Sometimes, you can solve a plumbing problem all on your own — you just need to have the right supplies on hand. They can help you tackle stubborn clogs and clean out smelly drains without having to call for professional assistance. If you want to keep your plumbing in great shape and solve issues in a hurry, here are all of the things that should be in your personal tool kit:
That’s right — it’s plural. There are different types of plungers designed for specific plumbing tasks and techniques, so you will want to have more than one stored away in your hall closet.
The first type that you should put in your tool kit is a standard plunger to deal with basic sink drains. You’ll recognize the design of a long handle with a wide rubber cup on the end. The edges of the cup will be completely flat so that it can cover the surface of the drain.
It’s possible to use this type of plunger for toilet drains, but it won’t be as effective. As an aside, you should have a separate plunger for your bathroom anyways — you don’t want to use a tool designed for the toilet into a place where you wash your hands, wash your dishes or prepare your food. Designate one plunger for the bathrooms and another for other areas of the house for the sake of hygiene and convenience.
The next type of plunger you should get for your personal tool kit is a toilet plunger. Its design will be a little different from a basic plunger. The cup will fold in and then open up into a small passage in a mushroom shape. The design is meant to reach the toilet’s sunken drain and create an effective seal. You will also notice that the rubber cup is deeper than the standard cup — this is to bring in more water and create a more forceful plunge.
If you want to get rid of persistent clogs before calling a professional, you can put a drain snake into your personal plumbing tool kit. You will want a standard manual drain snake that you can fit down a toilet drain.
For a quick tutorial on how to use a simple drain snake to clear a clog, you should follow these steps:
- 1. Put the end of the snake into the drain opening
- 2. Slowly turn the handle to let it make its way down the drain
- 3. Push the snake down the drain until you reach the clog
- 4. Rotate the handle so that the snakehead hits the clog
- 5. Wind it several more times to grip the clog
- 6. Then slowly pull it up and free the clog from the drain
- 7. Give the toilet a test flush to see if it’s all clear
Certain drain snakes work better for different tasks. A thicker one will be useful for a toilet, but skinner versions will be ideal for tighter spots like shower and sink drains. If you have no professional experience, resist the temptation to get a heavy-duty or motorized auger.
While you have a drain snake in your tool kit, you may not enjoy using it. If you’ve never done the job before, you may need to prepare yourself for an unpleasant experience. Pulling up a long trail of slick and slimy human hair, along with the persistent odour, may be too much to deal with on a weekend afternoon. It can make you gag. To make it easier on your senses, you should open up the bathroom windows to let in fresh air.
Snaking a drain is also a messy business. You may want to wear protective gear to prevent anything from getting into your eyes, nose or mouth. After you’ve completed the task, you will want to do a drain rinse to get rid of the remaining bacteria and the smell. You will also want to give the floor of your bathtub or your shower a thorough scrub.
If you want to avoid an encounter with a repulsive hair clog, you should invest in a drain catcher to stop hair from building up inside the drain altogether. There are items like the TubShroom hair catcher that snag any strays that try to go down the drain, without forming a gross basket of hair at the bottom of the shower. The catcher is inserted into the drain so that the hair isn’t visible while you’re busy shampooing, shaving or daydreaming about winning an award.
Drain catchers aren’t just good for shower and bathtub drains — they’re great for kitchen sinks, too. A major cause of kitchen sink clogs will be from food scraps that have gone down the drain with the dish soap and water. Some ingredients are notorious for causing hard-to-clear clogs:
- Coffee grounds
- Vegetable rinds
You can find out more ingredients that cause kitchen clogs in our other blog posts. You should read them to get essential plumbing tips from the pros and to learn maintenance tricks that will keep your drains in excellent shape.
Use a drain catcher to keep ingredients out of your kitchen sink drain. Empty it any time it gets full. Place the contents into your compost bin, where your biodegradable food waste belongs. Don’t try to pull it out while the sink is full of water, or the scraps could spill out and make their way down the drain.
White vinegar is a simple cleaning supply that can go a long way. It can help clean windows, wash clothes and disinfect coffeemakers, and of course, it can fix up some key plumbing problems.
For instance, vinegar is an amazing tool for getting rid of hard water buildup on your faucets and showerheads. You will notice a chalky, white residue coating the outside of water exits. The reason for this unpleasant residue is that you have hard water, which is full of mineral deposits like calcium and magnesium. The deposits get trapped inside of the plumbing and eventually form the residue on the exterior and scale on the interior.
It looks like the main problem with hard water buildup is that it’s ugly, but it also ruins the effectiveness of your fixtures. The mineral deposits will block the exit and make it harder for the stream to come out of the tap or showerhead. If you see the residue on the outside, you may notice that the water pressure has also gone down or that the stream makes a high-pitched noise when you turn it on.
When you want to clean the build-up from a faucet, start by placing a cloth or cover over the sink drain. You don’t want to lose any crucial pieces in a moment of clumsiness. Then, unscrew the end of the faucet. You can either remove the aerator/filter to clean it, or you can replace it with a new one — they are cheap and available at most hardware stores.
If you’re choosing to clean both parts, place the faucet end and filter into warm white vinegar and let it soak. The acidic nature of vinegar should loosen the deposits. After letting it soak for over an hour, scrub it gently with a toothbrush and then rinse any remaining deposits away. Carefully place the end back onto the faucet neck. To clean off any remaining white residue, take a cloth, dip it in white vinegar and wipe down the fixture.
You can also clean a showerhead with vinegar by removing the neck and letting it soak in a bowl of the acidic cleaner for several hours. If you can’t remove the showerhead, that’s not a problem. Fill a plastic bag with vinegar and then tie it firmly around the showerhead. After the soak is finished, rinse out the remaining deposits and give the exterior a good wipe with a cloth and more vinegar.
If you don’t want to use white vinegar, you can always replace it with a household cleaning product Calcium Lime Rust — you may recognize it from its casual name CLR. It can easily get rid of mineral deposits and clear away stubborn chalky stains on your fixtures.
It’s great that you’re running maintenance on your plumbing and that you’re taking the initiative to take care of it on your own. However, it’s also good for your home’s system to know when you’re out of your depth. Don’t buy professional-grade equipment or attempt to fix complicated issues when you don’t have the experience to back it up. You will end up wasting your time and money, and you could make your plumbing problems even worse.
If you’re struggling to clear out a clog or finding that the water pressure is still low after your routine cleaning, you should give us a call. We offer plumbing services in Oakville that get your drains completely cleared of obstructions and return your system back to normal. If you don’t live in Oakville, we also have services in Toronto, the Beaches, Etobicoke, Scarborough, Mississauga, East York, York and Durham.
Go to our testimonials page to see local reviews from past customers to see why we are highly rated for our plumbing services and customer experience. You can contribute to the page after your own appointment.
Starting your own plumbing tool kit is a great idea. You’ll be prepared to solve annoyances like stubborn clogs and dirty faucets, without having to call the experts. If worse comes to worst, you can always cut your losses and call us over to get the job done.