Spring Cleaning: a Handy Guide to Your Drains

Toronto is now firmly in the thick of spring. The cherry blossoms made their much-anticipated arrival, drawing throngs of onlookers to High Park. The rain has been off-and-on, with more than a few unseasonably cold days. The Blue Jays have started their season, as the Maple Leafs have ended theirs, and the Raptors continue to rally. And all over the city, people are starting to roll up their sleeves and clean.

Every spring it’s the same, but every spring thousands of homeowners neglect to clean their drains. Your drains bear the brunt of a lot of the home’s activities, from cooking to cleaning, and after a busy winter they can start to show signs of problems. That’s not to mention that many owners of older homes in Toronto have neglected to replace old lead pipes or clay drainpipes, which can cause costly – and hazardous – problems down the line.

Spring cleaning for your plumbing, drains in particular, falls into four rough categories: preventative measures, routine cleaning, addressing backup and, finally, replacing pipes. With luck, you might only have to deal with the former two categories, but you won’t know for sure until you invite an expert Toronto plumber like Mister Plumber to take a look.

To help prepare you for your spring drain cleaning, we’re going to take a closer look at each of those four categories, detailing how to prevent and manage drain issues, as well as how to tackle backup and modernize your pipes. Let’s spring into it!

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House Rules: How to Avoid Drain Problems

Where your drains are concerned, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It’s helpful to make note of everything you shouldn’t put down the drain, and ensure that everyone in the house is on board with the plan. It’s difficult to be totally exhaustive when you list things that shouldn’t go down the drain, which is why it’s important that everyone use their discretion as well.

We’ve sort of discussed this topic recently, in our post on keeping your kitchen clog-free – click here to give it a read – but it bears repeating in this post, since it’s such an important facet of drainpipe health. Here, for your convenience, is an abridged list of the things you really shouldn’t put down your drain:

  • Hair
  • Paper towel
  • Hygiene products
  • Medications (though that’s admittedly for a different reason)
  • Fats, including bacon grease, butter, oil, salad dressing, etc.
  • Food particulates, including solid foods, sauces, soups, batters, etc.
  • As we pointed out in another post, any food that sticks to its container – peanut butter, jam, mayo, etc.
  • Coffee grounds
  • Egg shells
  • Flours of any kind
  • Really, anything you think you should put down the drain

Part of your spring cleaning regimen should be set aside for prevention, for making a mental note that your drain isn’t a waste disposal and a commitment to keep all clog-able stuff away from it. A drain catcher can also be an easy and effective way of ensuring that stuff – mostly larger particulates, but not necessarily oils – stay away from the drainpipes.

For Regular Drain Cleaning, Get Physical

Chemical cleaners may be convenient, but they take a toll on your pipes. That’s not to say that using chemical cleaners every once with totally destroy your pipes, but the lye-based cleaners can and will erode pipes over time. Further, they just aren’t that effective.

For drain cleaning that really works this spring, you need the drain cleaning experts in Toronto on your side. Rather than get chemical, we get physical: we use a plunger for minor issues, and a drain snake for more intermediate blockages. If neither of those works, we pull in the big gun, hydro-jetting.

Essentially, hydro jetting entails inserting a nozzle through the pipe that rapidly rotates, pressure washing the interior of the pipe. Not only does it effectively clean the inside pipe, but the pressure caused by the jet pushes any unwanted blockages through.

Tackling Drain Backup

Drain backup can be caused by a number of things. It might be a settlement of debris or an invasion of roots – without inspection, it’s difficult to tell. In any case, if your drain is backing up, it’s wise to call in the pros. We’ll know what to do, quickly and precisely, in order to get things back on track. Especially if you’ve been dealing all winter with an ornery drain, one that sluggishly drains or is prone to spitting back up, use spring cleaning as an excuse to tackle the issue head on.

Sewage backup might also be caused by the type of building trap you have. As we discussed recently on this blog, old clay building traps used to be installed underground, with a lot of different, vulnerable joints, which are prone to cracking. Not only that, but the u-shape they used to trap liquid, which was meant to prevent sewage gases from entering the home, can easily get clogged, therefore creating an even bigger problem. If any of your drains are backed up, or you notice a foul smell, call us immediately!

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Out With the Old Pipes, In With the New

Finally, spring is a time of positive transformation. Indeed, it’s a popular time for remodelling in Toronto. This spring, consider the unseen workhorses of your home: your pipes. Many older Toronto homes are served by ineffective and potentially hazardous pipes.

Lead pipes, it has been well documented, are all over Toronto and can contribute to serious health and developmental problems. If you live in an older area of Toronto, or are simply unsure what kind of pipes your home has, we can help you find out. If they’re lead, we recommend that you replace them with soft temper copper. Luckily, Toronto has a rebate program for these kinds of replacements, provided that you go with a professional plumber like Mister Plumber.

While you clean the rest of your house this spring, pay special attention to your drains. They work hard year-round to keep waste out of your house, and all they ask in return is a little TLC in the spring!