9 Common Plumbing Myths — Busted

9 Common Plumbing Myths — Busted

From the outside, your plumbing system might seem simple, but go a bit deeper, and you’ll find an intricate network of pipes and fixtures that can all have major issues. Because plumbing systems are often mysterious to homeowners, it’s no wonder certain myths have cropped up about their inner workings.

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Acting on common plumbing myths can make plumbing problems worse or introduce new issues that can damage fixtures, cause water damage or require expensive professional repairs. These are some of the biggest plumbing myths going around. Here’s how to avoid unintentionally damaging your plumbing system.

Steer Clear of These Plumbing Myths

These plumbing “tips” are often passed down through generations. Kids see their parents putting a brick in the toilet tank or pouring drain cleaner down the sink to clear clogs and assume it’s the best way to handle plumbing issues. The following plumbing myths are some of the most common ones people share.

1. Drain Cleaners Are Safe and Effective

It’s easy to assume that drain-cleaning products are safe and effective if they’re sold in stores, but they can actually be very dangerous. The harsh ingredients used in these drain openers are often damaging and can cause your pipes to deteriorate. If you breathe them in, splash them on your skin or get them in your eyes, they can cause serious injuries.

Drain cleaners don’t always work all that well, either. That might lead you to try other methods, such as additional drain-cleaning products, which can cause a serious chemical reaction if combined. If you use a plunger after putting drain opener in your drain, the plunger could splash the product on you. Instead, it’s best to try plungers and augers initially without the addition of drain-opening products.

2. Flushable Wipes Are Flushable

Despite the name, flushable wipes aren’t really safe to flush. Toilet paper is designed to break down, so it goes down the drain when you flush your toilet and doesn’t easily clog up the sewer or septic system. However, flushable wipes don’t disintegrate as toilet paper does, so they can often clog up the system. It might flush down your toilet, but it can create deeper issues in your system. Toilet paper and human waste are the only things you should flush.

3. Minor Leaks Are Nothing to Worry About

If your sink only has a minor drip, you might not think much of it. However, every drip adds up and can lead to gallons of wasted water. The leaky faucet will likely get worse, which can cause more damage and even more wasted water. Handling a plumbing leak as soon as you notice it prevents the issue from getting worse.

4. Lemon Peels Are Good for Garbage Disposals

There’s a good chance someone has told you to put lemon peels down your garbage disposal to freshen it up. Citrus peels can damage the disposal. Even though the chopped-up lemons might temporarily freshen your kitchen, they can make the blades dull. The citric acid can also cause the metal blades to corrode, and the peels can clog your garbage disposal. Instead, use a cleaner designed for garbage disposals, and always disconnect the power if you’re wiping the blades or other garbage disposal components.

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5. If It Goes Down the Drain, There’s Nothing to Worry About

For the most part, if your toilets flush and the drains drain well, your plumbing should be working fine. However, sometimes clogs can build up inside the pipes even when water is still flowing. Some clogs start small and gradually build up as more gunk goes down the drains, which means the problem could be growing in the pipes without you realizing it. If you notice the water starts to take longer to drain or you notice other unusual things, having your drains cleaned could help you avoid a major clog or backup.

6. Pipes Only Freeze If the Heat Is Off

You might think the only way your pipes can freeze is if you lose power or your furnace stops working. However, some pipes can freeze even if your heat is working fine. Pipes that run through exterior walls without much insulation or in areas like basements and attics that aren’t insulated can freeze, even if your furnace is still running. Freezing can often lead to a burst pipe, which can cause serious water damage. Monitor your pipes carefully in freezing weather. Leaving cabinet doors under sinks open and insulating pipes in uninsulated areas can minimize the risk of freezing.

7. Putting a Brick in the Toilet Tank Will Save Money

A brick in the toilet tank is supposed to save you money by using less water, but it can cause toilet issues. Your toilet tank needs a certain amount of water in it to flush the toilet properly. The brick can make the flushing worse by decreasing how much water the toilet has. The brick could break apart and cause issues inside your toilet.

8. Plumbing Is Easy to Fix Yourself

All homes eventually need plumbing repairs. It’s tempting to tackle them yourself to save money, but many repairs are better left to professional plumbers. DIY repairs could lead to bigger problems that cost a lot more to fix. Before trying to fix a plumbing issue yourself, ensure you’re fully equipped to make the repair.

9. Any Plumber Can Handle Your Issues

Some people believe that all plumbers are the same and can handle all plumbing issues. Most states require plumbers to be licensed, but they don’t all have the same credentials or training. Not all plumbers are equally reliable or knowledgeable on plumbing issues, so it’s important to check reviews and ratings to look for red flags.

If you have a very specific issue, it’s a good idea to find a plumber with extensive experience in that issue. For example, if your tankless water heater isn’t working properly, ensure you find a plumber who has worked on a lot of tankless water heaters and not just traditional tank types.

How Your Home’s Plumbing System Works

How Your Home’s Plumbing System Works

Our plumbing system is an essential part of your home, but many homeowners don’t understand how it works.

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Knowing what the different plumbing system components do and how they function can help you diagnose and manage plumbing problems.

How Does a Plumbing System Work?

Your plumbing system consists of freshwater and wastewater subsystems. The freshwater subsystem pushes water through your pipes under enough pressure to supply upstairs fixtures. Meanwhile, the wastewater subsystem transports used water away from your home. Depending on your wastewater system, the water travels to a municipal sewer or a septic tank.

Plumbing systems also contain a water heater with a tank to store hot water and supply your fixtures. Alternatively, you may have a tankless system that heats water on demand.

How Does Fresh Water Enter Your Home?

Most American homes get their water supply from a public water supply system in their town or city. The entity responsible for the communal water supply uses powerful pumps to transport water from a well or body of water to a water tower, and the source depends on the natural geography of the area. Water suppliers then treat and filter the water to make it safe to drink.

Sometimes, the tower is located on high ground, allowing gravity to pull water along supply lines to people’s homes. Otherwise, the supplier pumps the water to supply local houses with water.

Some homeowners in remote communities have their own wells that supply their homes with fresh water. They may also have a tank as part of their plumbing system to store water so that it’s readily available.

How Does Fresh Water Flow to Fixtures Like Sinks and Showers?

After fresh water enters your home via a main water supply line, it’s pumped under pressure along supply pipes made from plastic, iron or copper. These pipes branch out to supply every fixture in your home, including toilets, faucets and showers. Some of the water supplies your water heater and travels along hot water supply pipes to your fixtures.

Pressure is essential for forcing water through your plumbing system. A pressurized system allows water to travel upward to supply upstairs taps and push around corners in your pipework.

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What Are the Major Parts of a Home Plumbing System?

Your home’s plumbing system has three major parts:

  • Pipes: Supply hot and cold fresh water to your fixtures
  • Fixtures: Allow access to hot and cold fresh water
  • Drains: Carry wastewater from your fixtures to the sewage system

Each part of your plumbing system requires proper installation and maintenance to keep everything working correctly. A professional plumber can advise you on how to care for your plumbing system.

What Are Plumbing Vents?

Plumbing vents, also known as vent stacks or plumbing air vents, control the airflow through your plumbing system. These vents are vertical pipes that attach to a drain line and allow waste gases to escape while supplying fresh air to your plumbing system.

Plumbing vents prevent a vacuum from forming inside your plumbing system, allowing water to flow freely to your fixtures. They also stop sewer gases from entering your home by carrying them to the main roof vent away from your home’s ventilation system.

How Is Wastewater Taken Out of the Home?

Unlike your freshwater system, your drainage system isn’t pressurized. When you flush the toilet or let the water run down the plughole, gravity transports it downward through the fixture drain. Fixture drainpipes usually have curved sections called traps that prevent waste gases from traveling back up the pipe and into your home.

Fixture drains connect to horizontal branch drain lines concealed in the walls. These horizontal lines have a slight downward angle to allow the water to flow into soil stacks, which are large vertical pipes that connect to the main drain. The main drain is usually located underneath your house.

The main drain line is angled downward to encourage wastewater and solid waste toward the municipal sewer main or septic field. The municipal sewer main is a communal line owned by your city or county that transports the sewage to a wastewater treatment plant. Some municipal sewer lines transport water using gravity alone, but others use pumps to push wastewater through the system.

If you live in a rural area where it would be too expensive or impractical to install a public sewer system, you may have a septic tank. These tanks are large concrete or steel containers installed underground in the yard. Sewage flows through the main drain line into the septic tank, where solids sink to the bottom to form sludge and floating waste rises to the top. This creates a layer of clear wastewater in the middle. As more water enters the tank, some of the existing water flows into perforated pipes in a drain field where it seeps into the ground.