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The Best Ways to Ruin Your Home’s Plumbing

As your Culpeper-area plumber, we typically like to offer preventive maintenance tips and do-it-yourself tricks on our blog. This time, we’re going the opposite direction: We’re going to share some DON’T tips. To be honest, we’ve seen too many homeowners make big mistakes that cost big bucks to fix, and we don’t want to see that happen to you. So, in that spirit, let’s cover-off on the best ways to ruin your home’s plumbing.

Best Way to Ruin Your Plumbing #1: Misuse Your Garbage Disposal

First of all, “garbage” disposal is a terrible name for this appliance. “Food waste” disposal would be a better option. “Food waste that’s not stringy, starchy, or greasy” disposal would be even better. Unless you’re interested in wrecking your disposal and/or creating a massive jam in your kitchen pipes, stop misusing your garbage disposal. Here are some specific don’ts:

  1. Don’t shove food down your drain and then turn on the disposal. That’s the exact wrong order. Instead, turn on the water, turn on the disposal, then carefully push scraps in—with something other than your hand, please. When you’re finished, turn off the disposal and let the water run for a few seconds to push any remaining bits down the pipe.
  2. Don’t use hot water. Hot water can melt what you’re attempting to grind, which then coats your pipes with all matter of goo and makes it more difficult to scraps to make it all the way through.
  3. Don’t try to grind large pieces of food. Cut everything into small chunks before sending it down the drain.

Best Way to Ruin Your Plumbing #2: Flush Non-Flushables

You wouldn’t believe the things we’ve fished out of sewer lines. Sure, accidents happen—particularly in homes with small, curious children. But these things were no accident; these homeowners actually used their toilet as a trash can. If you’re hoping to overflow your toilet and flood your basement, then be our guest: put your leftover dinner down the john. Or if you’re hoping for a sewer backup because you’ve missed talking with your insurance agent, use paper towels instead of toilet paper. Otherwise, the only things that belong in your toilet (other than the obvious) are water and toilet paper. No cotton swabs. No feminine products. And no chemicals. (Keep reading.)

Best Way to Ruin Your Plumbing #3: Use Drain Cleaner

When your sink or toilet clogs up, we know it’s tempting to reach for the drain cleaner. But if you have a major clog that the drain cleaner doesn’t resolve, those chemicals will just sit there, corroding your pipes. It also creates a hazardous situation for our service techs if you end up needing help. If you choose to use the stuff, use it preventively only—and flush plenty of water down the drain afterward to make sure there’s no residue left in your pipes. Here are some alternatives to try instead of using harsh chemicals:

  • Use a drain snake or bend a wire hanger into a hook and see what you can pull up.
  • Mix equal parts vinegar and baking soda, and pour it down the drain. Cover the opening with a damp washcloth, and allow it to steep for at least an hour. Then rinse with hot water. You can also use equal parts salt and baking soda; after letting the mixture soak in the drain for 20 minutes, carefully rinse with boiling water.
  • Clean the trap—the u- or s-shaped pipe under your sink. Put a basin or bucket underneath it to capture any water that comes out, unscrew the trap, turn it upside down to remove any gook, and give it a quick scrub with an old toothbrush. Be sure to replace it when you’re finished; that little pipe makes sure toxic sewer gases don’t escape into your home.

Best Way to Ruin Your Plumbing #4: Leave Your Hose Connected in Freezing Weather

If you’re in a cold climate and your garden hoses are still connected to your hose bibb (outdoor faucet), stop reading, go outside, and fix that. By not disconnecting your hose, you risk freezing the faucet and the pipe it’s connected to. That can lead to burst pipes and flooding.

Best Way to Ruin Your Plumbing #5: Home Decor Projects Gone Bad

Before you drive a nail in the wall or cut through your drywall to create a built-in bookcase, take a moment to determine if there’s a pipe running behind that drywall.

Best Way to Ruin Your Plumbing #6: DIY When You Totally Shouldn’t DIY

Some projects are just better left up to a professional. Take, for example, sweating pipes. It might look totally do-able on YouTube, but this task isn’t for the faint of heart. At the very least, you’ll waste a bunch of time trying to get it right and/or you’ll worry that you didn’t.

If you’re wearing a sheepish grin right now because you’ve actually made some of these mistakes, you’re not alone. Plenty of Culpeper homeowners are right there with you. Fortunately, we’re here to help! Give us call today for assistance with any plumbing problems you’re having—even the self-inflicted ones.