How to Keep Drains Flowing Smoothly

Vinegar and Baking soda

Keeping everything running smoothly can be a challenge with a busy family. Chances are you dash home from the office for a quick meal, then drop the kids at soccer practice while you hit the craft store for supplies your son needs for science class tomorrow. When life is this hectic, a clogged drain could send you into a tailspin. To make life easier, we have put together some proactive tips you can use to avoid clogs without investing much time or effort.

  • Next time you stop by your favorite superstore, pick up a drain strainer for the shower. Be sure to use a paper towel to clear the drain, especially if anyone using your shower has long hair. Soap can gum up the pipes, too, so less is best!
  • Not all food scraps should go into the garbage disposal. For instance, egg shells may seem harmless, but the hard sharp edges of the broken pieces will collect other things coming down the drain and eventually cause a clog. It’s best to put your egg shells into the trash.
  • Flour thickens when you add it to water. Flour down your drain will stick to the sides of the pipes and catch other things coming down as well. It is wise to throw into the trash can also.
  • Coffee grounds will also build up in your pipes and cause blockage. They are one of the most common cause of drain problems. You should always dispose of coffee grounds in your trash can, or better yet use them for composting.
  • Pasta or rice will expand when it absorbs water, and can cause blockage. Pasta is also made of flour so it will stick to the pipes and collect other things.
  • Everyone has undoubtedly heard that feminine products clog pipes. Toilet paper is the paper that should go down the toilet. It is designed to break down in water. Paper towels, facial tissue, cotton balls, disposable diapers and other absorbent materials will hold water and cause blockage.
  • Products that claim to be flushable can clog your pipes. Cat litter, wipes, condoms, bandaids, and dental floss are all commonly flushed items that can cause problems.

If you do get a clog, try to plunge, don’t use harsh drain cleaners! Drain cleaning chemicals will corrode your plumbing and then you will have a bigger headache. Instead, flush them weekly with a half cup of baking soda and one cup of vinegar. Let it fizz in the drain for ten minutes, then pour in four cups of boiling water.

Follow these simple tips to avoid clogs and you will save yourself a lot of time and frustration.

Wipes Clog Pipes!

The filter screen seen here is covered in “ragging”  – scores of disposable wipes and other products that have been flushed down the toilet. This pump, part of the by-pass system at the 15 Mile Road Sewer Collapse worksite, loses capacity as wipes clog the screens around the pump or bind up at the pump’s motor. Everytime this needs to be cleaned –  as often as every two hours during a rain – it costs about $500 in manpower and equipment expenses – expenses eventually passed on to sewer rate payers in the Macomb Interceptor Drain Drainage District.

Ironically, the very quality that makes wipes so attractive from a use standpoint – their ability to hold together when wet – is what causes problems in a sewer system. Whereas toilet paper is designed to biodegrade in water, wipes are specifically designed to hold together.

But aren’t they flushable? Many wipes and similar products are labeled as “flushable”. While they may be flushable, they ARE NOT biodegradable. Wipes should be disposed of in a trash can.

The Macomb County Office of Public Works, in conjunction with your local municipal department of public works and the Great Lakes Water Authority, uses a variety of screens and filters in an attempt to limit the damage these wipes can cause to our system. Of course, no screening system is as good as catching the problem at the source – eliminating the wipes from entering the system in the first place. Use the wipes – just be sure that they end up in the trash after use.