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If It Fits, It Flushes? Misconceptions About How Your Drains And Toilets Work From An Emergency Plumber | Portland, OR


Even some products that say right on the label “flushable” can get stuck in your pipes on the way down. At Pilot Plumbing in Portland, OR, our emergency plumbers have a long list of items that can fit down the toilet or sink drain, but when it comes to the ride through the twists and turns of your pipes, they stand a good chance of getting stuck and causing other material to stick as well. In some cases, the problem may be not enough water to keep them moving, but in other cases what makes it down shiny new plumbing doesn’t make it down older, worn, and partially clogged drain passages. How do you avoid having to call the emergency plumber? See which of these issues are common in your home, and make a plan to find another way to send waste on its way.

Toilet Cautions That Help Avoid Overflows

The bottom line is, the only things that should go down your toilet are toilet tissue and human waste. If your toilet does clog, the emergency plumber will have a much easier time clearing clogs of organic material. Here is a long list of things that shouldn’t be flushed, which might fit but are likely to cause trouble further down your pipes, making clogs that are much harder to clear:

  • Facial tissues, Napkins, Paper Towels
  • Wipes for babies, disinfecting, makeup, etc.
  • Toilet bowl disposable scrubs
  • Dental floss, hair
  • Food such as eggshells, pasta, nutshells, rice, and coffee grounds, fats
  • Oils, and greases, food or otherwise
  • Sanitary napkins, tampons, or condoms
  • Cotton balls, Q-tips
  • Vitamins and medicines
  • Anything plastic
  • All kinds of diapers, even “disposable”
  • Cat litter, especially the clumping type!

Remember, all plumbing is not the same. What seems to be ok in one system may clog older or poorly maintained plumbing elsewhere. To avoid emergency plumber visits, compost or trash for all of these items is the best destination, not your plumbing. Your toilet doesn’t go straight down, too — it has curves for material to negotiate and get stuck in.

Sink Concerns

The same concerns apply as with toilets, but even more so as the pipes tend to be narrower and the force of water pushing material down the drain is less than in toilets. It takes less to clog a sink, then, whether the material is organic or not. Jewelry, bottle caps, and other accidentally dropped items can cause big problems, but a plumber visit to open the trap access and remove them can save a bigger problem later on as the material migrates further along the pipes. In the case of jewelry, you might save an important item!

Hair Clogs in Your Sink and Shower

Hair makes big, stubborn clogs that tend to act as filters and trap other material that would otherwise pass by. This is one of the reasons to carefully limit what you send down the drain because it might pass through an open pipe, but not one with a hair clog forming. Grease, makeup, and similar materials can help the hair clog form and block your drain, too. In some cases, the hair may be trapped by a built-in drain plug or another mechanism, creating a clog very close to the top of the drain and easily removed. These devices can also be a blessing when toothpaste caps and other plastic is dropped in, preventing them from traveling downward. In showers, hair is an even bigger problem for most families, with clogs forming often, even weekly.

A simple shower strainer placed in the drain can catch hair, shampoo caps, and other material which can then be emptied into the trash. Without such a device, the hair will gather further down, either on the drain plug mechanism in a bathtub, or further down the pipe, requiring an emergency plumber to come and reach through the deepening water when the drain gets clogged, and remove large quantities of hair or other clogs. It’s worth considering a whole-house drain cleaning service annually to help remove material that has migrated through the pipes and stuck in various locations, slowing drains and providing potential locations for future clogs.

Garbage Disposals Don’t Grind Everything Equally

Knowing what does and doesn’t work in a garbage disposal can save a lot of emergency plumber visits or service visits when the unit doesn’t work. Slippery material such as vegetable peels can jam the unit, while crunch material like eggshells and nut shells can damage the blades and cause a failure of the unit. In some cases, using the wrench that came with the disposal, if available, to turn the unit’s internal mechanism through a hole in the bottom, can cause jams to loosen and hopefully continue through without trouble. Water-absorbent materials such as rice and pasta are a particularly nasty source of clogs since even if they’re ground in the unit, they can still accumulate in the P-trap below and expand to form a clog.

Sewer Backups

Many of the materials that do pass through a fairly clean drain system may accumulate in your sewer pipe or in the city sewer. So-called flushable wipes have been notorious for causing large-scale problems in city sewers as they gather in large mounds rather than degrade. Any other materials that manage to pass through may also gather in your sewer pipe. If you’re having problems with slow drains and other signs of backup, our plumber can place a video inspection tool in the sewer cleanout port and take a look to find the problem.

Drain Expert and Emergency Plumber in Portland, OR

We’re Pilot Plumbing & Drain serving Portland, OR with emergency plumber services including comprehensive drain diagnosis and clearing, leak location and repair, water heater servicing, and broken fixture repair, along with other emergency plumber needs. We’ve been serving our area for over 15 years, with top customer service and thousands of five-star customers. Give us a call now and relax.

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