It makes sense that the parts of our plumbing system we use the most have more frequent repair issues. Thankfully, these repair issues are relatively easy to fix. Here are some common frustrations in the home and how to handle them.

Clogged drains. Sometimes clogs are caused by single events like little Junior trying to flush his Captain America action figure down the toilet. Yet most clogs are created slowly over time. The hair, soap scum and oils that collect in shower and sink drains, for example. Some preventive measures can keep clogs at bay.

First, pull the sink stoppers. With your fingers, or a needle nose pliers if necessary, pull out the hair and gunk that has accumulated. Replace the stopper, close it and fill the sink one third with water. Plugging the overflow with a wash cloth, use a plunger to rapidly create suction in the drain. This will open up the drain.

If it’s a shower drain, remove the strainer at the bottom of the shower and take the same steps there. Drains can also be kept cleaner if once a month you slowly pour boiling water down the drain. It loosens and washes out the gunk. NOTE: Do NOT ever pour boiling water into a toilet to clear a clog. Most toilets are made of porcelain and are naturally cool to the touch. Boiling water can crack porcelain, creating leaks and a much more expensive problem.

Clogged toilets. Years ago I read a newspaper article about two parents who were preparing to present their child with a bill for over $10,000 when he turned 18. It was for damages he caused as a toddler via his fascination with trying to flush anything and everything down the toilet. As a 2-year old, he was quite good at it and they got to know the local plumbers very well.

Here’s where the simple tool that is the plunger is your good friend. Simple in its physics, the plunger creates a seal against the porcelain bowl. The up and down motion on the handle creates suction and forces the clog down and out into the sewer system. Of course, before doing this do a visual inspection to see if the object (like Captain America) can be removed. In some cases, plunging may make the clog worse. Make sure only toilet paper gets flushed. No paper towels or feminine hygiene products.

Garbage disposals. We like to think they will “eat anything”. No doubt people have certainly fed their disposals just about everything. Yet to keep yours healthy, don’t feed it celery or any other stringy, fibrous foods. Also, any pasta or rice that you are disposing of it’s best to put them in the trash and not your disposal. Rice, for example, can expand in the drain potentially creating another clog.

Sometimes you’ll go to flip the switch on your hungry monster and the familiar “whirrrrr” sound is absent. As in “nothing is happening”. Before you get mad and start digging around with a fork or whatever tool is handy, do this. Open up the door under your sink. Run your fingers around the bottom (or for some models, the top) of the disposal unit. You’ll feel a small button. A flashlight and a look will tell you the button is red. Push the button and then try the power switch again. 9 times out of 10, your disposal will fire right up. The reset button is magic!

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