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Preventative Maintenance for Your Toilets

Plumbers must charge enough to cover all their expenses and still make a living just as a doctor does. If you keep well, you keep your doctor bills to a minimum. Give your plumbing preventative care, and you will enjoy comparable savings.




Life Expectancy of a Toilet

According to a survey on the life expectancy of home components done by the National Association of Home Builders, "...toilets have an unlimited lifespan, but the components inside the toilet tank do require some maintenance." That is of course, that the toilet is given reasonable care, and you don't get tired of the color that was so popular when you selected the bathroom fixtures in the first place.

An unlimited lifespan should give anyone shopping for new bathroom fixtures cause to pause before they select the latest fad in colored fixtures. My guess is that very few avocado green toilets will die a natural death; most will be replaced for purely cosmetic reasons. It's one thing to replace the wallpaper in the bathroom but quite another project to replace toilet, tub and lavatory.

Ed Del Grande, Master Plumber/contractor

According to Master contractor/plumber Ed Del Grande all plumbing fixtures were white in the early 1920s. But by the end of the decade rich pastels reflected the fashion trends. In the 1930s colors like peach gave way to dark green and maroon. During the war years of the 1940s, the fashion and plumbing industries limited the number of new colors although some colors like olive green did appear. Striking new colors such as flamingo pink and cerulean blue began to appear in the 1950s. Colors like antique red, tiger lily and blueberry made their debut in the 1960s followed by avocado and Swiss chocolate in the 1970s, sea foam green and innocent blush in the 1980s and biscuit, beeswax and merlot were introduced in the 1990s.

That said, let's look at what we can do to make our fixtures last a lifetime.


Be Kind to Your Toilets

Treat your toilet tanks and bowls like the "china bowls" that they are; they can and will crack if abused. BE CAREFUL with tools around a toilet, don't compound the problem when making a repair. You can't fix a cracked toilet bowl or tank. Never hit a toilet tank or bowl connection with a hammer to break a fitting...use a penetrating lubricant.


Toilet Tips

The following tips are from ToiletTankLids.com an online Toilet Tank Lid Replacement Service.

Toilets and their tank lids are made of vitreous china. This vitreous, glazed surface is glass-like and therefore smooth and slippery, the same as glass. The china body is made of clay, much like pottery, and therefore heavy, the same as pottery.

Toilet tank lids weigh 10 pounds on average. The ratio of a lid's weight to its size is high. This is deceiving to one's natural instinct when seeing a lid and deciding how to pick it up.

In summary, toilet tank lids are heavy, slippery, and fragile. So, with these factoids in mind, here is how we recommend you handle toilet tank lids:

~ Handle with dry hands only.
~ Always use two hands.
~ Lift and carry from the under-side.
~ When removing or installing a lid, stand or sit directly in front of the toilet and hold the lid on the left and right sides.
~ Use care not to hit or bump the lid against the tank.
Storing a lid off of a toilet:
~ Never lean it vertically against a wall or other support. (Odds are it will slip, fall and break.)
~ Do not set the lid on, or in contact with, another hard surface such as tile, marble, cast iron, steel. (If you must, insulate it with a towel or blanket.)
~ Do not set the lid on a counter. (Odds are it will get bumped and fall.)
~ Do not set the lid on the floor. (Odds are it will get kicked and broken)
~ In other words, do not store the lid in the bathroom. Take it to a bedroom and set it on the bed. (Then place an orange cone on top of it. ...Just kidding!)
~ Second choice is another room on carpet or a cushioned chair.



Never use a toilet for a ladder.

Never use a toilet for a ladder. Don't stand or sit on a toilet tank lid. And avoid putting any pressure against a tank by leaning back against the tank.




toilet brush


Throw the toilet bowl cleaning brush away as soon as the bristles wear down and metal is showing. Once the bowl is scratched, it's impossible keep clean, and you won't be able to repair the scratches. A plastic brush is less likely to scratch the china.


Dos and Don'ts of Toilet Care

chemicals

Don't treat your toilets as a universal garbage disposal. Just because a product is called disposable or flushable doesn't mean it should be flushed down the toilet. Keep a waste paper basket in the bathroom for such things as facial tissues, gum, all sanitary products, bandages and paper towels. Disposable diapers don't belong in a toilet unless you first remove the plastic liner and tear the paper diaper into smaller pieces. Flushing a single facial tissue down a toilet is unlikely to cause a problem, but it helps to develop a bad habit that creates the impression that a toilet can digest everything. Plus, flushing a toilet to dispose of a facial tissue is a colossal waste of water. Also remember that hazardous chemicals may not harm your toilets, but they shouldn't be flushed away either.

Yorkshire Water's works, which operates tens of thousands of kilometres of sewer in the UK, has seen a growing trend among a small minority of customers for disposing of their unwanted rubbish in the system. Sewage treatment works across the county have seen a steady flow of Christmas-related items, including Lego, toy racing cars and an assorted selection of cuddly toys. Staff believe they have been discarded down manholes as home owners began tidying up following the main day's festivities. On top of all this Yorkshire Water's works have also been deluged with a steady flow of fat - a particularly big problem as a result of people discarding run-off from their Christmas turkey and roast potatoes straight down the kitchen sink.


Hobbies and Crafts

Photo © 2009 Beth E Peterson
Photo © 2009
Beth E Peterson

Beth E Peterson is a potter, artist, and writer with more than three decades of experience creating in clay and teaching others. She tells her students that, "Your plumbing hates clay...or perhaps it loves it. So much so, that it will keep clay and other ceramic materials in the plumbing pipes forever.


Eventually, clay will cause a clog that nothing short of removing pipes and physically cleaning or replacing them will get rid of. Remember, clay is a sedimentary mineral, and it will lay down sedimentary layers in your plumbing. To learn about the three bucket system and how to properly dispose of clay visit Beth's page at Pottery and Plumbing .

Clay is not the only craft material that will cause serious problems for your plumbing. I was called by a teacher at a nearby school to come over to help her clean out a drain after a student had poured plaster of paris in it. When I got there it was already too late; the plaster of paris had already setup. The drain had to be dismantled and replaced.

More than once in my plumbing clinics I was asked, "If I shouldn't pour it (wax, grease, fat, etc.) in the drain, is it OK to pour it in the toilet? The answer is NO! A toilet is NOT a universal garbage disposer.



A New Enemy

Sewer Abuse

In its ceaseless battle to keep sewer pipes from clogging, Raleigh, North Carolina city has identified several menaces over the years, including grease, cornstarch, packing peanuts and the modern scourge of garbage disposals. Now the people who run the sewer systems in Raleigh and elsewhere in the country have found a new enemy: flushable wipes. Contrary to what many manufacturers claim, tissues and wipes of all stripes get balled up with hair and grease in the city's pipes, creating clogs that send sewage cascading from manholes. The problem has gotten worse in recent years with the introduction of wipes designed to disappear down toilets, Raleigh Wastewater Treatment Superintendent T.J. Lynch said. Products such as Charmin Fresh Mates and Cottonelle Fresh Flushable Moist Wipes promise consumers a "shower-fresh" feeling for their bottoms, with the convenience of flushability. But, Lynch said, they don't break down the way toilet paper does in the city's pipes. For the rest of the story visit ... Richard Stradling, Raleigh News and Observer





This video was put together by high school students to demonstrate
how nonflushables when flushed down a toilet can cause a sanitary sewer overflow.



Proper Disposal of Prescription Drugs

According to the Arlington (Texas) Water Utilities, because significant advancements in technology and processes have been made, pharmaceutical compounds in tiny amounts are able to be detected in source waters. Pharmaceutical compounds and personal care products are being found at low levels in many of our nation's lakes, rivers, and streams.

The proper disposal of pharmaceuticals and personal care products is an emerging issue in the environmental arena. When aquatic and amphibian species are exposed to small amounts of pharmaceutical and personal care products, it can result in decreased reproduction, delayed development and even additional appendages in some species. In 2002, 80 percent of streams sampled (139 rivers in 30 states) by the U.S. Geological Survey showed evidence of drugs, hormones, steroids and personal care products such as soaps and perfumes.

While flushing medicines down the toilet prevents misuse of the substance, the practice can cause other problems. Specifically, when medicines are flushed down a toilet, the medicines can harm the beneficial bacteria that are responsible for breaking down waste in the septic system or at a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). Since most municipal sewage treatment plants are not engineered for pharmaceutical removal, many medicines are not captured or only partially captured during a WWTP process so they can pass through a WWTP intact. These substances are then released into a nearby lake, river or ground water with the treated wastewater.

Some medications and personal care products contain hazardous chemicals or even heavy metals, such as mercury which is used as a preservative. Federal Guidelines caution to flush prescription drugs down the toilet ONLY if the label or accompanying patient information specifically instructs doing so.

For more on this topic see "Should You Flush Your Drugs Down the Toilet? The greenest way to get rid of old prescription meds." By Nina Shen Rastogi in Slate, Updated Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2009.


Septic System Care

The above advise is doubly important if your toilets empty into a septic system. Plumbers report that they have found such things as toys, candy wrappers, panty hose, sanitary products, and drug paraphernalia in septic tanks. Garbage disposers are not recommended on systems that empty into septic tanks. If you have a garbage disposer and a septic system, use the disposer as sparingly as possible. It can take years for troubles to develop in a septic system, but when they do they can be very difficult and expensive to remedy.


More Dos and Don't

Don't store small items or heavy items on the lid of the toilet tank to minimize the risk of a something falling in, such as toys, brushes, combs, etc. A tooth brush that gets stuck in the interior passageway of a toilet bowl that can't be dislodged means replacing the toilet. A very heavy item that hits the china bowl could also chip or crack the bowl.
Don't store small items on the toilet lid

Never pour hot water into a toilet bowl or tank, the bowl or tank may crack, and never mix toilet cleaning products.





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