What Not To Flush and Other Plumbing Tips

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cI learned about plumbing the hard way a few months ago.  I was sitting on my couch watching tv one evening and all of a sudden I felt water wash over my feet.  I looked down and saw water swirling out from under my couch and flowing all the way to my entertainment center and French doors.  I went over to the bathroom and found the source…..the toilet.  As luck would have it my husband was out of the country at the time but I called my father to bring over his wet vac to help me clean up the water.  I got the water to stop flowing and plunged the toilet.  The water went down so I figured one of my girls must have stopped up the toilet before they went upstairs to shower.  Half of my downstairs was flooded but the shop vac helped soak up the water.  I washed my floors with both a cleaning solution and then again with my steam mop.

Phew, it was all cleaned up and the toilet seemed to be working fine. We used the toilet the next 2 days and it worked fine, or at least we thought so.   All of a sudden when no one was in the bathroom it started to flood again.  How was that even possible?!?!  Once again I cleaned up the mess and turned off the water going to the toilet.  I closed the door and planned on waiting until my husband got back in town for him to try to fix the problem.  Apparently my plumbing had other plans.  My daughter was taking a shower upstairs the next day and once again the toilet downstairs overflowed.  How was this even possible with the water turned off?!?!

I called the plumber and it turned out that the line was totally clogged from “flushable” toilet wipes.  The pressure from running the shower upstairs was causing the toilet downstairs to overflow.  The line was cleaned out and we’re the proud new owners of a new toilet.  What is so frustrating to me is that I used to work for West End Plumbing and I knew that they didn’t recommend flushing toilet wipes but I didn’t realize just how bad they can be for plumbing.  With the help of the West End Plumbing, I’ve come up with some plumbing tips and what not to flush.

First check out this shocking Consumer Reports video on flushable toilet wipes:

(Not so) Flushable Toilet Wipes– While we all know what is supposed to be flushed, there are items that do not belong in the toilet that you probably didn’t realize should not be flushed. Flushable wipes while convenient and sanitary may not break down in a timely fashion and can still cause a back up in your pipes. The same is true for most feminine sanitary products.  This problem can often be cleared by simply plunging, but when plunging doesn’t work a plumber might be needed to resolve the issue.

How drains work. A drain simply needs gravity to work. A drain is located at a higher level than where the water is being delivered. This simple process can be a big headache if it’s interrupted. When a drain in your bathroom becomes blocked by foreign objects or a sink drain is blocked by food or grease build up the drain flow may slow or completely clog.  Here are a few tips: never place too much food in your garbage disposal at one time and always use lots of water while using it. Never put rice, pasta, or beans down your garbage disposal. When these block your drains they may harden almost like concrete in your drain pipes. If this occurs under the house, repairing can become a messy and costly process.

What to do when your toilet is overflowing – Stop it! The valve located below and behind your toilet should be shut off immediately to avoid a major flood in your home.  This also applies to most sinks in your home.

Stopped up toilets and sinks-  If clear water was the only thing your drains and toilets had to deal with, they would work well all the time.  But household drains deal with grease, hair, soap, toothpaste, dirt, and many other things that can clog them up and make them run more slowly over time.  Toilet paper is made to disintegrate but facial tissue, baby wipes, and other personal products are not.  Flushing these items are usually the cause of a clogged toilet.  Sometimes toilet clogs are caused by a flushed sock or toy.  When simple plunging doesn’t unclog your toilet or sink, you probably need to call a plumber who has special equipment that can break through the obstruction to unclog your toilet or sink.

Toilet freshening tablets are bad for your toilet.  Another toilet villain is toilet freshening tablets. These are usually placed in the inside of the tank itself. The problem can occur when these begin to break apart and may block the tank from filling properly causing your toilet to run and raising your water bill.  The only toilet fresheners my plumber recommends are the gel type that simply dissolve and will cause no damage to your tank or basin. 

When the toilet doesn’t flush at all – This means that the handle is loose or broken or that the chain inside the toilet is not connected properly. If you have connected the chain and your toilet is still not flushing then a broken handle is the probable culprit.

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