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No more wire coat hangers!

Posted 02-25-2009 at 02:32 PM by faucetman886

In my continuing preoccupation with DIY forums and chatrooms the second most frequent complaint after the mysterious smell is the clogged toilet. More and more new homes as well as renovated bathrooms are required by local codes to have low water use toilets. These toilets are designed to save water by using less per each flush. There are even toilets on the market today with 2 settings for flushing one for liquid waste the other for solid.
I’m not so sure that the problem is so much the low use units as much as it is we, ourselves, what we are used to that is causing the problem. For us old geezers who may have started out with outhouses, no clogging problem there, but primarily we are used to the old toilets that used up to 10 gallons of water to flush and were wide in their construction so you could flush your old bowling balls, the left over Thanksgiving turkey as well as the most solid of waste materials that your teen age son could produce. Do you who have read my articles before see a pattern developing about the teen age son? I only had boys but I can imagine some of the things the girls could flush also. With this old experience we took it for granted that the toilets could handle massive loads of what ever you needed to eliminate.In modern times the standard toilet actually used about 3.5 gallons of water per flush but the US department of Energy mandated in 1992 that toilets be developed that could flush with as little as 1.6 gallons.
How can we tell if the toilet is clogged? Of course the first sign is that when you flush instead of everthing disappearing neatly down the toilet it pours out on your feet , on the floor and down the hall. Even more subtle signs are that the water level doesn’t return to the proper level after a flush, or the flush is slow and inefficient. You are better off catching the clog at this stage as opposed to the wet feet stage
Needless to say we are still trying to flush the same amount of waste with half the water so we have to adjust our thinking as to how we use these low flush toilets. Although it defeats the purpose of the low flow toilet we can flush more often while using the toilet i.e. flush the solids before using paper, we can be more aware of how much toilet paper we use (primarily that teen age boy), we can use paper that dissolves more rapidly or more easily and last but not least the idea, that has been used in Europe for years, we can invest in toilets such as the TOTO nearest, that actually clean our delicate areas with water instead of using paper at all. There are even “washlets” or toilet seats that can be retrofitted to your existing toilet that provide this same service. Go to the National Builder Supply website for more info in these.
OK so we’ve done all these things and the darn thing is still clogged. How do we most easily unclog it before having to spend the son’s college money or by keeping the local plumber on a retainer. AND NO THE WIRE COAT HANGER IS NOT THE ANSWER. Most the time these things make permanent scratches in the bowl causing debris to build up and making it hard to clean. They are unsanitary and downright dangerous if left around uncleaned. So we try the plunger first. The problem with plungers today is that the bowl is usually oddly shaped an its difficult to get a good suction without making several plunges but can be helped by thoroughly coating the edge of the plumber with petroleum jelly (that’s Vaseline to most of you) allowing the plunger to make better contact with the sides of the bowl, this works for sinks and tub clogs also. If the plunger doesn’t work there are liquids that can be poured into the clog but be aware that if you are on a septic system they can be hazardous to the bacteria in your septic tank that are necessary for its proper action. Also never plunge after the use of one of these liquid products because they contain caustic solutions that can splash out on you and cause some severe burns or harm. The newest product on the market is canned compressed air to blow the clog free, but can you imagine the reverse effect?? Instead of blowing the clog on through the pipes it blows most of it back at you? Be afraid….very afraid and prepared for the clean up.
Lastly is the snake. No not your son’s boa constrictor even though you may have considered flushing it several times allowing it to join all of those many goldfish that have past on in the past. The snake is a cable device with an auger on the working end and a crank on the other that allows you to insert the cable into your toilet piping and turn the auger for several feet down into the plumbing to find and break up the clog. These are also available for rent at most tool rental businesses in an electrical version but honestly should only be used by the pros. If you have made the valiant effort and you haven’t had any success then its time to call in the pros. Sometimes it is a simple clog but many times it may be symptomatic of more serious problems such as roots growing into and through your drain lines or a septic system that is full and needs to be pumped.
I hope this gives you some new perspective on the clog issue and now you know why Joan Crawford was so adamant that the kids had no wire coat hangers…..No not really I think that was something else completely!
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