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5 Things I Wish I’d Known About Plumbing

Hey, y’all!  Sorry for the long absence; we’ve been battling bathroom plumbing issues the past week and tried to get a handle on them over the weekend.  Honestly, it’s been a long-time coming.  Our house is about 40-45 years old, and the previous owners did a rough job of “doctoring” the problems rather than properly fix them.  Nothing serious, but definitely a pain in the gluteus maximus.  One big problem we’ve been dealing with, especially recently, has been the bathroom plumbing.  None of it was installed correctly and totally half-assed.  The existing piping, according to our plumber, is likely as old as the house.  We decided to go ahead and get an estimate on what it would cost to re-pipe the entire house and, surprisingly, it isn’t awful.  Granted, we live in a small 1,350 sqft home.  Hopefully soon that will all be changed out, however, and we’re anticipating that the new works will at least slightly increase our home value.

Anyway, prior to calling a plumber my husband, dad, and I attempted to flush out the situation to attempt to save some cash.  I’m not currently working, so we’re on a pretty tight budget.  But, as luck almost always has it, we wound up spending twice as much on plumbing “band-aids” than we did on an actual plumber coming to fix our toilet disaster.  Lesson learned, ladies.  Occasionally, you may get lucky and be able to plunge or Drano the problem away.  But always, always, always stop after $30.  If thirty bucks ain’t solving shit, then an additional $20, $40, or $60 won’t, either.  HEED MY WARNING.  You are speaking to the queen of frugality, y’all.  When it comes to plumbing, tread lightly.  Which brings me to what I’m driving at today:

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1) Never, under any circumstances, pour grease down a drain.  This includes any type of grease and all drain types.  The damage won’t be instantaneous, but over time the fat and grease deposits collect and clog your system.  This can leave you with an overflow of sewage in your house.  Believe me, you don’t want that.  It may take 5, 10, or 15 years, but it’ll happen and it can be an expensive fix depending on whether you’re on septic tank or city sewage.  Don’t chance it.

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  • What to do instead: use a container (I use old detergent bottles) to catch the grease and a funnel (if necessary) to help direct it.  Wipe out any residue with a paper towel.  If any grease does get down the drain, pour some detergent that breaks down grease and hot water down the pipes to help further knock out the deposits.  Which brings me to….

2) Use a tough detergent.  Realistically, you can’t keep all the grease from escaping a pan or plate and going down the sink.  It’s gonna happen.  But, you can use a high-quality, non-store brand to help the eliminate any problems.  Again, I’m the Frugality Queen and I use a ton of store brand items, but dish detergent ain’t one of them.  I’ve even stopped using store brand and/or cheap laundry detergent due to the weird build-up they leave on my washer.  If it’s going down your plumbin’, make sure it’s properly suddin’.  You want your pipes as close to grime-free as possible.
3) On the opposite end of the toughness spectrum, you want to use something that easily degrades in the TP department.  Now listen, y’all.  I don’t mean use TP that don’t hold to blowing your nose, but it is SO important that you flush stuff that won’t clog or slowly disintegrate.  Our plumber recommends Scott or Angel Soft.  I’m not affiliated with either of those brands in a marketing sense, but I can tell you from experience that Angel Soft is where it’s at as far as being durable enough for a wipe but easily breaks down for pipes.  If you don’t use either of those brands, then be sure to follow-up monthly with toilet or plumbing enzymes such as Roto-Rooter.  In fact, Roto-Rooter has a toilet safe formula that is okay for those particular pipes.

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4) Invest in a good plumbing upkeep schedule.  Honest to God, this has really helped us keep BIG problems at bay.  There are all kinds of products that you can use to help things flowing well.  INVEST, INVEST, INVEST.  That bottle of Roto Rooter or Drano may cost $15, but fifteen bucks is a far cry from $1,500.  Again, been there — done that.  Looking for more of a green clean?  Check out Grove Collaborative for those options!
5) When in doubt, don’t flush it.  I’m not always 100% sold on “flushable” wet wipes and, as it turns out, neither are most plumbers.  Obviously you don’t want to stick other hygiene products, toys, etc., in the toilet, but sometimes crap happens.  You want to be prepared for the inevitable — especially if you have children or if you keep little incidentals around the facilities.  Lemme fill you in on a secret, guys: while it’s always good to have a normal vacuum, it’s also awesome to have a wet/dry ShopVac.  “What does this have to do with plumbing, Sarah?”  Well, I’ll tell you.  Having a ShopVac is freaking great for spills and floods.  Guess what it’s also good for?  Getting close-proximity clogs out of toilets.  Toys, stuck wet wipes, you name it — if it’s stuck within reach of an attached nozzle, you’re golden.  It’ll suck the lost item right out of there, no plumber needed.  BE CAREFUL not to push down on the object — you want the nozzle just close enough to pull whatever is stuck, out.  Bonus points: most ShopVacs have a reverse option.  Go outside or to a bathtub and let the vacuum do the rest (if using a tub make sure to have a drain catch installed so the object doesn’t relodge into another pipe).

Plumbing work is no fun and cleaning up water back-up is a nightmare.  Hopefully these five tips help you to have a better experience, whether you rent or own!

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Do you have any helpful plumbing tips?  Jot ’em down in the comments below!  I’m always game to add to my home-owner hack arsenal!