moisture from the feces, making them hard little objects that can cause clogs.

Respect Your Garbage Disposal

The in-sink garbage disposal is a convenient appliance, able to pulverize soft organic material in an instant. As tough as it is, however, it has its limitations. Certain foods are an absolute no-go for your disposal. These include:

Bones: They can damage the blades. Even if they make it through the impellers, bone fragments can wreak havoc on your plumbing.

Fibrous vegetables: Celery and corn husks have stringy fibers that can jam up the works.

Starches: Pasta, potato salads, and the like expand in water, creating a sludgy mess in your drain.

Coffee grounds: They don’t dissolve and will build up in your plumbing system over time.

Keep Drains Clean with Vinegar and Baking Soda

When it comes to preventative maintenance, count on this potent combination. Vinegar and baking soda create a fizzy chemical reaction that helps purge your pipes of scummy build-up and even clear small clogs.

  • Pour ½ to 1 cup of each into a drain

  • Cover the drain

  • Wait for 5 to 10 minutes

  • Pour a pot of boiling water to remove any remaining particles

Do this periodically to keep your drains running clear. However, if slow or clogged drains are a recurring problem, schedule a professional drain cleaning.

Remove Showerhead Build-up

Hard-water deposits on your showerhead impede flow and put a real damper on your daily soak. Fortunately, it’s easy to restore your showerhead to like-new condition:

  • Fill a plastic partway with white vinegar

  • Fasten the bag over the showerhead with a string, making sure that the fixture is fully submerged

  • Let the showerhead soak for several hours (Caveat: If the fixture is brass, gold or nickel-coated, remove the bag after 30 minutes so as not to damage the finish)

  • Remove the bag and turn on the shower to rinse off any remaining particles

Avert Disaster

All of the above tips will go a long way toward maintaining your plumbing’s functionality, but even the most well-maintained system isn’t immune to sudden leaks.

Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for a spike in your water bill or apparent water damage to realize you have a leaking pipe. FLO by Moen is a smart water security system that monitors your plumbing system for leaks a small as one drop per minute. When it detects a leak, this device will automatically send you an alert and shut off the water supply to your house, preventing further damage.

Bottom line: Keeping your drains clear and fixtures in good working order takes a bit of routine maintenance and knowing your plumbing system’s limitations. If you need a repair or suspect something is wrong, turn to the pros at Plumb Doctor. Our trained and experienced plumbing contractors can find and fix everything from foundation leaks to damaged gas lines. Call us today at (770) 293-7080 for a thorough inspection of your plumbing system.