Don't let plumbing emergencies ruin your holidays
Photo via iStock
As the old saying goes, "what goes in, must come out." During the upcoming holidays, that can mean a lot of food going into bodies and some potential problems coming out in the bathroom.
"Thanksgiving weekend and Christman are traditionally the busiest days of the year for emergency plumbing services," says Adriana Miller, product manager with Mansfield Plumbing. "Plumbers receive many calls related to clogged kitchen sinks and a fair number of calls related to clogged toilets."
According to experts at Mansfield Plumbing, if a toilet stops functioning there are a few things a homeowner can do before opening up their wallet and calling an emergency plumbing service. People can start with the common sense knowledge that a toilet does not change in function unless something happens to it. This means that if the toilet was flushing fine 15 minutes ago for Aunt Edna and now it doesn't for Uncle Bob, then something has most likely gotten lodged in the trap way of the toilet.
If this happens and a plunging or auguring the bowl doesn't fix the problem, then homeowners can try to tackle the problem themselves if they're a handy do-it-yourselfer. Start by turning off the water. Next, take the tank off the bowl and unbolt the toilet bowl from the floor. Remove it and take it outside and run a garden hose up through the outlet of the toilet. This will back flush the toilet and most times will dislodge the blockage.
"It's important to recognize that even something small dropped in a toilet can sometimes cause a problem," says Miller. "If a narrow object like a Q-Tip gets lodged in the trap of the toilet, then every time the toilet has stool and paper in it, the small Q-Tip will catch the debris. More waste will get caught on the narrow Q-Tip until it builds up to where the toilet cannot get a siphon going and will not flush. In this case a more gradual 'sluggishness' to the toilet flushing action over several flushes will be seen. Eventually the toilet will most likely back up with water."
In order to avoid emergency plumbing repairs and expenses on a holiday weekend, it's better to be proactive --- especially when expecting a house full of guests. Here are a few tips for homeowners:
Tip 1 - Post a nicely-worded sign in the guest bathroom asking family and friends to hold the handle down when flushing to give the toilet more water to wash away large amounts of waste and to siphon longer.
Tip 2 - If a toilet seems to "suck" all the water out of it when it flushes, add a quart or two of hot (not boiling) water to the bowl. Let it sit in there for about a half hour to loosen up any waste that may be clogging it before trying to flush again. If this doesn't work, add a quarter cup of environmentally-friendly dish detergent and allow to sit for about 15 minutes. Follow with very hot water and then flush.
Tip 3 - Keep a plunger visible and accessible in the bathroom so that guests don't have to go scrambling to find it if needed.
Tip 4 -Stock up on over-the-counter products that can be used to help break apart clogs. Remember to follow directions and don't try to substitute household cleaners or acid-type liquids for this task. Or, try a home remedy such as pouring one cup of baking soda and one cup of vinegar into the toilet bowl.
Tip 5 -Before guests arrive, give the toilet a thorough cleaning. Use a long-handled curved brush to reach deep into the toilet to make sure there are no existing clogs that could turn Turkey Day into a bad memory.
Read more about water-saving devices.