Small Home Gazette, Summer 2008
Answers to Your Toughest Bungalow Questions: plumbing advice
Small Home Gazette: I went on vacation and upon returning I noticed that my bathroom sink drains very slowly. The bathtub and the toilet are not affected, even though they’re on the same drain line. I tried to clean it out with a plumbing “snake,” but it didn’t work.
Alex Blaylock: This is a condition that occurs with old original cast iron waste pipes. Old cast iron pipes are rough and catch toothpaste and hair at the bottom where a T-shaped fitting reduces the size of the pipe. When water flows over this gunk every day, some toothpaste is carried away, but when you go on vacation it can set up like concrete. This probably does not happen all at once, but over a series of dry periods.
SHG: How do you prevent this without giving up vacations?
Blaylock: You can try to prevent this by keeping hair out of the drain. Clean hair out of the sink after combing your hair and clean the stopper regularly. Secondly, don’t load the toothbrush up with toothpaste like they show in the advertisements. If it does get clogged and you cannot clean it out, a plumber has a motorized snake with different heads that may work. If it does not, the only option is to replace the drain pipe with PVC piping. It is not terribly expensive, but it is better to prevent it from happening in the first place.
SHG: You hear stories about rats getting into homes by crawling up through the plumbing. Is this true, or just an “urban legend”?
Blaylock: It is true. It is not common, but it has happened and will happen again. A common way is through the use of rubber T-fittings for repair. These fittings are a quick repair. You slip the rubber over the pipes and fasten them with hose clamps. These fittings do not meet code and plumbers are not allowed to use them, but they are available in hardware stores. Rats climb up the rough interior of cast iron pipes, chew through the rubber, and they are in your home. If you have any of these in your home, you may want to get rid of them.