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Preventing Sewer Problems

Since repairs can be costly, it's a good idea to do everything you can to keep sewer problems from happening in the first place. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do.

Your options vary in complexity and cost, ranging from simple maintenance to making some physical changes to your house and property. Many you can do yourself. Others require complicated or large-scale changes to your house and/or its plumbing that must be done by a licensed professional who can ensure that the work is done correctly and according to all applicable codes.

Keeping Things Clean

A Fine Mess

Avoid using anything that claims to keep plumbing lines clear by dissolving grease. This includes commercial drain cleaners as well as such fixes as pouring vinegar and baking soda down drains. Oftentimes, these products merely dislodge grease clogs and move them to other areas where they can cause the same problems. Your best bet for preventing clogs is to keep materials that cause them out of your pipes.

This is the easiest way to prevent sewer problems, and it boils down to one main effort: not putting things down your pipes that shouldn't go down them. This includes…

  • Cooking grease and oil. Bacon grease, fat from browning hamburger meat…you name it. Keep it out of your drains. Put it in a carton, let harden if necessary, and put it out with your garbage. Another approach is to let it cool and pour it into old newspapers. Again, throw it away in your trash.

  • Paper products, such as paper towels, moist towelettes, handy wipes, disposable towels, diapers, napkins, and tampons. The only truly flushable paper product is toilet paper. Other products might say they're flushable, but why take the chance?

  • Kitchen solids, such as watermelon rinds, potato peels, corn kernels, eggshells, and chicken bones. It's also not a good idea to put them down a garbage disposal, as they don't break down finely enough to easily pass through lateral lines. If you have a garbage disposal, avoid using it to excess. Disposals shred solid materials into finer pieces, but they don't liquefy them. Nor do they keep grease out of plumbing systems. Don't put anything down a disposal that is too hard or large to be thoroughly ground up.

  • Other oils, greases, cleaning fluids, anti-freeze, thinners, paints, solvents, and similar chemicals. If your community has a hazardous waste disposal program, check with officials there for disposal recommendations. If it doesn't, throwing it away might be your best bet. Check with your waste hauler first to see what they'll accept.

All sink, tub, and floor drains should be fitted with baskets or strainers to catch debris. Inspect them often, and clear them regularly.

In the bathroom, keep sinks with pop-up stoppers clog-free by routinely cleaning out the hair and other material that collects in them. Long tweezers or hemostats—you can find them at most hardware and hobby stores—work well for this. What comes out of bathroom sink drains can be pretty obnoxious, especially if you haven't cleaned them before, so you might want to wear latex or plastic gloves, and even a face mask if you're particularly squeamish. To prevent buildup, lift stoppers out of drains periodically and rinse them off.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Common Household Disasters © 2005 by Paul Hayman and Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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