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Plumbing Myths

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As a homeowner, you’ve probably learned some basic home maintenance abilities. But even if you consider yourself to be pretty handy, sooner or later you’ll run into a project that throws you for a loop. And when that happens, you’ll likely head to Google or YouTube for a tutorial.

The problem with this is, well, you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet, much of which is supplied by well-intentioned amateurs. That’s certainly true when it comes to household plumbing. There’s a lot of great plumbing info out there, but also some dangerous plumbing myths… and knowing the difference can sometimes be tough.

We’re here to help. At Carter’s My Plumber, we have more than 100 years of combined plumbing experience. We’ve been serving home and business owners in Indianapolis for more than three decades. We’re trusted experts; we know our stuff!

So today, we want to debunk a few of the most pervasive plumbing myths. We hope this information is helpful to you, and invite you to contact us directly with any specific questions.

We will be unpacking Some Common Plumbing Myths below.

1) “In-tank” cleaners make it easy to keep your toilet tidy.

You’ve probably seen these drop-in tabs before. They claim to make it easy to keep your toilet clean. Unfortunately, all they really do is bleach the scum that builds up in your toilet bowl. This usually isn’t enough to eradicate the scum, which can build up and cause lots of problems. Also, the bleach itself may do long-term damage to your pipes or your toilet bowl. We recommend against using these cleaners in your toilet tank.

2) If water is going down the drain, that proves you don’t have a clog.

Many homeowners assume that, as long as the water keeps going down, they have no need to hire drain cleaners. This isn’t always the case, however. Even if the drain seems like it’s working, you may have grease building up inside your pipes. To avoid this, make sure you avoid putting soap, grease, rice, and pasta down your drain or into your garbage disposal.

3) Lemons can help you clean your garbage disposal.

Speaking of garbage disposals… another common plumbing myth is that you can use lemons to keep things clean and fresh. While it’s true that citric acid helps keep your garbage disposal smelling good, it’s not actually cleaning anything. On the contrary, that acid can actually lead to corrosion of the disposal blades.

4) Flushable wipes are okay to use.

There are a number of wipes that are advertised as flushable, but we’re here to tell you that this just isn’t true. Sewers and septic systems just aren’t equipped to handle these products. They don’t break down very quickly, and they can easily snag on pipes. This can block the entire system and lead to catastrophic damage. We’d recommend not flushing anything down your toilet except for human waste and toilet paper. Leave the flushable wipes alone!

5) You can clean your plumbing fixtures with regular soap.

This is one of those plumbing myths that may sound harmless enough at first. Actually, though, it can do real damage to your faucets and fixtures. They’re not meant to be cleaned with regular soap. Brass fixtures, in particular, may become tarnished if you use regular soap on them. We recommend gentler cleaning supplies, including cut lemons and baking soda. There are also some less abrasive cleaners you can buy that are specifically for plumbing fixtures.

6) Running water ensures everything goes down your garbage disposal.

This just isn’t the case. There are certain things you’re just not supposed to put down the drain, and no amount of water is going to change that. For example, we’d highly recommend against putting rice, pasta, potato peels, banana peels, nuts, or seeds down your disposal. Really, it should primarily be used for tiny food particles. When in doubt, scrape your plate into the trash.

7) Ice cubes can keep your disposal blades good and sharp.

Actually, ice cubes don’t sharpen anything… but they can keep your disposal blades clean, and there’s no harm in using them.

8) Putting a brick in the back of your toilet tank can help you save water.

First of all, the brick is going to deteriorate over time, sending abrasive particles into the tank. This can cause different parts of your toilet, like the flapper, to break. Second, it may not save you water at all; it may result in you having to flush twice, which means you’re wasting water!

9) It’s okay to flush cat litter down your toilet.

Please don’t do this! For one thing, cat feces contain parasites that can be extremely harmful to human beings as well as to marine life. The wastewater treatment facility will likely eradicate these parasites, but why risk it? (Note that the risk is most acute for pregnant women.)

10) Lightning cannot travel through your pipes.

Believe it or not, lightning can travel through your pipes. Metal pipes serve as a conductor, so if lightning strikes an exterior pipe, it can travel across your entire plumbing system. Installing PVC piping can significantly reduce this risk, though it’s worth noting that water itself can make for an effective conductor. The bottom line: We’d recommend avoiding showers and baths during major storms. It’s not likely you’ll get lightning-struck through your pipes, but it’s also not impossible.

11) Having a leaky faucet isn’t very serious.

While it’s tempting to think that a leaky faucet or pipe is no big deal, that’s not actually true. With every little drip and drop, you’re losing water. And over time, all that water accumulates. Not only can this lead to water damage in your home, but it may also increase your utility bills. Finally, all this wasted water can obviously be bad for the environment.

12) Hot water melts grease and prevents clogs.

Many homeowners think that it’s okay to put oil and grease down their garbage disposal, just so long as they run some hot water to break down the grease. There is some truth to this one: Hot water really does break down the grease. However, once that grease hits your cold pipes, it’s going to re-solidify. And then, it will become a magnet for hair and crumbs and dust. You may soon find yourself in need of a professional drain cleaner. Our advice is to avoid putting grease and oil down your pipes, regardless of the amount of hot water you run.

12) Liquid drain cleaners are totally safe.

We’d generally recommend that you avoid these products. Many of them are actually quite abrasive, and may eat away at your pipes. Of course, this can lead to leaks, water damage, a high water bill, and all kinds of other expensive plumbing issues. We recommend using a drain snake or an auger instead. Also, here’s a very important tip: If you ever do use drain cleaning solutions, don’t use a plunger to try to unclog the drain further! That will just bring those corrosive chemicals back to the surface, and it could be hazardous to your health as well as to your pipes!

14) If you hear your water heater rumbling, that means it’s about to explode.

This is one of the more complicated plumbing myths. It actually is possible for a water heater to explode. With that said, that rumbling sound probably just means that a lot of sediment has built up inside the tank, and you need to have the water heater cleaned out. Either way, don’t panic, but do call a plumber to come inspect your water heater ASAP.

Contact Our Plumbing Professionals to Learn More

We hope it’s been helpful to you to clear up some of these myths. But of course, you may have additional questions. Or, you may have some urgent plumbing maintenance needs. Either way, we welcome you to give us a call.

Carter’s My Plumber has been servicing Indianapolis homes and businesses for more than 30 years, and we have the expertise you need to resolve all your plumbing issues. Contact us anytime you need us.

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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