Tag Archives: do it yourself

Which Drain Cleaner Should I Use?

When most people experience a clogged drain, they automatically reach for one of two things – the phone so they can call a plumber or a chemical drain cleaner. If this is their first time dealing with a clog, many people want a recommendation for which chemical drain cleaner is best and what is the best way to use it. While we always advocate calling a plumber for any plumbing issue you don’t feel you can handle yourself (and some that you think you can handle and shouldn’t), we NEVER recommend using any kind of chemical drain cleaner for a number of reasons.

1. They are harmful to your and your family’s health. If some of the drain cleaner were to splash on your skin or in your eyes, or if you inhaled too much of it, you could potentially experience serious injury – not to mention the potential for young children or pets to accidentally imbibe them with fatal consequences.

draincleaner

2. Everything you put down the drain eventually ends up in our environment somehow, whether that be in our groundwater, oceans and rivers, atmosphere or soil. Chemical drain cleaners aren’t any safer for our
environment than they are for our bodies.

3. Chemical drain cleaners work by eating away at
whatever is causing the clog. It just makes sense that anything that caustic is also eating away at your plumbing system. While certain pipe materials like PVC or galvanized steel might hold up a little longer than copper, all pipes exposed to caustic chemicals will eventually start to wear down and you’ll experience leaks from holes in your pipes that could require extensive, costly repairs or a complete re-plumbing of your home.

So what are the alternatives? Well, before you decide to call a plumber, we recommend grabbing a good sturdy plunger or a drain snake and trying to remove the clog yourself. If neither of those methods work, try a half and half mixture of baking soda and vinegar and let it sit overnight. If that STILL doesn’t work, we suggest calling a plumber. They are experienced in removing all kinds of clogs – and have the expertise and equipment to do it without damaging your fixtures or pipes.

Once your drain is clear (or before you get a clog!), there are several things you can do to help prevent future clogs. Regular drain cleaning should become part of your home maintenance routine, and the best part is that it’s easy and inexpensive. For a brief tutorial on how you can clean your drains and tips for preventing clogs, check out our Guide to Easy Drain Maintenance and do your part to protect your plumbing system, your family’s health, and the environment!

Read more:
How to Unclog Your Toilet
Public Service Announcement: Save Our Sewers!
10 Tips for Preventing Toilet Troubles

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Can I Use a Brick In My Toilet to Reduce Water Waste?

A lot of people are finally starting to realize the impact humans have on our clean water supply and have become more conscientious about how they use water and how much water they use. One question we see frequently asked online is – can I put a brick in my toilet tank to help conserve water?

This is a valid question for anyone wanting to save water, as the toilet uses nearly 1/3 of our indoor water consumption, and technically, yes you could…but we really don’t like to recommend that. While we here at PlumbingSupply.com truly care about water conservation and try to do our part to save water and help others to save water, putting a brick in your toilet isn’t the way to do it.

All toilets manufactured after the early 90’s use only 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf) or less, with many of the newest models using 1.28gpf. Older toilets do use significantly more water, with most being 3.5gpf, but some using up to 6gpf – that’s a lot of clean water being flushed – but it’s important to understand that these toilets were specifically designed to use that much water and they typically won’t flush properly with less. And yes, we completely understand that your toilet LOOKS just like the low flow toilets…from the outside…and that this can be confusing for many people. Trust us, the inner workings can be significantly different. An extra bend or an extra inch of height in the toilet trap can mean a lot when you’re moving waste with only water and gravity.

Same model, made in different years. Can you tell the difference?

Old Toilet

Old Toilet

New Toilet

New Toilet

For sanitary reasons, you really want all that waste to be disposed of properly and not stuck in your toilet trap or your home’s sewage line. So, it’s important that the correct amount of water is used to help that waste move along the sewage lines and help prevent clogging – which means you really shouldn’t use a brick, or anything else for that matter, to reduce the amount of water in your tank.

We’re aware that there are plenty of articles out there telling you otherwise – that it’s perfectly fine to displace the water in your toilet tank to help conserve and that your toilet will flush either way. Which is true, in most cases. Your toilet WILL flush, but it won’t be doing so effectively. And that opens up the potential for serious problems in your home or community sewage system down the road.

If you’re concerned about water conservation and have an older toilet with a higher flush rate, we strongly recommend you replace the toilet with a newer, water-saving model. That is the most effective method of saving water when it comes to toilets. Also, regardless of whether your toilet is new or old, making sure you check periodically for leaks and repair them quickly can also save significant amounts of water.

However, IF you choose not to replace your older toilet and you choose to use the “brick method”, it is a better idea to take a plastic water bottle and fill it up with sand or small pebbles and place that in the tank instead of a brick. Even a brick wrapped in plastic can break down in the tank, especially if you get a hole or loose seal in the plastic wrap.

Want more water-saving ideas? Check out our Guide to Water-Saving Plumbing Products for tips to help you conserve!

 

5 Easy Plumbing New Year’s Resolutions

This post can now be found at thePlumber.com

Making Home Plumbing Repairs Easier

Have you ever replaced a faucet cartridge, replaced a water filter, or changed out a flapper? Sure you have! And if you’re a homeowner, probably more than once.

What’s the most frustrating part? Shutting off the water to the whole house (at least in my opinion). Mostly because it goes something like this:

Angle stop in chrome finishLook for the shutoff valve for the faucet (or toilet, or filter, or whatever it is this time). Realize there isn’t one. Swear under your breath while hunting for the shutoff to the house. Realize it’s been a while since it was tested and it needs a bit of work to actually close. Swear under your breath some more. Swear full voice if you happen to scrape your knuckles. Tromp back to the bathroom with a glare that could cause street gangs to run away, but doesn’t keep your spouse from complaining about mud on your shoes or your knuckles from stinging. Debate taking the time to treat the scrape, decide it’s done bleeding anyway and you’ll get to it in a minute. Open a faucet to drain the lines and wait. Maybe treat your knuckles while you wait after all. Now fix what needs fixing and go back outside to turn the water back on. Now go back inside and turn the faucet back on to get water back in the lines. Notice a leak at a connection. Swear under your breath and turn the faucet back off. Swear extra if it’s not the original problem. Fix it right this time. Turn the water back on. Sigh in relief – you’re done! And you got your aerobic exercise in for the day.

Now if this sounds like fun to you, great, you’re doing just fine and probably weren’t actually swearing. Hopefully you never have to wait two weeks for a special order cartridge while the shower in your only bathroom is leaking like a sieve. Turning off the house water after each shower or paying a huge water bill will probably cause you to swear even if you didn’t before.

Example of a filter housing with a shutoff valveBut if you’d like to make changing a minor part less of a production, install shutoff valves at every fixture. Most reputable brands offer shower valves with screwdriver stops which let you turn off the water just to the valve while you’re replacing a cartridge, so there’s no other valves needed there. Look for filter housings that come with integral shutoff valves to make changing the cartridges quicker and easier. You can find decorative shutoffs to match almost all finishes in nearly any size for your bathroom and kitchen faucets, as well as your toilet supply line. A classic brass ball valve will also do the trick. There’s even push-fit valves if you don’t want to mess with wrenches or a torch.

If this sounds like a bit of a production in and of itself, you can work on it in steps. The next time you need to fix some plumbing-related thing, just add a shutoff valve or five to your parts list and install them while you’ve got the water off anyway. Eventually it’ll all be taken care of and the only plumbing-related swearing you’ll have to do is when a toddler shoves a rubber ducky down the toilet.

Finding American Standard Toilet Parts

Example of an American Standard Roma series one piece toiletAmerican Standard Brands, as it’s known now, can trace its beginnings to 1872, when the first bit that was to become a plumbing fixture empire was purchased. Over the years, the company has expanded, eventually merging with other companies including various sanitaryware companies like Porcher, Jado, Crane (previously Universal Rundle), and Eljer. These brands are, at the time of this writing, still marketed as separate brands, though virtually all customer service functions have been consolidated under the American Standard Brands banner.

What does this mean for you? Surprisingly, not as much as you might think. Sanitaryware companies have come and gone, merged and spun off since the first toilet manufacturer produced its first toilet. This is nothing new, though it can be frustrating at times.

But eventually, like all toilets, you encounter a problem. Perhaps it’s just a little leak, but as we all know, little leaks can cause big problems. So, if you’re ready to deal with your little leak before it becomes a huge headache, read on!

Now, for the purpose of this post, we’re assuming you know you have an American Standard toilet but don’t know what replacement parts you need to get it back in perfect working order. That’s where we come in. We’re your source for information and parts – we’ll help you find what you need to know to identify the parts for your particular toilet.

First step, carefully remove the tank lid and set it aside somewhere safe. A broken tank lid will only add to your toilet issues, so let’s not go there right now. Though, should you need a replacement lid, we can certainly help you!

Second step, look inside your tank. Lots of interesting stuff, right? Some of the parts probably even look like things you’ve seen on the store shelves.

Photo of an American Standard acutating unit (flush valve) model 47086Here’s where it can get tricky. Some American Standard toilet parts are easily replaceable by “universal” or non-OEM parts as they are fairly standard styles. However, some American Standard toilet parts are unique to a particular model and won’t be so easily replaced.

So, while you’re looking in the tank, see if you can find letters or numbers impressed into the side of the porcelain tank. We’re looking for model numbers, and American Standard model numbers typically have four digits, most often starting with a 2 or a 4. This will be your tank number or your toilet model number, and will determine what toilet parts will fit properly and work the way the manufacturer intended.

Example of a hand painted American Standard toilet tank lidIf you don’t see anything on the inside of your tank, try looking on the unfinished underside of the tank lid – again, very carefully. The model numbers are often repeated on the tank lid, sometimes with additional number/letter combinations and even dates!

Once you have those numbers, you can begin the hunt for the right parts. We show parts breakdowns for many American Standard toilets on our site, and offer a wide variety of replacement toilet parts, from the old actuators to the newer flush valves. We’ll help find what works for your toilet. Even if we don’t list it, we can probably get it or recommend a good replacement for a discontinued part.

Once you have the parts you need, the fix is as good as done. Take an afternoon, call a friend, order pizza and get that toilet taken care of! Oh, and just in case you ever need the info again, make sure you keep your parts list in a safe place.

Your turn:  What’s your best/worst toilet repair story?

For Love of Water

Maybe the very availability of clean drinking water has made us forget how rare it is. After all, only a tiny portion of the world’s water is fresh (non-salty) water – about 2-3 percent of the water on Earth according to some current estimates. Of that, only a tiny part of that is where we can get to it – about 1 percent. So one percent of two or three percent of the water on Earth is accessible. Fascinating!

And yet we let our faucets drip, run our sprinklers when the ground is already saturated, and use water-guzzling toilets. Our reasoning? Well, a lot of it is simple apathy – why should we change when it’s working well enough? Some may feel that paying a plumber to fix a “little” problem isn’t worth the money or the hassle, but they don’t know how to address the issue themselves.

Need some motivation? A simple little drip, let’s say one drip per minute from a bathroom faucet, can easily drip a liter of water down the drain each day. Doesn’t really sound like much, does it? But a drip caused by worn compression washers inevitably gets worse, and in a month or two, your one-drip-per-minute is probably a several-drips-per-minute, which is much more noticeable and lets multiple gallons go down the drain per day. If you wouldn’t pour drinkable water down the drain, why are you letting it leak away?

Need more motivation to fix the leak? A small problem inevitably becomes a large problem if you don’t fix it. A little leak can turn into a dribble, which is not only a terrible waste, but can flood a sink or tub, or even worse, cause problems with your septic system. At that point you’re dealing with wet floors, a soggy yard, and more than a simple fix. Not to mention inflating the water bill! So, prevent flooding by fixing the leak while it’s still small and avoid not only the problems, but save some of that tiny percent of water we humans have access to.

Ready to fix the drip? Read more…