People often underestimate the value of drain care. It’s easy to forget about the state of your pipes, but you can’t keep operating under of a policy of ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
Take care of your plumbing, and it will take care of you. Imagine a world without water rising from the plughole every time you take a shower, or awful smells coming from your kitchen sink. Not pleasant.
Here are a few ways to maintain and care for your household drains to prevent them from blocking.
Don’t flush it down
If you want to avoid a blocked pipe, the number one thing you need to watch out for is what ends up going down the plughole or toilet. Just because it fits down to drain, it doesn’t mean it should.
In the kitchen, hardly any food should down the plughole. Always use a designated food catcher or sieve-like covering for the plughole so that it catches waste. Then you can deposit the residue in the bin.
But strainers for your plughole won’t stop everything that shouldn’t be going down the drain. The number one blocker of drains is fat. It’s a sewage worker’s nightmare — giant icebergs of fat float through the sewers of our country. They wreak havoc on six-foot wide sewage pipes, so imagine what it does to your much smaller household pipes!
Over the years, the fat sticks to the sides of your pipes, layering up until it causes huge clots. Instead of pouring oil down the sink or washing it away with soap, pour it into a container and throw the pot in the bin.
In the bathroom, only soap, human waste, and tissue paper should go down the bathroom drains. That means no sanitary products and absolutely no wet wipes! Otherwise, who knows where they’d get stuck in your plumbing.
While hair is technically human waste, it’s one of the leading causes of blocked drains in the bathroom. Always use a sink strainer to catch strands and deposit them in the bin (not the toilet!).
A little drain maintenance
To avoid having a problem with your drains, it’s worth doing some maintenance every once in a while. This doesn’t mean dismantling any pipes, but rather concocting a little homemade mixture to clear your pipes and dissolve potential problems.
Once a week or so, pour boiling water down the plugholes around your house. The hot water will melt any fat that has decided to stick to your pipes and help flush away stubborn waste.
If you feel like your pipes need something tougher than hot water, get yourself equal measures of bicarbonate of soda, vinegar, and hot water — about 100ml or four tablespoons of each per drain should work. Put the baking soda down first, followed by the vinegar with your hot water. It will fizz up like a school science project, and the gas will dislodge any residue. After five to 10 minutes, flush with boiling water.
Avoid using stronger cleaning liquids except in an emergency. Chemical drain cleaners could be potentially harmful to your pipes — the heat caused by chemical reactions could melt PVC pipes, and old metal pipes could corrode.
When in doubt, it’s best to call in a drain specialist.
Watch for winter
While winters in the UK are a little hit-and-miss, make sure your pipes are protected before the icy temperatures descend. When water freezes, it expands, meaning that if your pipes get too cold, they could crack or burst.
If you have any exposed pipes that aren’t insulated, such as those that are outside or in the loft, think about covering them. You can buy lagging material from DIY stores that will protect pipes and stop the temperature from getting too low. Wrap it round vulnerable sections of pipe to stop problems from cropping up.
Additionally, many people think that they can save money by using their heating as little as possible during winter, or keeping it off completely when they go away. What they don’t realise is that it may end up causing them hundreds of pounds when the pipes end up freezing.
When you’re on holiday over winter, leave the thermostat low and keep your boiler ticking to prevent pipes from freezing. Alternatively, you can shut off your main water supply and open all the taps and flush the toilet to clear out any standing water from your pipes that may freeze in your absence.
Checking for damage
It’s better to perform regular plumbing checks than waiting for a problem to occur. This doesn’t mean heaving up floorboards or unscrewing sections of your pipes, but regularly checking that everything is in working order.
For example, you could buy a water pressure gauge and monitor the pressure of your outdoor taps. Household water pressure should be no more than around 50 to 75 psi, or it could be causing damage. If it is any more or less than this range, you should get a plumber in to install a pressure regulator to prevent damage.
There should be no leaks or dampness anywhere in your house. If there is, it could be a sign of a minor or major plumbing issue.
If you don’t take care of your drains at home, you could face hundreds or even thousands of pounds worth of damage to your house, from clogged drains and flooding, to burst pipes and even more flooding. Doing just smallest drain maintenance checks once a week could prevent serious household plumbing problems.
But if the worst does happen, and you do have a problem, make sure you’re confident about fixing it before you do anything yourself. If you don’t know what to do, contact a drain specialist straight away as the pros will know exactly how to handle your drainage issue.