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If your toilet could talk…

If your toilet could talk…

Toilets are arguably the most unsung of workhorses around your home. We don’t just expect toilets to work; we need them to work. But sometimes, they don’t work. If only your toilet could talk, what would it tell you about taking care of your toilet?

Taking care of your toilet

We’re pretty sure that taking care of your toilet would be high on your toilet’s list of things to discuss. Taking care of your toilet goes beyond just cleaning it now and then. Here are a few things to consider, if you plan to help your toilet out.

Check for leaks now and then. Toilets can leak in a number of places. A “good” leak is one that allows water from the tank to leak into the bowl. This is a “good” leak because the water doesn’t end up where it’s not supposed to go. Leaking toilets can cost a lot of money over time, however. These kinds of leaks aren’t always obvious, either. If your toilet fills up the tank on its own periodically, you’ve got a leak. If your toilet takes forever to fill, you’ve probably got a leak. If you can hear water draining down into the bowl, or into the soil pipe, your toilet is leaking. You can buy replacement valves for your toilet at your local home improvement store. You can also adjust the amount of water your toilet uses.

A “bad” leak allows water to escape the toilet. A leaking toilet can either flow out the bottom of the tank, or out the bottom of the bowl. Tank leaks are clean. Bowl leaks not so much. If your tank is leaking (and not just sweating), you may have to replace the tank. Check for cracks in the porcelain and look for flimsy gaskets. If water appears on the floor following a flush, remove the toilet and replace the wax ring on the bottom. You may also notice a “sewer” smell when you have a bad wax ring. Wax rings are cheap but they can cause a lot of damage when they give up.

When does your toilet need maintenance?

There’s not much involved in regular maintenance, except for cleaning. Be sure to use cleaning products specifically intended for toilets. Standard household cleaners can stain porcelain and crack the glazing. This will decrease the lifespan of your toilet. If you have hard water, use products to soften the water in your toilet. This will help reduce or eliminate mineralization and staining. Check the filler adjustment now and then to make sure your toilet isn’t consuming too much water. Make sure the seat is tight and fits well. Also check the flange nuts to make sure the toilet doesn’t move when it’s in use.

These items qualify as abuse

Toilets are designed to take a particular kind of abuse, but sometimes people go too far. Here are a few things you should NOT flush down your toilet.

Paper that isn’t toilet paper. Toilet paper dissolves in water, which is why it’s ok to flush it down the sewer. Other kinds of paper – Kleenex, paper towels, etc., – don’t dissolve. If it isn’t toilet paper, don’t flush it.

Disposable … things… Toilets aren’t trashcans, but that doesn’t stop some people from flushing trash. Q-tips, cigarette butts, sanitary products, disposable wipes, condoms, dead goldfish – none of these things are toilet-friendly. They all belong in the trash. If these items make it all the way to the sewer, they need to be separated out before treatment. In most cases though, they don’t make it all the way to the sewer. They sit in your soil pipe or in your sewer lateral. Given the opportunity, they will return to you. Don’t flush these things.

You have been warned.

Grease and food waste. Flushing grease down the toilet is no better than washing it down your sink. In fact, it’s probably worse. Grease can clog your sink drain in no time. If it clogs a kitchen sink, it will do the same thing to a toilet. Don’t put grease down either the toilet or the sink. (But especially not the toilet.)

Hot liquids
Toilets (and bathroom sinks) aren’t tempered. A rapid shift in temperature between the water and the porcelain will crack it. (And things won’t get better from there.) Use the kitchen sink to dispose of hot, non-greasy liquids.

Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating is here to help with all of your toilet maintenance needs. We can also recommend and install low-flow toilets to help you save water! Call us at (617) 288-2911 to schedule an appointment.

Photo Credit: Scott Beale, via Flickr

Facial recognition technology foils toilet paper bandits

Facial recognition technology foils toilet paper bandits

Visitors to the Temple Haven Park in Beijing are being looked at more closely – by the toilet paper dispensers. The dispensers use facial recognition technology to determine who gets toilet paper and who doesn’t.

Park officials installed the dispensers to curb rampant toilet paper thefts at the popular tourist site. The dispensers, which activate when a person stares into them for three seconds, rip off a precisely two-foot piece of paper. Thanks to the dispenser, a bathroom visitor can only get a new stash of TP once every nine minutes. Need more? Out of luck.

Visitors to the park aren’t particularly pleased with the high-tech TP guardians. Some think that the dispensers are a little too stingy with the paper; others lament the fact that the dispensers are even necessary.

Park officials found that locals, rather than visitors, were making off with the toilet paper in the park’s restrooms. To combat the thefts, they strategized about ways to discourage the bandits. Ultimately, they settled on facial recognition technology because it doesn’t require the user to touch the machine. Other rejected solutions used fingerprint readers and infrared scanners.

The dispensers cost northward of $700 each, but park officials believe that they’ll cut down on paper waste and paper theft. The restrooms at the park are somewhat of an oddity in China; most public restrooms don’t supply toilet paper in the first place. The Temple Haven Park has provided complementary wipes for about 10 years, but was being overwhelmed by the demand.

Some park visitors say that the toilet paper problem exemplifies the impact of poverty on ordinary Chinese citizens. In a country where the “squat toilet” is still the king of the hill, toilet paper is something of a rare commodity. Foreign visitors are advised to carry their own toilet paper when sightseeing, and putting the paper in the bowl when you’re finished is frowned upon. That’s because the plumbing in China often isn’t big enough to accommodate toilet paper.

Visitors who can’t bear the thought of using a public restroom in China are often advised to seek out a local McDonald’s or a western-style hotel, where flush toilets (and presumably free toilet paper) are standard.

Sometimes, even in the good, old US of A, your plumbing may not be up to the task. Objects that weren’t intended to be flushed can clog a pipe. Minerals and other deposits can also reduce water flow in the system. We’re always here to help with the most unpleasant problems that can crop up with your favorite flusher. Give us a call at (617) 288-2911. We don’t provide free toilet paper, but we’ll make sure your toilet is up to whatever you can throw at it!

Photo Credit: Simon Schoeters, via Flickr