PLUMBING DRAIN FAQ
FEB 13, 2018
It’s a bit crazy how such a seemingly basic thing such as a plumbing drain can lead to so many questions. That is, until you consider how vital those drains are to your day-to-day life and well being. From your morning shower, to the dishes, to the laundry and, y’know, the toilet, we all take for granted how important a properly functioning drainage system is to our everyday lives.
COMMONLY ASKED PLUMBING DRAIN QUESTIONS
While we aren’t exactly regularly discussing plumbing drains at dinner parties or anything, it comes up more often than you would probably imagine. And with more than 40 years in the business, we have gotten our fair share of questions. In this blog, we will attempt to answer some of the most common questions people ask about their drains.
HOW DO DRAINS WORK IN A HOUSE?
When it comes to the drains in your house, there is much more than meets the eye. Your plumbing drains work in concert with traps, vents and gravity to do their jobs. When wastewater hits your drains, it must first pass through a trap. This is a u-shaped piece of pipe that holds standing water to keep gases from working their way back up your pipes. Then, through a series of large-diameter pipes, the water makes its way to the main stack, which eventually curves into the main sewer line which serves as the ultimate exit from your home. All of the drainage pipes inside your home branch off from that single line. Vent pipes are also connected to the system to prevent suction. These pipes connect the drainage system to vents on your roof that allow air to flow in.
WHAT HAPPENS TO WATER WHEN IT GOES DOWN THE DRAIN?
It depends. Assuming that you are using a city system rather than a septic tank and that everything is in good working order (no plumbing leaks or clogs), your wastewater will eventually end up in a local body of water. But it has to go through a few steps first. Wastewater treatment plants act as the middleman here. Depending on your community, the wastewater goes through multiple processes to get it as clean as possible before it is released back into the wild. However, wastewater treatment plants are set up to clean organic matter. So whatever you do, do not toss hazardous chemicals down your drains!
HOW TO CLEAN A DRAIN PROPERLY?
This is a little more nuanced than one might think. On the one hand, there are proactive steps a homeowner can take to make sure that drains remain clean. Lifting the stoppers for thorough cleaning on a weekly basis is a good place to start. Additionally, running hot water down the drains after each use and boiling water down the drain on occasion can also be helpful. But please, if your drains or pipes are blocked, DO NOT add more debris into the pipes trying to force out whatever the original blockage was. This only leads to a bigger blockage, and potentially, a bigger cost as well. You might be surprised how often people believe this to be a wise solution.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I CLEAN MY DRAINS?
On the other hand, as far as typical maintenance goes, pipes are prone to accumulate hair, hard water, grease, etc. This is true, even for the most vigilant homeowners. Over time, it is bound to happen. This is why to truly properly clean a drain, professional maintenance on a regular basis is advisable. While a professional plumber will be able to speak to the ideal cleaning schedule and technique based on an in-person consultation, sewer jetting every 18-24 months is the gold standard and typically what it takes to keep drain pipes in tip-top shape.
In a nutshell, you will want to take certain steps on a daily basis to keep drains clean, but go for a thorough professional job roughly once or twice a year, depending on the condition of your pipes.
WHAT CAN I PUT DOWN MY DRAINS? (AND WHAT SHOULD I AVOID?)
We have all had that moment. That moment that you know, deep down in your soul, that you just put something into the garbage disposal that you shouldn’t have. Your hair starts to tingle, you feel a little emptiness inside and realize nothing good can come from what you just did. In our decades on the job, we have seen some weird stuff stuck in peoples’ drains (a blog topic for another time), but the more common causes of plumbing problems are the seemingly innocuous. Here’s a quick rundown of what cannot go down the drain (even the garbage disposal):
WHAT YOU CAN PUT DOWN THE DRAIN
Hot or cold water
Beverages or soft foods
WHAT NOT TO PUT DOWN THE DRAIN
Rice or pasta
Grease or cooking fat
Cat litter (even the ones marketed as “flushable”)
Auto fluids like motor oil, antifreeze, etc.
Conventional cleaning products
Other harmful chemicals (even if marketed as “drain cleaners”)
Bottom line, treat your drain pipes well. Just because it disappears out of sight does not mean that everything is fine. If you have any doubt about whether or not something should go down the drain, it is probably safer to dispose of it another way. When in doubt, throw it out.
What do you think? Do you have another burning question about your plumbing and drains that we did not address here? If so, give us a shout. We are available 24 hours a day and we would be happy to answer whatever question you may have for us. Seriously. Think you can stump us?
Or if you are currently experiencing any issues at all with any aspect of your plumbing, schedule an appointment. Our professional plumbers are simply the best at what they do and there is no job that is too big or too small. We have same-day service available and you can even request an appointment directly from this website. To schedule a service, click here or call us @ 602-483-6868.