Home plumbing 101

One of the strangest images we’re likely to remember about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic happened right at the start when we were forced into lockdowns: the long lines of people at supermarkets and drugstores hoarding toilet paper. We discovered that we had a very intimate relationship with our toilets.


Perhaps then unsurprisingly over the last year, as we’ve stayed sheltered at home a lot more, our plumbing has come under, um, more pressure than ever, both from overuse as well as from no-nos like flushing disinfectant wipes down the toilet.


That got our Shop Talk team wondering: what are the best ways to ensure our pipes and plumbing stay in tip top shape during the pandemic and beyond?


#1 The three Ps


When it comes to what goes down your toilet, always follow the three Ps — only poop, pee and toilet paper. Feminine hygiene products, paper towels, napkins and disinfectant wipes are all definitely not good ideas. You don’t want it to back up and overflow. In fact, if your plumbing system becomes so impacted that the line breaks or has to be replaced, it can cost tens of thousands of dollars that’s usually not covered by insurance.


#2 Beware of drop-in toilet cleaners


Drop-in cleaners may keep your toilet bowl clean in the short term, but over time, overuse of cleaner chemicals can damage the flush valve, flapper and other parts in the water tank and, for some toilets, using drop-in cleaners may void your warranty.


#3 Not down the drain


In the kitchen, it’s a good idea to use a strainer over the drain to catch big chunks of food — like rice, vegetables and coffee grains — then empty these deposits into your compost bin or garbage. The same goes for grease from frying or baking foods — never drip these down the drain, where they can congeal and clog your pipes over time. Let the grease cool until it solidifies, then wipe it away with a paper towel and discard. If your drain does get blocked, try this method: pour 1 cup baking soda in the drain, followed by 2 cups white vinegar. Wait 15 minutes, then pour 4 cups or more of boiling water.


#4 Check your hoses


The rubber hoses that connect your washing machine and dishwasher to the plumbing can dry out and become brittle over time. Inspect them every six months or so and replace any hoses or connections that are bulging or leaking.


#5 Freezing pipes


Turning off the heat when you’re not at home can save on energy costs but if the heat is too low when the temperature drops in winter, exposed pipes can freeze over and burst. You’re better off leaving your heat on low in cold weather when you’re away.


#6 Find your shutoff valve


Quickly shutting off your home’s water can save you a lot of money and headaches during a flood or if a toilet backs up. Make sure you and everyone in your family knows where the shutoff valve is located and how to turn it off fast.


Got plumbing tips of your own? We’d love to hear from you. Please share them with Shop Talk blog community members.


Did you know: Which way do you roll?


Three out of four people prefer that a toilet roll unrolls from the top rather than the bottom. How about you? (Source)

36 thoughts on “Home plumbing 101

  1. All of these are COMMON SENSE tips — but there are too many people in their 20s to 40s that have NO common sense at all (in fact, it was disturbing to tell my nephew’s wife that she should NEVER .. not ever flush tampons — good grief, you’d think that some time even her parents would teach her that is wrong and should NEVER be flushed at all (no matter whether you have a septic tank or are connected to a sewer!). And worse yet, let’s not forget the folks that don’t know what a Strainer is in the kitchen nor why you should use it at all!

    I’m not even going to start on why it irritates me when folks don’t check the hoses nor the drains either every half year at a minimum — nor why they don’t turn off the water at the valve if they are going to be gone from their homes for any reason longer than the day. (Seriously, this used to be common knowledge!).

    Sigh, just saying, it’s hard to phantom how people function if they don’t know these basics about life.

  2. Also if you have garbage disposal and d/w. You have to run at least once a week. Or you will eventually have to replace both for non usage.

  3. Looks like I’m also the three out of four as well because I also prefer that the roll unrolls from the top too. Interesting fact.

  4. This was a really interesting item. It is so true that during the pandemic you couldn.t get a plumber to come into your house because of the virus. What do you do when your toilet blocks.. These ideas are very helpful. I like to roll my toilet paper over the top also.

  5. Over the top, all the way!
    I grew up with my mother always placing it opposite, from the bottom, and it drove me crazy for some reason!
    A perk to being a grown-up homeowner – the freedom to position the toilet paper to suit your taste!

  6. Thank you for those tips that I have learned, I will share them with my family and friends.
    That tip using baking soda, vinegar and boiling water works wonderful.

  7. I prefer to get the T/P from under so that I’m lifting the roll from off the rubbing-block, be it the wall or stand.

    To tell if the blockage is at the goose neck of the drain or beyond, ( in the wall or the sewer pipe), pour hot water into the drain and then feel the gooseneck. It will get hot also, if the blockage is beyond it.

  8. I prefer rolling from the top because the design on the paper is shows on each surface that way.

  9. If you have cats, they tend play with the toilet paper. They have a good time unrolling it. Rolling in it once it’s all over the floor. It’s fun to watch until you need it and it’s everywhere but on the roller.
    I put my roll on “backwards” because I have several cats and they all like to unroll the toilet paper. When it’s on this way, it just spins and they get bored with it and eventually stop playing with it all together.

  10. TP needs to unroll from the bottom!!! If you unroll from the top, the cats will have a large pile on the floor to play with and shred!
    (I’ve seen dogs do it also.)

  11. I prefer over the top. Now that I have a cat I cannot leave it on the roller unless I want it all on the floor. She can’t resist “playing” with it when she can pull it all off.

  12. I always have it roll from the top. The way I explain it is I would rather be an overachiever than an underachiever.

    Kelly Barton

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