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How well do you know your kitchen sink?

How well do you know your kitchen sink?

You probably spend more time at your kitchen sink than you spend thinking about your kitchen sink. The kitchen sink is a hub of activity and a vital part of any household. It can also be a hub of unpleasant activity that can cause problems in your happy home. Today, we’re going to take a few minutes to look at your kitchen sink and how to care for it.

Your kitchen sink is most likely mounted to a countertop. Most kitchen sinks are made from stainless steel, porcelain-coated cast iron, resins, acrylic, copper or some kind of stone (or stone composites) like quartz, granite, or marble. The durability of the material is important because sinks can be bacterial reservoirs. The less durable the material, the more often you’ll need to replace your sink to avoid problems that bacterial growth can cause.

Underneath your sink is the sink drain. A sink drain consists of the pipe that run from the drain hole that’s visible in the sink to the main drain in the house. Directly under the sink, you’ll also see a p-trap – a curved piece of pipe. The p-trap is an essential element of any drain. The p-trap retains a bit of water, which forms a seal. This seal prevents gases from further down the drain from escaping into the house. The plumbing code requires p-traps in drain lines. If your sink doesn’t have a p-trap, or your p-trap is damaged, you’re going to encounter some really unpleasant smells.

Many kitchen sinks also feature a garbage disposal. A dishwasher may also be integrated into the garbage disposal or sink drain. No one disputes the utility of either a garbage disposal or a dishwasher, but they can also be a source of problems for your kitchen sink and drain.

Kitchen sink do’s

Do clean your sink regularly. Cleaning the sink surface can help reduce bacteria and odors, remove food particles and prevent staining. If you stack dirty dishes in the sink, clean the sink after washing the dishes. Also clean the sink if unprepared foods – raw meat, eggs, etc., come into contact with it. Sanitize the surface with bleach to kill bacteria and remove stains.

Do use the right cleaning products on your sink. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for caring for your sink, based on the materials it’s made from. Surface scratches can eventually lead to a breakdown of the sink surface. This can promote rust and surface cracks, or encourage staining.

Do look for leaks. Your faucet can leak, sending a stream of clean water into the sink. Your drain can also leak. Unlike the faucet, the drain leaks dirty, potentially hazardous water. Drain leaks can be sneaky, so periodically check the drain for leaks. Signs include scale build-up, obvious water accumulations or water stains, and mold or mildew growth under the sink. Drains can leak if the sink mounting flange is not set well, or the plumber’s putty underneath it is deteriorating. Couplings around the drain stem and p-trap can also deteriorate or loosen.

Periodically, check the drain couplings. Especially if you have a dishwasher or garbage disposal, make sure your drain couplings are tight. Vibrations from these machines can loosen the joints in your drains and cause leaks – or worse – a cruddy flood.

Do check the water shut-off valves periodically. Local shut-off valves are notoriously cheap. Check your valves periodically to make sure they can still shut off the water. If the valve shut-off spins continuously, replace it.

Do use cold water in the disposal. Hot water just allows grease to congeal farther down the drainpipe.

Kitchen sink don’ts

Don’t put grease down the drain.

Grease hardens when it cools and it makes a pretty effective stopper. Unfortunately, a grease plug usually doesn’t form in a convenient, easy-to-reach place. And unless you throw a bunch of grease down the drain at once, a grease plug forms slowly over time. To dispose of grease, pour it into a tin can and freeze or refrigerate it until it hardens. Then toss it out. You could also pour the grease into a plastic bottle or jar with a lid and trash it.

Choose what you dispose of carefully. If you have a garbage disposal, don’t put coffee grounds down the drain. Coffee grounds combine with other things in your drain (like grease), and turn into an impossibly hard substance. Also on the no-fly list: eggshells. Same problem; same result. In fact, avoid putting fats, oils, stringy vegetables, potato peels, pasta, rice, beans and non-food items down the disposal. Pasta, rice and beans all swell in water, so they take up a lot more room in the drain. If they collect in a place that’s normally wet, (even in their ground-up state), the diameter of your drain pipe will shrink.

Don’t use chemical drain cleaners in the kitchen sink. Chemical drain cleaners are really hard on your pipes. They’re also dangerous to you! To keep your drain clean and clear, you can put a cup of baking soda and a cup of vinegar down the drain. Let it sit for a few minutes and then wash it down the drain with hot water. You can also use an enzymatic drain cleaner to clear out the kitchen drain.

Don’t ignore drips and leaks. Even a small leak can do a lot of water damage.

If you have a household plumbing problem you’d like us to take care of for you, contact us at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to return your sinks and drains to good working order!

Photo Credit: espensorvik, via Flickr

Boston Drain Cleaning

Clogged drains in Boston are nothing new. For the most part, drains become obstructed for just a few reasons, so provided that you know why the drain is clogged, clearing it out can be a relatively easy job. What you put down the drain will most likely determine the kind of clog you have, and will dictate how you treat the problem.

Kitchen drains handle a lot of organic material – mainly food scraps and grease – that promote the buildup of organic matter in the drainpipe; joins, bends and traps are most vulnerable to these kinds of obstructions. Eventually, the mass of organic matter may partially or completely obstruct the flow of water through the drain. Even the largest household drainpipes are only a few inches in diameter, so it doesn’t take much to clog a drain once organic matter starts to accumulate.

Bathroom sink and shower drains handle a lot of soap and hair, so clogs in these drains are most likely to be made up of a combination of hair, soap and organic material that can thrive in this environment. Toilets can become clogged with waste material, toilet paper or other items that are flushed down the toilet. Plumbers recommend that only waste material and toilet paper be flushed down the toilet. Other items, like soiled diapers and tampons should be disposed of in the household garbage.

Utility tub drains tend to collect a lot of lint and pet hair. Clogs here are more similar to bathroom drain clogs. One note: over time, powdered soap flakes can sometimes reconstitute in the utility tub drain or in the home’s main drain. Reconstituted soap flakes form a very hard ball that can eventually occlude the entire drain. If you use powdered soap flakes in your washing machine and/or dishwasher, do not over-soap your laundry or dishes. Liquid soaps do not reconstitute in the way that powdered soaps do.

Main drains – the connection between your home and the municipal sewer system (or your septic tank) – can get clogged for any number of reasons, including organic buildups, tree roots, and major damage to the main waste pipe. A clogged main drain is a plumbing emergency and a health hazard that must be cleared or repaired immediately. Generally, a problem in the home’s main drain requires special equipment to diagnose and correct the problem. If you suspect a problem in your main drain – indicated by sewage backflows into the home – call your municipality first. They will help you determine where the problem is located and who is responsible for fixing it.

If the problem in your main drain is on your side of the line, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing. We can assist with backflow testing, sewer cleaning, installation of new plumbing and fixtures, leak repairs and clog removal.

Depending upon the material your drainpipes are made from, a drain can also become clogged from a buildup of minerals in the pipe. This buildup normally takes years to occur. Pipes can also become corroded, and debris from corrosion can also clog the drain. You may be able to clear mineralization from pipes, but corroded pipes cannot be cleaned or repaired and must be replaced.

Finally, drains can become clogged if an object is dropped into the drain. If you have small children in your home, they may entertain themselves by flushing small toys or other objects down the toilet, or throwing things down the drain. Irregularly shaped objects can become caught in the drain or trap and can catch other materials that are later disposed of. Removing an object from a drain or toilet may require you to dismantle a sink, shower or toilet drain.

For most clogs that occur as the result of organic material buildup, Boston Standard Plumbing recommends the use of Bio-Clean, an enzymatic drain cleaner that is non-toxic, environmentally friendly and highly effective at removing organically based clogs.

Bio-Clean contains no harsh chemicals that can damage your pipes or potentially contaminate your drains. Bio-Clean will not harm your skin should you come in contact with it. Bio-Clean is a combination of bacterial and enzymatic agents that literally eat the clog, eliminating it outright. The bacteria are all-natural and are not harmful to humans or pets. The bacterial and enzymatic agents in Bio-Clean eat food particles, hair, grease, soap film and organic materials that contribute to drain clogs.
The enzymes in Bio-Clean break down your clog into components the bacteria can digest. The bacteria, once active, can eat their own weight every minute, and the bacterial population doubles about every 30 minutes under the right conditions. Activating the bacteria in Bio-Clean takes nothing more than mixing it with warm water, and we recommend that the Bio-Clean have at least six to eight hours to work. Cleaning your drain with Bio-Clean is the perfect overnight activity.

Bio-Clean is safe for drainpipes made of all materials, and is absolutely safe for septic tanks. In fact, Bio-Clean outperforms most strains of coliform bacteria in septic tanks. Bio-Clean can also be used to eliminate foul odors that may come from drains or garbage disposals, and is safe for use in RVs and boats.

If you would like more information about Bio-Clean, or would like to try Bio-Clean in your drains, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing at (617) 288-2911.