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How to Prevent Clogs Before They Happen

Nobody likes plunging. Clogs are a pain. They’re inconvenient, frustrating, and bad for your plumbing system. Preventing clogs before they happen will help ensure that you can use your plumbing appliances when you need them. It’ll also help keep your plumbing system working efficiently for as long as possible.

Best of all, you don’t have to spend money to prevent clogs! In fact, the best things a homeowner can do to prevent clogs don’t cost any money… and they’ll save you bundles in the long run. Here are a couple simple, quick best practices to keep in mind to prevent clogging in your home’s sinks and bathtubs.

Don’t Flush Food Down Your Kitchen Sink

It seems like a no-brainer, but when we say no food, we mean absolutely no food or food bi-product. Grease, oil, fat, coffee grounds, bones, meat, grains, and egg shells can all spell doom for your kitchen sink’s drain. If you have a disposal, you can use it to break down and flush most foods down the drain, but you should be careful not to over rely on it. You should only use the disposal about once a day. 

Even if you do have a disposal, you should never flush grease, oil, or coffee grounds down the drain. They’ll coat the inside of your pipes and accumulate, collecting other materials headed down the drain and producing a clog. Scrape off plates, dispose of leftover foods in the garbage, and transfer grease and grounds into disposable receptacles before throwing them out instead of flushing them.

Use a Drain Grate or Screen

A grate or screen placed over the drain topper at the bottom of the sink will block non-liquid materials from entering the drain and getting clogged there. Stuff like food, hair, and dirt can’t pass through the grate but water passes through no problem. Keep in mind that most grates won’t work with harmful liquids, like oil and grease.

After you buy a grate, make sure to wash it out as needed. If you let a grate catch a lot of debris without cleaning it, it could be become a hygiene hazard. Use removable grates so you can place them over multiple sink’s plugs and so you only have to use them when you need to. Grates are simple, inexpensive, and easy to find in local hardware stores.

Brush Hair Before Bathing

We’re particularly fond of this one, because a lot of homeowners don’t know to do it. When you brush your hair, you’re naturally, safely removing all the loose hair on your head. This loose hair is the stuff that the water of a shower or bath washes off of you and down into your drain.

By brushing your hair right before a shower, you can remove most of the hair that will clog your shower drain over time. Instead of making a gross clog, the dry hair will collect on the brush or comb, where it can be easily removed and disposed of.

Check Stoppers for Hair and Buildup

Oftentimes, before a clog becomes a clog, it’s a collection of hair, soap scum, and other debris hanging out on your drain stopper. As your sink sees constant use, the water from that use washes parts of this nasty “collection” down the drain, where it begins to form a clog.

About once every two weeks, pull your drain stoppers out of the sink completely and check them for build up. You’ll probably find some wet hair, as well as build-up of chalky soap scum and other natural debris, like skin cells and dirt. Remove the hair and clean the stopper thoroughly, scrubbing with a toothbrush and cleaning agent.

Don’t Use Chemical Cleaners

Most common chemical de-clogging products contain acidic properties. These chemicals may de-clog your drain, but their acid will also corrode your pipes. When pipes begin to corrode, flecks of the piping material scrape away from the inner walls and travel down the pipe. These flecks may get caught and begin to form a clog. Corroded pipes also spring leaks far more easily, because the pipe walls aren’t thick enough to handle the pressure of the water.

Clogs might be annoying, but they are very rarely permanent. Pipe corrosion is. If your pipes are corroded, the best even an expert could do is to replace the damaged pipe. Pipe replacement is far more expensive than any de-clogging, so don’t take a shortcut with chemical cleaners.

Run Cold Water When Using the Disposal

You should always keep a constant stream of cold water running while using the disposal. The disposal uses this current to move water through the disposal and through the pipes.

Using the disposal without running water won’t be effective and could damage the system, and hot water isn’t as good at moving materials through the disposal and down the pipes. Hot water tends to encourage food and other materials to congeal, possibly getting stuck either on the disposal or further down. Before using the disposal, turn on the cold water on let it run for 2-3 seconds.

Following these tips diligently will make a huge difference in how often your drains clog, and we’re only getting started! Stay tuned for part 2 of our “How to Prevent Clogs Before They Happen” blog coming next month!

In the meantime, if you have a clog that just won’t break up, or any other vexing plumbing problem, give Ben Franklin Plumbing a call today. We’ve got the experience and knowhow to fix any plumbing issue no matter how minor or severe.