Plumbing FAQ | Plumbing Tips for Thanksgiving & Holidays

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Posted June 1, 2017

While everyone else is busy snagging deals on Black Friday, plumbers across the country will be working overtime. This is because Thanksgiving causes more plumbing problems than any other day of the year, prompting many day-after calls to the plumber. In the industry, we sometimes refer to Black Friday as “Brown Friday.”

If you want to avoid an expensive and inconvenient call to the plumber, don’t host Thanksgiving. But if that’s out of the question, here are answers to frequently asked plumbing questions that will get you through the holiday season safe (from plumbing problems at least):

Plumbing Tips & FAQ:

Q1: How do I prevent garbage disposal clogs?

A1: You can prevent garbage disposal clogs by watching the quantity the substance of the things that go down your drain. The term “garbage disposal” is misleading because it is most certainly not a garbage.

While some manufacturers may make claims to the contrary, garbage disposals are vulnerable to many objects. Be careful what goes down your garbage disposal this Thanksgiving.

Do NOT Put These Items Down the Garbage Disposal

  • Glass, metal, plastic, and paper
  • Grease, oils, fats, and cheeses
  • String vegetables (celery, corn husks, onion skins, etc.)
  • Starchy foods (pasta, rice, anything that expands when wet)
  • Large bones, pits, and seeds (small sardine bones are fine, but anything larger should be avoided)
  • Coffee grounds and egg shells (over time, these items will clog your disposal unit)
  • Excessive amounts of anything

Learn more about how to clean, maintain, and repair garbage disposals.


Q2: My garbage disposal smells? How can I clean it?

A2: Garbage disposal units are prone to waste buildup and odors. Follow these steps to clean and deodorize your garbage disposal unit (complete each step in order):

  • Use ice and citrus wedges. Many garbage disposal odors can be eliminated with some ice and citrus. Simply throw a couple ice cubes and a wedge or two of lime or lemon to quickly deodorize your unit.
  • Try baking soda and vinegar. Remember those science project volcanoes you made as a kid? The same ingredients are called for here. Pour about a half cup of baking soda into your disposal. Follow with a cup of vinegar and let the mixture sit for 20 minutes. The chemical reaction kills bacteria and helps maintain your unit without any toxic chemicals. During these 20 minutes, get out an old toothbrush and start scrubbing.
  • Use an old toothbrush. One of the main reasons why your garbage disposal might smell is a buildup of food inside the flap of the rubber splash guard. First, turn off power to the disposal at its source (there is a power switch on the garbage disposal unit). Next, take an old toothbrush and some dish soap and begin scrubbing the inside of the splash guard. Make sure you scrub down the inside and outside of the rubber flap.
  • Fill the sink with water and dish soap and let it drain with the garbage disposal on. After you have used ice and citrus, and cleaned the splash guard while the baking soda and vinegar sits, fill the sink with water. Once the sink is full to around the ¾ mark, mix in a small amount of dish soap and then remove the plug. As the water runs down, turn on the garbage disposal unit. Let the disposal run until all the water drains.
  • Periodically grind a lemon or lime wedge and some ice to keep your garbage disposal smelling citrusy. Learn more about how to clean, maintain, and repair garbage disposals. 

Q3: What can I do if my water is too hot?

A3: Your water temperature setting is located on your hot water heater. Most water heater manufactures set their water heaters to a default 140°F, but this is often too hot for most households.

We recommend turning your water heater temperature down to 120°F to avoid scalding water. Not only will you reduce your energy bill, but a lower temperature will also prevent mineral buildup and corrosion in your tank. The temperature dial may be located behind a panel.

Watch this video from the U.S. Department of Energy for step-by-step instructions on lowering your water heater temperature:

Click here for more water heating tips. or Click here if you have no hot water.

Q4: How can I stop my toilet from running?

A4: If you have a running toilet, you are wasting around 200 gallons of water every day! Most toilet leaks can be attributed to blocked, worn-out, or ill-fitting toilet flappers.

Open up the lid of your tank to see if your flapper is creating a seal. If the chain simply got caught on something, or the flapper failed to close, you can make a quick adjustment to fix the running toilet. If the flapper is down all of the way, but there is still a leak, you probably have to replace the flapper and/or flush valve seat.

Make sure you find an exact match. If you can’t find the specific make and model for your toilet, then a “universal” model should work fine.

Watch this video for instructions on how to fix a running toilet:

Q5: How do I unclog a toilet?

A5: Nothing gets our stress response going quite like clogging a toilet at someone else’s home. Whether you are a host or a guest, a clogged toilet can become a messy and embarrassing experience.

Here are some tips for unclogging a toilet:

  1. Don’t flush again! If the water continues to rise, lift the lid off of the tank and make sure the flapper is completely closed. Once the water has stopped running move on to step 2.
  2. If you have some room in the toilet bowl to add some water, it’s recommended that you pour in some warm soapy water to help break up the clog. Let it sit for a few minutes. If there is a risk of overflowing, skip this step.
  3. Find a plunger. Run some hot water over the rubber end of the plunger to create a more flexible seal.
  4. Be careful when plunging. Do not use excessive force. Gently place the rubber end over the toilet bowl hole. Make sure the rubber part is fully submerged in water. If there is not enough water, add some soapy water before you begin plunging. The plunging effect uses the force of water to clear the clog.
  5. Once the plunger is fully submerged, start pulling up and down a few times without breaking the seal.
  6. When the clog is bad, you may need a more effective tool, such as a toilet auger.
  7. When all else fails, call your local plumber.

Q6: How can I prevent toilet clogs

A6: The best way to avoid toilet clogs is by watching what goes down your toilet. The only things that should be flushed down a toilet are toilet paper and human waste. Wet, wipes, feminine hygiene products, cleaning pads, cotton balls, Q-tips, Band-Aids, floss, hair, diapers, pills, paper towels, cigarette butts, and anything else should go in the garbage.

If you are having guests over, we recommend removing these items from the bathroom to avoid the temptation. Wet wipes are useful, but can wreak havoc on toilets, septic tanks, and sewage systems. Throw them in the garbage.

Prevent toilet clogs by teaching your household what can and cannot go down the toilet. If you prefer thick toilet paper, remember that you don’t need as much as thinner toilet paper. Only use as much as you need.

If necessary, flush as you go. While multiple flushes use more water, sometimes it’s better to be safe than sorry. As a guest, it’s a good practice to flush once (or twice) as you go to reduce odors and prevent toilet clogs. This is known as a “courtesy flush” for obvious reasons.


Click here for more tips on preventing toilet clogs.

Q7: How do I unclog a bathroom sink?

A7: Your bathroom sink takes forever to drain. What do you do? While it won’t be pleasant, it is quite easy to unclog a bathroom sink by yourself.

While there are some nontoxic drain cleaning methods, such as baking soda and salt, boiling water, and wet/dry vacuums, the best way is probably with an old wire hanger. This requires a little more time and effort, but if you don’t have a powerful wet/dry vac, it’s the only way to truly get rid of your clog.

Click here for instructions on how to unclog your bathroom sink.

Q8: Why is water coming up through my shower drains when I flush the toilet or use the washing machine?

A8: It is never a good sign if you see water rising up in shower drains. Most likely, you have a problem with your main water line. This could mean a septic tank that needs to be pumped, a sewer line that have broken, or a main plumbing line that is clogged. Call a plumber to fix this problem as soon as you can.

Q9: Why is my plumbing system making strange noises? 

A9: In order to fix weird sounds coming from your plumbing system, find the main water main and turn it off. Then, go around you home and open all of the taps. Go back to the water main and turn on the water. Water should be flowing from all of your opened taps. Turn off each of the taps.

If this hasn’t fixed the air pressure problem in your pipes, call a plumber for further assistance.

Hopefully, these plumbing questions and answers will keep you from having to call a plumber anytime soon. On the other hand, it is always a good idea to schedule a professional plumbing inspection every year to find and solve problems before they turn into emergencies.

Call your local plumber for a full plumbing inspection before Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season. This will help you enjoy your time with friends and family and avoid costly and inconvenient plumbing problems.

Q10: How do I turn off my home’s water supply?

A10: There are many different water shut-off valves around the home, in addition to your main water shut-off valve near your water meter.

If you detect frozen pipes in the home, turn off the water supply immediately and wait until the ice has thawed completely before turning it back on again. Frozen pipes can cause cracks and lots of water damage.

Click here for step-by-step instructions on how to find and turn off all of your water shut-off valves.


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