Whether you’re new to homeownership, or an old hand at fixing problems, here are some tips for common and preventable problems with your drains and our shared water supply.
Written by CASSIE MCCLURE
Tip #1: BAG THE GREASE
Hot fats are tempting to dispose of by just pouring down the drain, but as liquid as they are when hot, they solidify in your pipes, creating obstructions and reducing the flow of water. This causes sewage back-ups not only in your home, but in your neighbor’s or the sewage lines that flow into the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
Before you wash, scrape food from your dishes into the trash and minimize the use of your garbage disposal. Use a paper towel to remove grease and oil from your cookware before putting it in the dishwasher.
Tip #2: WIPES BELONG IN THE TRASH
It may say “flushable” on the package, but hold off on tossing into the toilet. While toilet paper starts disintegrating as soon as it hits the water, the strong-fiber wipes don’t break apart, and can cause havoc all the way to the city’s wastewater treatment plants.
Service lines from the home into the city sewer are generally 3 or 4 inches in diameter, with several elbows—or sharp bends—in the service lines, creating smaller places where things might get hung up. If a wipe gets stuck, it can cause a back-up from the sewer into the home.
If it manages to escape your home’s system, the wipes will usually arrive intact to the water treatment plant. They often wind themselves into ropes that get tangled into wastewater treatment equipment and can break screens that are intended to filter out larger pieces of debris in the wastewater.
Tip #3: DON’T USE CORROSIVE MATERIALS FOR DRAINS
Household drainage cleaners can be sold in several forms, consisting in variations of sodium hydroxide (lye), sodium hypochlorite (bleach), sodium nitrate, sodium chloride (salt), and aluminum.
When Drano is poured down a drain, several chemical reactions happen at the same time. Drano’s main ingredient is sodium hydroxide, commonly known as lye, a substance that decomposes most organic matter. The lye is mixed with small shards of aluminum, creating a strong reaction that generates heat at near-boiling temperatures. The high heat effectively speeds up the decomposition process.
However, these corrosive materials can sit in a pipe until the clog dissolves, continually reacting and generating heat. Toilet bowls can crack and PVC pipes can soften and eventually break. Old, corroded pipes can be easily damaged, and even the glue holding pipes together can be eaten away. A safe technique, especially if you suspect a plug due to grease, would be hot water and detergent. For hair clogs and stuck items, many home improvement stores rent out mechanical drain cleaners that will “snake” through the pipes and pull/push through the material.
Tip #4: DISPOSE OF MEDICATIONS PROPERLY
Anything you flush becomes part of the city’s wastewater that must be filtered and purified. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, tiny amounts of drugs such as antibiotics, birth control pills, painkillers, antidepressants, cancer treatments, seizure medications, cholesterol lowering compounds, and tranquilizers have been detected in water sources around the United States.
The easiest at-home disposal method is using coffee grounds or cat litter which makes them undesirable to anyone who might rummage through garbage. It’s also recommended to add a few drops of hot sauce to deter pets. Remember to peel off personal information from medication bottles before throwing them away.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) also hosts national “take-back” days, allowing people to drop off their expired medication at local pharmacies. (Pharmacies are typically prohibited from taking back expired medications.) But ocally, the Dona Ana Sheriff’s Office, 845 N Motel Blvd, takes back prescription drugs Monday through Friday during regular business hours.