6 Bad Plumbing Habits and 6 Good Ones to Replace Them

June 07, 2024

We all remember it from school. We remember things like reciprocal fractions or how for every action there is an equal, opposite reaction. For every bad habit to lose, there is a good habit to pick up in its place. That’s true with plumbing. There are lots of bad habits that can keep a plumbing system from working at it’s best. There are lots of good habits that help it along. Here are a few of each.

1. Plumbing Bad Habit: Believing any packaging that calls something “flushable.”

Almost nothing is flushable, whether it says so or not. Baby wipes and similarly made products for removing makeup are especially dreadful culprits. Anecdotally, we have even heard of people disposing of cooking grease by flushing it. (See the next bad habit for more on grease.) There is one flushable paper object. Leave the rest out of the bowl. Baby wipes, paper towels and so on do not degrade as easily as that one paper product that actually belongs there. They may go down the drain out of sight, and they may even move gradually through the plumbing system, but they can build up and create blockages beyond where a plunger can do any good. Don’t put yourself through that for the sake of believing “flushable” might actually be what it says.

Instead: A small wastebasket, regularly emptied into the big garbage can that goes out to the curb is a couple of minutes of light work that spares you days of inconvenience and expense down the road.

2. Plumbing Bad Habit: Getting rid of cooking grease by dumping it down the kitchen sink.

People are eating less fried food today than in the past, but it doesn’t take a lot of grease to cause problems. Grease congeals quickly at room temperature. It congeals even faster in the pipe under the sink. You may run enough hot water to get the grease past the trap before it congeals. Inevitably, it collects somewhere in the drain system. Just like things that aren’t flushable, that grease can get past the first couple of hurdles only to build up and cause problems where it is even harder to reach.

Instead: Do what Grandma did. Our grandmothers knew what to do with grease. They emptied it out of the skillet into an empty coffee can, and whatever didn’t go to fry something else for the next meal got chucked in the trash, can and all. Keep that empty tin can handy for the grease and spare yourself plumbing headaches later.

3. Plumbing Bad Habit: Using chemicals for a quick fix.

The temptation is too easy. There’s a clog (maybe from not-really-flushable products or from the extra bacon grease left over after breakfast), and there is a handy bottle of harsh, thick Clog-Be-Gone. That’s not the match it sounds like.

The chemical you buy at the hardware store may dilute the clog enough to let water drain, but (just like the other problems we’ve already discussed) it may only be rearranging the clog so it can build up farther down the line in another, harder to get to, place. The Clog-Be-Gone doesn’t work anymore, so some reach for the industrial strength version. The robust, industrial version may be rough on clogs. It is definitely too rough for residential pipes. If you didn’t have to call a plumber after using that quick fix, you may still have hastened your next call to a plumber for a much more involved fix to fix the problems caused by too many quick fixes.

Instead: Dig out your wrench. Take off the trap. Tackle the problem in a way that would make Dad or Grandad proud. If that still doesn’t allow drainage, depending on your own skills and available time, maybe a call to your plumber is in order.

4. Plumbing Bad Habit: Not knowing what to watch (or listen) for.

Plumbing will communicate with you. It will tell you and show you when something is wrong before it goes really wrong. Noticing small problems and dealing with them swiftly helps prevent bigger problems. No leak ever got smaller on its own. No drain clog ever got smaller without help just like no car ever suddenly had more gas or higher oil pressure. Notice the little things. Is a drain running more slowly all of a sudden? Is there puddling around the toilet? Around other fixtures? Is the system making different sounds than before?

Instead: Think of the small problems as the effects of other, more advanced problems. Odd behaviors and strange noises can be a diagnostic tool. They can tell you where and what the problem is if you listen. If you don’t know what they are telling you, summon a plumber to translate.

5. Plumbing Bad Habit: Not calling a professional.

There is always the temptation to fix something that looks simple or straightforward. Lots of people have lots of different basic skills. Some can tackle a few household repairs on an otherwise dull afternoon. It’s great if you can. It’s ok if you can’t. It’s ok if you try but realize you have taken on too much.

Instead: When your skills and tools aren’t enough for the job, call on a professional to sort it out. Use our expertise to your advantage. It’s ok to go back to all the other things you are really good at doing while a professional plumber sorts out what’s wrong with the pipes.

Whatever you do for a living (or did, if you are retired) we’ll bet you’re good at it. Whether you are a librarian, a financial planner, a farmer, a musician or any one of thousands of other vocations, you have professional expertise, and you know expertise matters. That’s true of your expertise and ours.

6. Plumbing Bad Habit: Not knowing where the main water shut off valve is.

Really. This one is big! If you don’t know where your main water shut off is, as soon as you close this tab, go find it. If ever you have a burst pipe, the first thing you’ll want to do is use that valve to shut off the water to the house. Being able to turn it off will save you additional water damage, hours of clean up and possibly spare you from related problems like mold or even structural damage.

Instead: Did you go find it? Good. You just undid what every plumber says is the worst, most common bad plumbing habit. You’re on your way to undoing any or all of the others. We’re happy to help along the way.

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