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Plumbing Myths Busted!

Plumbing myths busted because the world is full of myths mistakenly believed by the masses.  Most are harmless, but when they relate to something as integral to your home as plumbing, myths can be dangerous and costly.  Below are several common plumbing myths, busted.

Garbage Disposal Plumbing Myths Busted

Myth: Lemons clean your garbage disposal.  FALSE!  Lemons will make your garbage disposal smell better, but they won’t clean it.  To the contrary, lemons can harm your garbage disposal by clogging the drain and corroding the metal pieces of your disposal with citric acid.  The best way to clean your garbage disposal is to disconnect the disposal from its power source, then use a cleaning solution comprised of mild soap and warm water.  Spray the solution into your garbage disposal, give it a few minutes to work, then use a cleaning brush to scrub your disposal clean.

Myth: Running water while using your garbage disposal ensures that all waste can be disposed of.  FALSE!  Many believe they can put anything in their garbage disposal if they run water.  The truth is that some things just can’t go down a garbage disposal, no matter how much water you run.  Many items will damage your garbage disposal, necessitating expensive repair and drain cleaning.

Myth: Ice cubes sharpen garbage disposal blades.  FALSE!  Ice cubes don’t sharpen the blades, but they will clean them.  Eggshells can also serve this purpose.

Toilet Plumbing Myths Busted

Myth: Put a brick in the back of your toilet tank to save water.  FALSE!  Bricks deteriorate and cause other things, like your toilet’s flapper, to break.  As a water saving technique, this can also backfire.  If you displace too much water, you’ll have to flush twice, negating the whole endeavor.

Myth: You should flush flushable wipes down your toilet.  FALSE!  Flushable wipes don’t biodegrade like toilet paper.  Flushable wipes will technically flush down your toilet, but they will then clog your pipes and cause a lot of problems.

Myth: Toilet bowl tablets with bleach will keep your toilet clean.  FALSE!  If a tablet containing bleach sits in your tank, it will destroy the working parts of your toilet within six months.  Cleaning your toilet bowl with bleach is OK, but don’t let the bleach linger in your tank for more than ten minutes.  Follow the mantra “squirt, swish, and flush.”

Myth: Water flushes counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere.  FALSE!  This one is more interesting than important.  This myth is based on the Coriolis effect, but it doesn’t apply to small bodies of water, like the one in your toilet.  The actual direction of your flush is determined by the design of your toilet itself, not the earth’s gravitational forces.

Myth: Creatures cannot swim upstream and into your toilet.  FALSE!  Always check the toilet before you sit down!  Your drainpipes are a two-way street- your waste can go out, and rats and snakes can travel through your plumbing and into your toilet bowl.

Myth: Cat litter is flushable.  FALSE!  Cat feces contain Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that is harmful to humans and marine life.  It doesn’t pose a high risk to healthy adults but can harm pregnant women and marine life.  Modern wastewater treatment is largely effective at removing the parasite, but for the sake of marine life and pregnant women, it is probably best not to chance it.

Drains and Pipes Plumbing Myths Busted

Myth: If things keep going down my drain, it isn’t getting clogged.  FALSE!  Early signs of a clog include a slow-moving drain and waste fragments that remain on the discharge pipe.  Regularly maintain your pipes to ensure no clogs develop.

Myth: Lightning can’t travel through pipes.  FALSE!  Metal piping acts as an excellent conductor.  If lightning strikes an exterior metal pipe, it can travel through your plumbing system directly to you.  Modern PVC piping greatly reduces this risk, but water also makes for an excellent conductor because it contains impurities that help conduct electrical current.  It is probably best to skip your shower or bath during a major storm.

Faucets and Fixtures Plumbing Myths Busted

Myth: You can clean plumbing fixtures with hand soap.  FALSE!  Hand soap may damage the surface of your plumbing fixtures.  For example, brass fixtures should be cleaned with gentle solutions, like cut lemons and baking soda, and toilet bowls require an effective disinfectant to kill germs and prevent infection.

Myth: Plumbing fixtures require little to no maintenance.  FALSE!  Failing to maintain fixtures can lead to serious problems.  Pipes can become obstructed by clogs, tree roots, or shifting foundation, and inside fixtures require regular maintenance to avoid serious drain clogs.  Failure to inspect and maintain your plumbing fixtures can lead to costly repairs.

Myth: A leaky faucet is not a big deal.  FALSE!  Small, slow drips add-up.  Sixty drips per minute waste just over 2,000 gallons of water per year.  This can cost you a lot of money in the form of a high water bill and worn out fixtures necessitating replacement.  This also hurts the environment.  Household leaks can waste more than one trillion gallons of water annually nationwide. This is the equivalent of the household water use of more than eleven million homes.

Water Heater Plumbing Myths Busted

Myth: Hot water heaters can’t explode.  FALSE!  The pressure relief valve on your hot water heater can fail.  If the pressure in your water heater reaches dangerous levels and your valve fails, there is a chance of an explosion.  To prevent this, regularly service your hot water heater, and check its pipes and T&P valves every few months.  Also, keep in mind that if you hear a loud, gurgling, rumbling noise emanating from your hot water heater, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should run for cover.  This loud rumbling noise is likely just a result of sediment collected in your water heater’s tank, where its heating element is located.  When the burner is on to heat the water, sediment prevents the heat from rising properly and the expansion of the resulting air bubbles causes a popping sound.  This does, however, make your hot water heater more inefficient.  Drain and flush your water heater regularly to rid it of sediment and prevent this costly issue.

Kelson Carter

Article reviewed by:

Kelson Carter, aka, The Prince of Plumbing

Kelson is a 3rd generation Plumbing Contractor. His family business is located in Greenwood, Indiana, and provides Residential Plumbing Service to the Indianapolis Metro market.

Kelson grew up watching his grandfather and father do plumbing. After graduating high school, Kelson went to Trade School and became a Licensed Master Plumber and Licensed Plumbing Contractor. He is also Certified in Backflow Prevention. He currently owns and operates Carter's My Plumber with his parents.


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