We all hate the idea of having to call the plumber when we have a clogged drain, toilet, or pipe. For one, these specialists make sure that they take their time when they are in your home. Since these guys get paid by the hour, they can afford to take their time while they make sure that they make what they consider to be a fair payment’ when it comes to labor and expenses.
While doing it yourself may seem like the way to go in most cases, it does not mean that it will work in all cases. But, you can still make every effort on your own to fix the small problems without the help of professionals and save a few dollars while you are at it.
The first thing that I will show you are some simple (*and sometimes obvious) tools, (and tips on how to use them), that you will want to keep around the house. Some of them you might already have, but then there are some which you may want to purchase as soon as possible. A few of the tools will be relatively inexpensive, but some of them I can promise will not go above the $20-$30 price tag, and they are the same tools that the plumber will use in order to unclog the drain in your home. They are as follows:
1) Plunger: Though this may be an obvious tool to have, it is not always one that is thought of too often as it is so ordinary. The plunger is a great tool, but there are two varieties that you will want to have on hand for the simple case of being able to handle any job. The first type is the normal standard plunger, with its wooden handle and orange suction cup. This type is especially good for sink drains and tubs, but it will not necessarily work for that stopped-up toilet. The type of plunger that you will need here is the toilet plunger, which usually has a large black suction cup with a circular ring at its base. This is for more suction power as you will need it on the most stubborn clogs.
2) Toilet Auger: This handy tool (*also known in layman’s terms as the ‘toilet snake’) is a handy little device that has a winch-like handle, a long metal snake-like cord, and a spring attached to the bottom. When you are trying to unclog a toilet, you feed the auger down the toilet a little at a time, feeding the metal cord and the spring down by cranking the handle in a counter-clockwise motion. The spring is at the bottom for catching such things as wadded up toilet paper and other blockages that may be in the swere pipe that will not allow the toilet to work properly. The cranking motion also breaks up softer particles if the blockage is caused by such things as hair or rust, which can also cause clogs within the system. This tool is a must of you’re finding that plunging the toilet is not making a full clearance. You can find them at Home Depot or Lowe’s for about $20 or so, and they are a great investment.
3) Oxy-Clean: What? I thought Oxy-Clean was for cleaning? While this may be true, Oxy-Clean is also a great substitute for drain opener when you don’t have any on hand and you are trying to find a quick, cheap, and fast way of unclogging a tub drain. All you have to do is place four to five scoops of the chemical within the drain and very slowly turn on the hot water faucet to the tub. (*Note: Do not fill the tub or the drain. Just simply fill it to where the Oxy-Clean is allowed to work down the drain at the same slow pace on its own. If you turn on the water full blast, it may simply fill the tub up and you may have to resort to a bucket-brigade in order to drain it and then start over). After you are done, allow the drain to sit overnight so that it can been seen if the chemical is doing its job. In the morning when you awake, take a look at the drain. If you see that the chemical has risen to the surface and slightly discolored, this means that the chemical has started to work, but it may take a few more applications in order to see if it will completely remove the clog. While it may be time consuming, the benefits will show as you are extending the current life of your pipes, and you don’t have to worry about getting a caustic chemical such as Drano or Liquid Plumbr on your skin. If the drain does back up, you will be able to do another application on the drain without worrying about putting on gloves or risking nasty skin burns.
4)TSP (*Tri-Sodium Phosphate): TSP is an industrial-strength cleaning compound that comes in a powder and can be found in most home improvement stores and or retail stores if you know where to look. TSP is great for making your shower insert (as well as your bathroom) sparkle as the chemical does not only clean, it has an emulsifying agent within it that will place an invisible barrier of protection to keep stains from resetting immmediately on your shower insert or other bathroom surfaces. Just make sure you mix it with a bucket of hot water and wear gloves when you are using it, as it is strong and may irritate your skin if your mixture is not diluted enough. (*Tip: This compound is also great for making your living room and kitchen walls white again as it removes stains with little effort. Make sure you have a tarp under you if you have carpeted floors. For wooden floors, make sure you have a mop handy to mop up excess water that mnay spill upon it.)
5) Bleach: Bleach is great for the simple everyday cleaning of the bathroom, as it will not only clean but sanitize your surfaces as well. It’s absolutely fantastic on soap scum around the bathroom sink as well as the tub ring that may be accumulating around the bathtub. What also makes this chemical great is that off-brands will do the same job as the regular brands, such as Clorox. However, Clorox does do a slightly better job.
6) Scrubbing Bubbles: This can of magic is fantastic for giving that high-gloss shine on all of your bathroom metal such as your faucets and taps. You can also buy this off-brand, and I have found that it works just as well as the name brand and also smells better. (*Tip: This stuff is also great for cleaning carpets and getting rid of stuborn stains such as animal messes! It is also cheaper than the canned carpet cleaner. The brand I buy only cost me $1)
7) Drano or Liquid Plumbr: This is what I use as a last resort on drains. While expensive, these drain openers can be a handy tool just in case. There is the Rapid Release variety, but I would highly stress that there could be risks to yourslef in the form of the chemical getting on your skin, and the primary chemical, sodium hydroxide (*which is the same stuff that they use in those blue ice packs that you buy for First Aid kits), will eat skin upon contact, liquifying it and making for a visit to the Emergency Room! Also, do not buy the generic brands, as the generic brands do not have the power that may be needed in order to remove the clog. This is where you will want to spend the money needed, and it’s better to spend $10 than $1,000!
Now that you have some tools and some great ways of using them, here are some other tips that may prove useful in your battle with the bathroom:
1) Do not be afraid you use your toilet as a bucket. I know it sounds messy, but common sense would be to make sure that there is nothing in it first. If you are using bleach as your primary cleaning chemical, pour a good amount of bleach into the toilet and then take a toilet brush and do your primary cleaning of the surfaces inside and out. Then, just simply flush the toilet.
2) For a deeper clean, leave your cleaning chemicals in the tub, sink and toilet and give them a chance to work. The longer that you leave them sit, the whiter your surfaces will be. It’s the same as if you were whitening your teeth, except it is your bathroom. But, use caution and don’t let it set for more than about 30 minutes as the fumes can build up after a time and too many fumes can make you sick. Close the door when you do this and turn on your exhaust fan if you have one. This will cut down on the fumes and the smell.
3) When using a toilet snake, always be careful. The reason for this is because you are using metal on a porcelain toilet, and porccelain is, by far, weaker than steel. When using it, always take careful care not to pull up to hard on it when you are clearing and if it becomes stuck, carefully work the cord back in the oppoiste direction. If you have to yank on it because it becomes stuck, do it a few times rather then one large tug. Metal will break a toilet, and toilets are a big expenditure if you are already on a tight budget.
4) Only call the plumber if there is no actual and feasible way for you to fix your plumbing. Plumbers are always the last resort. If you see that they are needed, always haggle for pricing so that the repair will not cut too deeply into your budget.
In closing, I would hope that these tips and tools of the trade will help you in keeping your bathroom running smoothly. A plumber is a great profession, but as with any trade, they can be extremely expensive. As I stated above, do everything that you can to rectify the problem before having to resort to professional help. Good luck!