Drain Clog Prevention
Drain Clog Prevention
The inspiration for this column came from two different friends of mine who live in Los Angeles (LA), California yet don’t know each other, but do know that I’ve been a master plumber since 1981. One was my best friend Steve who asked me about a mailer he received from a local plumber advertising a high-pressure drain-cleaning service.
The other friend is Alex, a contractor, who tunes into my new live streaming video each M-F. He sent me a photo of a clogged 2-inch kitchen drain stack and this comment, "I have a client that kept snaking their drains and was reluctant to change out the pipe. He wanted to know why he had to call a plumber to come out each month. I looked at years of plumbing bills and told him, ‘Congratulations, you put this fine plumber’s child through college.’ "
The photo Alex sent me showed the stack completely clogged with gross black organic debris. No wonder the pipe had to be snaked each month to get the sink to drain. All of this misery and expense is preventable not only in the LA house but yours too! Allow me to share decades of experience so you can avoid clogged drains in your home.
What Should Be Put Down Plumbing Drains?
First and foremost, the only thing that should flow through the plumbing drains in your home is water, human waste both solid and liquid, and very tiny particles of solid food. Note that I didn’t say toilet paper is okay. Realize that people who live in other parts of the world think the use of toilet paper is actually somewhat unsanitary and unacceptable. They use water to cleanse their body parts.
I find it shocking that major US plumbing fixture manufacturers don’t heavily promote bidets. You should watch my Flushable Wipes video to see how high-quality toilet paper doesn’t break down much at all as it travels through your drain pipes.
What is the Worst Thing to Put Down a Plumbing Drain?
Grease is one of the worst things you can put down your drains as Alex’s client has come to discover. While you can liquefy it and seemingly emulsify it by mixing in liquid dish soap with the grease in the pan, the grease will eventually begin to coat the inside of the drain pipes. This grease can capture larger food particles and rapidly choke off the drain line.
The way to deal with grease is simple. If you use paper towels for light cleaning or to dry your hands as I know some to do, put these wet or damp towels aside and allow them to dry. Use these to sop up warm liquid grease in your pots and pans. Wipe off greasy plates and bowls with these used towels and then throw them in the garbage. Your goal is to minimize the amount of grease you put in your drain system.
What about Tampons, Feminine Napkins, and Flushable Wipes?
NEVER put any feminine hygiene products or flushable wipes into a toilet. These are absolutely unacceptable in a septic system and it’s not a good idea if you’re on a city sewer. All of these things should be placed in a nice sanitary waste can in the bathroom. The can should have a plastic liner and a lid. Post a sign in the bathroom for guests to use the can for disposal. You should really watch my past video demonstrating what happens to flushable wipes as they travel through your sewer line.
Should I Use a Food-Catcher Sink Strainer?
Purchase a drop-in stainless-steel screened strainer that fits perfectly in the basket strainer of your kitchen sink. These simple and affordable devices collect food particles with ease. Once the strainer starts to fill, lift it out of the sink and dump the food waste into your garbage can.
Are Garbage Disposals Harmful to Plumbing Drains?
Do you use a garbage disposal in your kitchen thinking these are the answer? They’re not because most homeowners have never been trained how to use one so as to prevent clogs. If you want to see what a garbage disposal creates, just get out your blender with the clear blender jar. Put your food scraps in it, add a little water, turn it on, and look at the sludge you create.
If all of this sludge is not transported to the septic tank or city sewer, it can start to coat the sides of the drain pipes and choke them off over time. If you insist on using your disposal, then you must keep the sink water running for 30 seconds after you turn off the machine. Better yet, after you turn off the water, pour two gallons of water as fast as possible into the kitchen sink to flush the sidewalls of the horizontal branch drain arm in the wall and the vertical drain stack that services the kitchen sink.
How Can I Dissolve Grease in a Plumbing Drain Line?
It’s a great idea, if you can do it, to pour about 15 gallons of very hot water down your kitchen sink once a month. You want to pour this heated water into the sink as fast as possible being careful not to burn yourself. The idea is to put so much water into the pipes that the tubing under the sink and the horizontal branch arm in the wall behind the sink completely fill with hot water. This will dissolve any grease from the sides and top of the pipes keeping them as open as possible.
How Can I Flush Out my Main Sewer Drain Line?
Each week it’s a great idea to pour ten, or even 15, gallons of cold water into your toilet as fast as possible. If you can do this with a helper all the better. Your goal is to create a man-made flash flood in your bathroom drain pipe and stack as well as your main building drain. Just as Mother Nature keeps creeks and stream beds clean of accumulated debris with an occasional flood, you should do the same. This massive surge of water flowing through the pipes goes a long way to keep them wide open.
If Steve does this, he can use the money he would have given the plumber who sent the mailer and take his soulmate out to in nice dinner down the hill in Pasadena!