Believe it or not, the day after Thanksgiving (known as Brown Friday in plumbing circles) is one of the busiest plumbing days of the year. While that’s good for us, it’s not good for you. Who wants to deal with plumbing problems on Thanksgiving? In most cases, you can avoid inviting us to your home for the holiday by observing a few simple rules.
Preparing your toilet for holiday gatherings
Most holiday plumbing problems involve either the toilet or a drain – sometimes both. Let’s start with the toilet. If your toilet isn’t in great shape to begin with, adding 20 relatives to your bathroom isn’t going to help much. Your toilet might not be in great shape if you use the toilet as a water-driven garbage can. The only things that should find their way into your toilet are human waste and toilet paper. Don’t flush anything else – grease, cigarette butts, “flushable wipes,” sanitary products, diapers or even Kleenex down the toilet. Throw these items in the trash, and encourage your guests to do the same.
Check the toilet for leaks BEFORE your guests arrive. Toilets can leak from the tank into the bowl, or from the bowl onto the floor. (Yuck!) If your toilet is leaking from the tank to the bowl, you’ll want to fix this, but it’s probably not an urgent repair. You can get a flapper valve kit for the toilet at any home improvement store. They’re not hard to replace, and they can stop a running toilet in its tracks. Also, if the flush handle is loose, tighten it.
If your toilet is leaking from the bowl onto the floor, that requires attention immediately. The most likely cause of this kind of leak is the wax ring that seals the toilet to the soil pipe. If your toilet leaks when you flush it, or you notice unpleasant smells in the bathroom, you may need to replace the wax ring. Fix this kind of problem before your guests arrive.
Have a plunger on hand in every bathroom in your home.
Keep an eye on the kids to make sure they’re not sending Aquaman out on a reconnaissance mission.
Clear off the tank lids for quick access, just in case. Also test the shut-off valves for each toilet. If they work, great! If they don’t, replace them! They’re cheap, which is both why you’ll have to replace them periodically and also why you can afford to replace them when they break.
Keep your drains running clear
The first rule of having a plumber-free holiday is don’t dump the turkey grease down the drain. If you’ve ever let turkey (or chicken) drippings get cold in the pan, you’ll notice that poultry forms a gelatinous goo. This goo formation isn’t limited to your pans. It actually happens in your drains, too. It’s pretty effective at sealing off a drain, which can lead to backups and other problems. You may be thinking that hot water will help you. It will not. Hot water cools off as it moves through the drain. Your gooey turkey grease might melt in one spot, only to reconstitute farther down the drain, where the hot water can’t reach it. Hot water won’t solve your problem; it will only move it out of reach.
To get rid of turkey grease, pour it into a container with a lid and toss it in the trash. Old soda bottles, Gatorade bottles, milk jugs, etc., work fine for this. Some people reserve the turkey stock by refrigerating it. This causes the fat to rise and congeal. Skim the fat off the top and use the stock for soups or gravy. You can store stock in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. You can also freeze it and use it whenever you want.
Be very selective about what you put down your garbage disposal. Certain foods – like celery, eggshells, coffee ground sand vegetable peels don’t do well in the disposal. Worse, they don’t do well in your drains. (Especially when they combine with turkey grease.) Also avoid sending pasta, potatoes, flour and rice down the drain. They can reconstitute in a cement-like way in your drains. Also, when you run the disposal, give it some extra water to make sure your food scraps make it all the way out to the street.
Clear your drains before your guests arrive. If your kitchen or bathroom drains are already running slow, don’t borrow trouble. Clear your drains using a healthy shot of baking soda with an equally healthy vinegar chaser. This combo will kill any organics that are growing in your drain, allowing other debris to move along. You can also use an enzymatic drain cleaner overnight to accomplish the same thing. If your drains are super-slow, you may have to manually clear them with a snake to get the water moving again.
If you run into big trouble, we do offer on-call service contracts for all of your plumbing and heating needs. Give us a call at (617) 288-2911 and we’ll be happy to help.
Photo Credit: Mr. TinDC, via Flickr.com