Don’t Put That There: Learning What Can Go Down the Drain in Your Stockton Home

what can go down the drainWe’re big fans of educating the homeowner on plumbing do’s and don’ts, because there’s a lot of misinformation out there. We know you want to prevent clogs and other plumbing issues, and we do, too! So let’s talk about what can go down the drain, and what can’t–from bricks in the toilet tank to paper towels down the drain to what foods can’t be disposed of in the in-sink-erator. We’ll also discuss how to improve your system’s performance, whether that’s a new garbage disposal or a drain clearing.

Did They Say Bricks?

We did, in fact, say bricks. It’s an old trick that supposedly saves water. You put a brick inside your toilet’s water tank. The brick (or other object) displaces water in the tank, which means it won’t fill up with quite as much water as before. This means you use less water with every flush.

It also means that there’s a foreign object crowding the inner workings of the tank, easily damaging them, as well as slowly disintegrating over time. As the brick disintegrates, it sends little pieces of grit down your toilet and into the plumbing, scouring and abrating your plumbing. Over time, the brick will also discolor your toilet water. Last but not least, a brick could very easily break the toilet tank from the inside. If that happens, you’re looking at three to five gallons of water flooding your bathroom, as well as a toilet that will need to be replaced.

And that’s all assuming that the toilet has enough water to actually flush right. Toilets are designed to use the water in the tank, so often times if they don’t get that much water you’ll need to flush twice to get anything down. So much for water savings! A better solution is to either fine-tune your existing toilet flush (which a plumber will be able to do) or upgrade to a rebated low-flush toilet![1.] The newer low-flush toilets are really something to see, and they’re being made very affordable in a lot of places.

What Can Go Down the Drain…And What Can’t

Little bits of brick aren’t all that shouldn’t go down the various drains in your house. Paper towels and sanitary napkins should also never be flushed, as they swell with water and easily clog pipes. Actually, there are a lot of things that shouldn’t go down the toilet: Coffee grounds, trash, printer paper, nasty household chemicals, any sort of rat or pest poison, feminine products, prophylactics…and that’s just the basics.[2.]

Keep in mind that the drains in your house are designed for one or two things and that’s ALL they’re designed for. Toilets are designed for water, liquid or solid waste, and toilet paper. Sinks are designed for water (not food). Showers are designed for water and soap. Obviously there’s going to be some dirt in the sink and shower water, but if there’s hair you’ll need a plumber out there in no time. Hair is probably the biggest culprit in clogging showers and sinks.

Also, keep in mind that just because something goes down your drain all right doesn’t mean it should go there. Many liquids will damage or destroy your plumbing even if they won’t clog your plumbing. Toxins come in many forms and you could be hurting a lot more than your pipes if you flush things like paint, solvents, or other household chemicals. Remember, just because it’s down the drain, that doesn’t mean it’s gone. It’s just entered the municipal water system and will be encountered by a lot of people as it’s treated. So remember: If in doubt…keep it out.

Garbage Disposals

“But wait!” you say. “Of course I’d never do any of that…but food in sinks is normal! If it wasn’t, why would we have garbage disposals?” Well you’re right–but that’s only if you’re putting small amounts of biodegradable food in the disposal. Not coffee grounds, forks, apple stickers, large amount of potatoes, corn husks, broken bits of glass, uncooked pasta, hard-to-grind fruit peel…and fingers. NEVER put your fingers in a garbage disposal, on or not.

Despite the name, garbage disposals are not designed to replace the trash can; they’re designed to prevent the small amounts of food that fall from already-scraped plates from clogging the plumbing. Your dishes should be emptied and wiped into the trash, rinsed in the sink, and then washed by hand or put into the dishwasher.

And, of course, always run the disposal with water running. If something goes wrong, don’t try to investigate on your own by sticking your hands or a cooking implement into the disposal. Instead, call a plumber. We could tell stories about people sticking their hands down disposals, but as long as you don’t do that, we promise not to.

Clogged Up Anyway?

That’s okay. It happens. We’re here to help. Don’t try to clear the clog yourself, especially not with drano or other liquid plumbing “aids.” And try not to run water down the already clogged drain–it can flood your home, and it can also push the clog further down the drain (making it harder to get to). We have specialized tools for all clog situations. So remember–keep the bricks out of the toilet tank, call Bell Brothers for your drain clog needs, and don’t put your hands down the garbage disposal!