Home plumbing 101


One of the strangest images we’re likely to remember about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic happened right at the start when we were forced into lockdowns: the long lines of people at supermarkets and drugstores hoarding toilet paper. We discovered that we had a very intimate relationship with our toilets.

 

Perhaps then unsurprisingly over the last year, as we’ve stayed sheltered at home a lot more, our plumbing has come under, um, more pressure than ever, both from overuse as well as from no-nos like flushing disinfectant wipes down the toilet.

 

That got our Shop Talk team wondering: what are the best ways to ensure our pipes and plumbing stay in tip top shape during the pandemic and beyond?

 

#1 The three Ps

 

When it comes to what goes down your toilet, always follow the three Ps — only poop, pee and toilet paper. Feminine hygiene products, paper towels, napkins and disinfectant wipes are all definitely not good ideas. You don’t want it to back up and overflow. In fact, if your plumbing system becomes so impacted that the line breaks or has to be replaced, it can cost tens of thousands of dollars that’s usually not covered by insurance.

 

#2 Beware of drop-in toilet cleaners

 

Drop-in cleaners may keep your toilet bowl clean in the short term, but over time, overuse of cleaner chemicals can damage the flush valve, flapper and other parts in the water tank and, for some toilets, using drop-in cleaners may void your warranty.

 

#3 Not down the drain

 

In the kitchen, it’s a good idea to use a strainer over the drain to catch big chunks of food — like rice, vegetables and coffee grains — then empty these deposits into your compost bin or garbage. The same goes for grease from frying or baking foods — never drip these down the drain, where they can congeal and clog your pipes over time. Let the grease cool until it solidifies, then wipe it away with a paper towel and discard. If your drain does get blocked, try this method: pour 1 cup baking soda in the drain, followed by 2 cups white vinegar. Wait 15 minutes, then pour 4 cups or more of boiling water.

 

#4 Check your hoses

 

The rubber hoses that connect your washing machine and dishwasher to the plumbing can dry out and become brittle over time. Inspect them every six months or so and replace any hoses or connections that are bulging or leaking.

 

#5 Freezing pipes

 

Turning off the heat when you’re not at home can save on energy costs but if the heat is too low when the temperature drops in winter, exposed pipes can freeze over and burst. You’re better off leaving your heat on low in cold weather when you’re away.

 

#6 Find your shutoff valve

 

Quickly shutting off your home’s water can save you a lot of money and headaches during a flood or if a toilet backs up. Make sure you and everyone in your family knows where the shutoff valve is located and how to turn it off fast.

 

Got plumbing tips of your own? We’d love to hear from you. Please share them with Shop Talk blog community members.

 

Did you know: Which way do you roll?

 

Three out of four people prefer that a toilet roll unrolls from the top rather than the bottom. How about you? (Source)

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