Most people probably don’t think about their plumbing when they get ready to tackle spring cleaning. While sparkling windowpanes and shiny woodwork are terrific, spending just a few hours attending to your plumbing can save you from breakdowns and expensive repairs down the road.
Some of the best advice we can give you when it comes to caring for your plumbing is to keep it clean! Keeping your plumbing appliances and fixtures clean not only keeps things sanitary, but keeps away mold and foul smells that can sometimes build up on plumbing.
Buildup of dirt and debris gets in the way of seals working properly and clogs drains and filter screens, all leading to the need for repairs or replacement. Keeping the rubber seals on your refrigerator, dishwasher and clothes washer clean will help seals to remain tight, maintain efficiency, and help them last longer. Dust acts like insulation on the coils of your refrigerator, so give them a thorough vacuuming to prevent overheating.
Tip from the Trade:
Avoid harsh chemicals and abrasive cleansers whenever possible. They can cause much more damage than good, corroding pipes and ruining finishes and seals. Try a mixture of baking soda, white vinegar, and soapy water, and use a toothbrush to clean areas for a tried and true cleaning method. Do not, however, use vinegar (or lemon juice/oil) on rubber gaskets and seals – it can dry out surfaces and corrode seals. Always check the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning specific appliances and fixtures, as some warranties can be voided if you use the wrong products.
Taking some time to clean your plumbing fixtures also gives you the perfect opportunity to check for leaks or other problems. Inspect your pipes, plumbing under sinks and behind toilets, and other exposed plumbing for leaks, damage, or anything unusual. Water damage caused by leaking plumbing can be hard to notice if you never look carefully. Doing a thorough leak check in and around your home can save you thousands in repairs in the future.
If you’re handy around plumbing, clean the traps beneath your kitchen, bathroom, and laundry sinks. It’s gross, we know, but a good habit to get into to avoid clogs in the future.
Tip from the Trade:
Put mesh strainers over all of your drains. These inexpensive items really help prevent hair and other debris from going down the drain and causing clogs and slow drains.
Shower heads and faucets gather sediment and silt over time. Most of these fixtures have heads that can be unscrewed, with a screen that can be cleaned. Some have a head design that can be soaked to loosen and remove built up. You may not need to replace that slow running faucet – it might just need to be cleaned!
Also give your faucet handles a check, cleaning the insides to prevent corrosion, and tightening them up to prevent leaking or further damage.
This is also a perfect time to inspect your toilet’s inner parts. Remove the tank lid and flush the toilet. Watch the full cycle, making sure the flapper is sealing well and the fill valve stops working at the right water level.
If the flapper on your toilet is getting worn out and loose, you can replace this item very inexpensively. Left unattended, it will start leaking which can waste a lot of water.
Tip from the Trade:
NEVER use harsh chemical drain cleaners to unclog your toilet or other drains. These products can cause serious damage to plumbing pipes and fixtures, not to mention they are terrible for your health. If you have a septic system, these chemicals also kill the good bacteria that keeps your septic system working well.
Check the water supply lines to your washing machine. If you see bulges, tears, or leaks, replace the lines right away. Don’t forget to also clean out your washing machine lint trap if yours has one.
Check your hose spigot for leaks or winter damage and replace it if necessary. If dripping continues after the spout is replaced, you may have had a frozen pipe that cracked over the winter and needs repairing. Consider installing frost-proof hose faucet if you don’t make a habit of turning off the water supply to your spigots every fall.