Picture this: It’s a holiday, and you have a house full of family and friends when the unthinkable happens, or in this case, the unsinkable happens; a drain backs up, creating a mess and putting a damper on the holiday festivities. The culprit drain could be the kitchen sink, bathroom sink, tub, shower or toilet. No need to panic. Take a deep breath and call a professional, licensed plumber.
You don’t need to let that picture become a reality. To prevent such a situation, Rosie on the House certified partner Day and Night Air Conditioning Heating and Plumbing’s Lisa Sandoval and Jeff Carmichael offer the following advice.
At least a week before your guests arrive, test all of the drains in your house, including the sinks, showers, tubs and toilets you don’t typically use such as the guest bathroom. Also, check the drain with a connected garbage disposal. Important: Before you put your hand or any cleaning device in the garbage disposal drain, unplug the disposal from the outlet it is plugged into under the sink.
Fill, flush and watch
Fill each sink halfway, and the bathtubs just a few inches. Then drain them (flush the toilets). Watch for the little whirlpool to form as the water drains. If that doesn’t appear and the draining is slow, there may be an issue.
Carmichael pointed out that if a particular drain has been plugged up in the last year and a permanent solution has not been made, that drain could be the culprit. A bandage or non-permanent solution would be simply having that drain unplugged. But the clog could come back because the problem may reside in the sewer line itself. In that case, the permanent fix is a replacement of the line.
The key to keeping everything functioning properly in your home is maintenance. Plumbing is no different.
Should there be a slow drain in the shower, remove the drain cap, and clear the drain of hair and soap buildup. Wear gloves because this is a slimy task. Don’t use hard, inflexible cleaning devices because they may break the drainpipe. Plumbing snakes are the best tool to get the job done.
Sink drains that are slow or blocked can be cleaned. Carmichael, Sandoval and Rosie agree that chemical drain cleaners are a big no-no. There are organic enzyme cleaners that work quite well such as The BioPros Drain Cleaner. They tend to be a little pricier, but the savings to the environment and your plumbing is worth the investment. Use a home-based drain cleaner by pouring half a cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by half a cup of regular white vinegar. Let the mixture sit for about an hour, and then pour a pot of boiling water down the drain.
If you are handy and can reach under the sink, remove the drain trap and clean the pipes directly.
Garbage disposals need to be cleaned once a month. Baking soda, vinegar and water are good cleaning agents. Anything acidic may hasten the deterioration of the grinding blades. Again, unplug the disposal before doing any cleaning or maintenance.
Perhaps the most important preventative measure is how you use the disposal. What you put down the disposal is very important. Never put pasta, coffee grinds, grease, eggshells, fruit pits, potato peels or large food items that expand. The garbage disposal is not an alternative to the trash bin. The disposal is designed to take small bits of food items scraped off the plate.
If the toilet is slow to drain, plunge it. Use a plunger with a bell-shaped rubber end around the opening at the bottom of the bowl. Don’t let any water penetrate the seal as you plunge down and up.
If the plunger doesn’t work, you might need to use a snake or auger, which you find at the hardware store. If that does not fix the problem, Carmichael says you might have a sewer line problem. In that case, the best course of action is to call a plumber who has a camera they can send down the sewer line to determine the obstruction. This will identify the real problem, and then a solution can be applied. Rooting out the line might only be a temporary bandage and not solve what is most likely going to be a reoccurring problem. Talk to the plumber about the best course of action.
Once you have taken the steps to prevent a calamity, regale your guests with your culinary skills and charm them with your holiday decoration talents. Should the unthinkable happen, contact a Rosie-Certified plumber (rosieonthehouse.com/search-partner). If one is not in your area, find one who will not charge an “emergency fee” and is licensed by the Arizona Registrar of Contractors.
An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert since 1988, Rosie Romero is the host of the syndicated Saturday morning Rosie on the House radio broadcast, heard locally from 10 to 11 a.m. on KNST (790-AM) in Tucson and from 8 to 11 a.m. on KGVY (1080-AM) and (100.7-FM) in Green Valley.
Discover the joys of gardening in the Sonoran Desert
Sign up for our Tucson Garden Guide newsletter and get helpful desert gardening info sent to your inbox twice a month