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Tips & Tricks

Serving Southern California

New Content added 03/03/11.

Our "Tips & Tricks" section is provided by us in our continuing effort to provide you a better service experience. Hopefully, each of these will help save you money on plumbing related service calls.

Kitchen Drains

This one comes from Grandma Cox. Fill each compartment of your kitchen sink with hot water, as hot as you can bear to put your hands into. Then add a cup or two of ammonia. I prefer lemon ammonia but regular does the job as well. Pull both drain stoppers at the same time and turn on the disposal. Grease, fat, etc. are your biggest issue with the kitchen drain. Dish detergent cuts the grease but does not break it down. As the grease runs down the drain it cools and solidifies to the pipe. Ammonia with the hot water cuts the grease buildup and is great for disposal odors as well.  Ammonia also works well in the laundry for greasy/oily clothes. Please do not combine bleach and ammonia. The combination leads to violent reactions.

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Bathroom Drains

Here your biggest problem is hair and soap scum. Dump straight bleach in the bathtub, shower and lavatory drains and let it sit for 30 minutes and then flush it down. Bleach dissolves hair. Again, please do not combine bleach and ammonia. The combination leads to violent reactions.

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Liquid Drain Cleaners

This is just about my biggest pet peeve with respect to service calls. Don't waste your hard earned money on them. I am considering charging extra to clear a drain after someone used one of these products. More often than not, consumers wind up having to call a plumber anyway. These products are not good for your plumbing nor are they good for the plumber and his equipment. Please, do us all a favor and call the plumber of your choice and have the drain snaked. After a "proper cleaning" you can expect years of trouble free performance instead of "dumping money down the drain" on a regular basis.

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Digging in Adobe?

Anyone that has ever dug in adobe knows what a pain it is. It’s either too wet or too dry. If it’s too dry you might as well rent a demolition hammer and a clay spade to loosen it up. If it’s too wet it sticks to everything including your boots that wind up weighing triple.  If you don’t have a firm grip on the shovel when you pitch the soil off you’ll wind up holding nothing but air. Recently we had this issue, so I tried spraying the shovel with silicone spray. That only lasted about two or three scoops. After a bit of trial and error, we finally came up with a solution. Try this one next time. Fill a 5 gallon bucket with water and then add some dish detergent. Between each scoop dunk the shovel in again. To my surprise it works very well. We were able to complete a 4’ by 4’ by 4-1/2’ deep hole in right at 3 hours. (Special thanks to Rene Santamaria for his ideas, it worked)

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Working with PVC

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard…”you don’t need to use a primer if you use this glue”. After a brief argument I point to the instructions on the label that explains the proper procedure including the use of a primer. I don’t care if it’s a pressure or non-pressure system, it’s really cheap insurance and in my opinion the extra step and the minimal cost will never outweigh the benefits.

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Exercise Your Valves

Probably the most neglected plumbing items are the valves used for isolating a fixture or shutting down a water supply. While most other valves are used on a regular basis, these valves are typically only used in order to service another valve (e.g. leaking faucet). Due to extended periods of in operation, minerals build up on the internal parts that are in direct contact with the water. We strongly recommend that you go through the house and close and open all water related valves periodically. This will greatly increase the likelihood they will function as intended when you or I need them to. Proceed with caution though if the valves have already suffered from extended periods of non-operation. Do not force them and seek the assistance of a professional! Depending on the length of time, more often than not they can be recovered. They may also start to drip from the stem. But fear not, all quality and most cheaper valves have an accessible "packing nut" that can be tightened just enough to stop the leak. That is its function. Set a reminder for yourself to do this every six months or so.

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Opening Valves

For compression (multi-turn) and gate type valves, most people open them all the way to their open stop position. That is not the best thing to do. Open the valve all the way and then close it a 1/4 turn (doesn't have to be exact). When the minerals build up rendering the valve "frozen", you can almost always turn the handle back that 1/4 turn to break it free and then proceed to close the valve.

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Extending the life of your water heater

This doesn't apply to commercial applications such as restaurants (they have minimum temperatures set forth by health codes), however for residential applications it does. Turn the control valve (thermostat) down. It will also help cut your energy bill. Fact of the matter is that most people bathe in 100-110 degree water. You certainly won't put your hands in water over 120 degrees for doing dishes. Heat accelerates the oxidation process on the tank. Other contributing factors are the ph of the water. The hotter you run it the quicker it will oxidize. So ask yourself, why do you need 160 or better hot water?

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We will be adding more in the near future. If you would like to submit a tip or trick or have a question about a tip or trick, Please e-mail us at:

tips@ppcsocal.com

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While Parker Plumbing Company has provided this information to help everyone, we assume no liability or responsibility in your implementation of these tips and tricks. If you have a question or doubt, please e-mail us at tips@ppcsocal.com in advance.