Everybody knows it: it’s ‘conventional wisdom,’ passed down generation to generation. It applies to anything and everything and unfortunately, in many cases, it’s oversimplified or just plain wrong. The conventional wisdom in plumbing is no different; there are many myths. Freshen your drain with lemon? Run water with the garbage disposal? Good ideas? Find out as we explore the top 10 plumbing myths that cost you money!
Myth #1: Putting Lemons in Your Disposal to Make It Smell Fresh Is a Good Idea When life gives you lemons, don’t put them down your disposal! You might succeed in briefly creating a fresher aroma, but the citric acid from lemons corrodes the metal inside your disposal. The Better Alternative: Use ice to polish your disposal up inside, which works just like a rock tumbler polishing rocks; it’s noisy, but it works. Power wash the scum causing the odor from the drain without ruining your disposal.
Myth #2: “In Tank” Cleaners Will Keep Your Toilet Sparkling and Smelling Like Roses Spending money on “in tank” cleaners marketed to make your chores easier and decrease the time you spend scrubbing your toilet is one cost you can cut. These products bleach smelly build-up white, but don’t get rid of it. Eventually, the build-up can ruin your toilet. The Better Alternative: Use vinegar down the overflow tube. Vinegar removes smelly build-up that can damage the flow of your toilet for a fraction of the cost.
Myth #3: Lifetime Warranties on Bad Products Are Really Useful When you buy something cheap and it breaks, don’t expect to get it replaced with the latest and greatest product on the market. What you buy is what you’re stuck with. Plus, you’ll be spending time and money to keep reinstalling it. The Better Alternative: Buy good quality products the first time around and avoid trading in junk for junk.
Myth #4: Running Water While Using the Garbage Disposal Helps the Waste Travel Smoothly Sure, it seems like the perfect combo: letting the faucet run while using the garbage disposal to help wash waste down the drain. It’s something we’ve all done. And inevitably, we’ve all had to reach our hands down the drain to unblock whatever leftovers got jammed in the pipes. Following waste with water doesn’t help if the blockage has already happened before the water shows up. The Better Alternative: Fill the sink basin with a 4:1 ratio of water to waste so that the waste is separated and flows with ease down the drain.
Myth #5: As Long as Stuff Is Going Down the Drain, Everything Is Working Correctly Out of sight, out of mind doesn’t really apply to the plumbing world. Even if you can’t see it, food like pasta and rice will bloat in pipes causing clogs, blocking the passage for other waste to peacefully pass through the pipes. Without the proper amount of water to rinse it down, waste builds up in the pipes and makes drainage inefficient. The Better Alternative: Prevent blockage and clogging problems by using sinks, toilets, and showers correctly. Make sure to fill basins with water before draining. For showers, place a hair screen in the drain to reduce the human hairballs that rival anything your cat coughs up.
Myth #6: Water Pressure Regulators Are Always Dependable Water pressure regulators do give important information about water pressure, but don’t place all of your trust in the readings they provide. The Better Alternative: Personally check your water pressure! Doing so can save you a ton of hassle and money. How? Well, high water pressure is a major cause of floods, leaks, and that annoying sound your toilet makes as it continuously runs to relieve pressure.
Myth #7: Water and Soap on Bathroom Fixtures Makes Them Just as Sparkly and Clean as Your Hands You wash your hands at the sink and when you turn off the faucet, you leave a bit of soapy water on it. No big deal, right? Wrong! Water and soap cause faucets and fixtures to corrode, making them peel and bubble. The Better Alternative: Wipe the fixtures off after use. This takes an extra second, but it will help prevent your fixtures from corroding. This will also protect your lifetime warranties on products, which are void when soap has rotted the finish.
Myth #8: Users Manuals Are Only For People Who Don’t Know What They Are Doing User manuals aren’t just full of fancy labeled pictures and lists of parts. They actually contain some useful information as well. While they may not be the most entertaining read in the world, they can save you money and time in the long run. The Better Alternative: Read the manual. Twice. User manuals contain information on warranties and proper usage that will increase the lifespan of the product.
Myth #9: Plumbing Fixtures Are Low Maintenance Ignoring plumbing fixtures because they are hard as stone and cold as steel is not only mean, it’s detrimental to their performance. Lack of use allows a p-trap to evaporate, allowing dangerous sewer gas to smell up the house. If an electric water heater sits unused, it can create highly explosive hydrogen gas. In this case, you definitely want less bang for your buck. The Better Alternative: Don’t let your plumbing fixtures and equipment sit for long periods of time. Use them periodically to ensure health risks aren’t created. The time it takes to turn them on every once in awhile could save you a fortune if you prevent your home from exploding.
Myth #10: Every Plumber Knows Exactly What to Do and How to Do It Just because a plumber holds that title doesn’t mean that they are educated in their field and licensed. Every plumber has opportunities to get continued plumbing education, certificates, and special cards to install some products. If a plumber installs something poorly or chooses the wrong fixture, you’ll just have to spend more calling another plumber. The Better Alternative: Use state boards and the BBB to ensure the plumber you are hiring is well qualified and well educated in the field.
by Greg Chick
He has been a water professional for over 30 years.