When your pipes break down it’s always best to call the plumber, but there are many things you can do on your own to keep your pipes in good condition. Taking good care of your pipes will save you thousands of dollars over the years. If you’re generally handy and you’re feeling brave, you can also find dozens of manuals (and millions of Youtube videos) that will teach you how to do basic plumbing repairs on your own.
Use these tips to keep water flowing freely through your pipes:
1. Don’t pour grease down the drain
Grease cools and solidifies in your pipes, clogging your drains and causing problems in the surrounding sewers. All grease should be siphoned into an old plastic container—one with a seal—and thrown in the garbage.
2. Collect your food waste
It might be convenient to use the garbage disposal function of your sink, but this can clog your drains and even damage your mainline. If your city doesn’t have an organic waste program, create a compost in your backyard. Not interested in a compost? Just throw it in the garbage. The biggest concern is that you keep the food waste out of your drains.
3. Use a drain gate
A good drain gate keeps a variety of debris out of your pipes and only costs a couple of dollars. Most can simply be set in place, no tools required. You should also consider getting a lint filter for the hose on your laundry sink.
4. Run hot water through sinks after each use
Running the hot water for about a minute after each use of your sink helps keep food oils flowing down the drain, rather than getting stuck on the insides of your pipes.
5. Throw baking soda & vinegar into the sink before running the water
Baking soda is an incredibly effective cleaning agent that can be used on just about anything. Use a small handful to clean your drains once every two weeks.
Pour one cup of vinegar down the drain and let it sit for 30 minutes, then follow up with some very hot water—you may even want to boil it. You can do this on the same day that you do a baking soda treatment.
6. Use enzyme-based pipe cleaners
Enzyme-based pipe cleaners use bacteria to break down food debris and other items that can clog drains. You can buy these in packs of 100 from Amazon.
7. Make sure your outdoor pipes are thoroughly insulated
Frozen pipes can take several hours to thaw, leaving you without running water for an extended period of time. They can also explode. Many plumbers offer insulation services, but this is an easy job you can do on your own. Simply buy some high quality insulation and wrap it around your pipes. Do this towards the end of fall, so you’re not caught off guard by a sudden change in temperature.
8. Get repairs done ASAP
A leaky faucet or damaged pipe will only get worse if it’s left alone. For anything more serious than a clogged drain it’s always recommended to call a professional plumber.
9. Get your pipes and mainline inspected
No matter how good you are to your pipes time and exposure to the elements will eventually wear them down. An annual plumbing inspection can help you catch problems before they happen. This is also a good opportunity to get to know your local plumbers —and who you want to work with— before you have an emergency.