Landry Mechanical Inc Plumbing HVAC & Electric Blog: Posts Tagged ‘Plumbing tips’

Do Flushable Wipes Damage Plumbing Systems?

Wednesday, July 20th, 2022

Although flushable wipes are labeled and marketed as being safe for toilets, they easily rank among the worst things that you can send down your commodes. If you or anyone else in your Sutton, Massachusetts home has been using flushable wipes, now is the time to stop. Even if you haven’t had any problems with these products moving through your plumbing system before, you may be on track for major plumbing issues in the future.

Why Are Flushable Wipes Marketed as Being Flushable if They Really Aren’t?

Just as their manufacturers suggest, flushable wipes can indeed be flushed. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they should. Although these products will successfully go down your commodes more often than not, they aren’t guaranteed to pass through the entire length of your plumbing system without causing issues. Moreover, when flushable wipes do pass through residential plumbing systems unimpeded, they can still cause trouble once they enter the sewer. The cumulative effects of ongoing and widespread use of flushable wipes have been incredibly detrimental in this respect. Currently, they are the only flushable product on the market that doesn’t decompose. That’s because unlike toilet paper, these wipes aren’t actually made from just paper.

What Flushable Wipes Are Really Made Of

Like toilet paper, wood pulp serves as the basis of moist wipes. This, however, is where the similarity ends. To ensure that these products stand up to heavy use without breaking down, they’re reinforced with synthetic, petroleum-based products. Many flushable wipes are reinforced with polyethylene, polyester, and other like plastics. Moreover, they’re also coated in micro-plastics. These micro-plastics add additional reinforcement, and some even come in the form of cleaning agents.

When you flush toilet paper, moving water breaks it into small-sized pieces in virtually no time. When you send flushable wipes down the commode, these products maintain their integrity indefinitely. This means that they have a higher likelihood of getting caught up on snags on their way out of your plumbing system. Over time, these wipes and the solid wastes that adhere to them can create major blockages.

How Flushable Wipes Affect the Environment

If you’re thinking about using flushable wipes in your home or have been already, it’s also important to note how these products affect the environment. Not only are they marketed as being flushable when they really shouldn’t be sent down into plumbing systems, but they’re also labeled as “biodegradeable.” This places consumers under the mistaken assumption that flushable wipes really do break down over time. However, there’s a big difference between being biodegradeable and being able to decompose.

Natural products that aren’t reinforced with synthetic, petroleum-based materials break down completely. Flushable wipes simply shed small fibers over time. These polyethylene and polyester fibers remain intact for decades. More importantly, the micro-plastics that coat them continue to contaminate public water supplies long after they’ve been sent into plumbing systems. As such, not using flushable wipes as part of your personal care is better for both your plumbing and the environment.

What Plumbing Problems Can Flushable Wipes Cause?

There’s really no limit to the amount of problems that flushable wipes can cause. These products can cause issues even before they’ve successfully cleared the toilet. For instance, if you send them down with lots of human waste, toilet paper, or other flushable wipes, you could be dealing with a messy overflow in no time. Flushable wipes can also:

  • Create blockages in plumbing systems that lead to burst pipes
  • Cause whole-house back-ups that flood the home with black water
  • Create problems at residential plumbing-to-sewer connections

They’re also capable of creating something known as fatbergs. Once wipes are introduced into plumbing systems, any fats that are present in the surrounding waste will adhere to them. These fats attract more fat and more flushable wipes until a large, solid mass is formed. This process is expedited in the alkaline environment of sewer systems, but if you’ve got dirty, grease-covered drains, you run the likelihood of developing fatbergs directly inside of your plumbing system.

Are Flushable Wipes Safe for Septic Tanks?

Flushable wipes are just as bad for septic tanks as they are for residential plumbing systems that connect to municipal sewer systems. In fact, they may be even more so. Just as fatbergs are prone to forming in sewers, septic tanks offer the ideal environment for fatberg formation, too.

Are There Easy Alternatives to Flushable Wipes?

Flushable wipes are easy to use and they help people feel fresh. However, the drawbacks of using and flushing these products far outweigh their benefits. One easy way to get the same clean feeling that flushable wipes provide is by investing in low-cost toilet paper sprays. These are gentle cleansing products that turn standard toilet paper into a comfortable, cleansing cloth. They don’t contain any plastics or micro-plastics, and they don’t affect toilet paper’s ability to break down. You can find options that include soothing aloe and other non-irritating, skin-supporting ingredients. When you think about it, this is far preferable to cleaning up with solutions made from micro-plastics.

There are also low-cost bidets that can be installed directly in standard toilets. You don’t have to pay thousands of dollars for a luxury toilet in order to get the functionality of a bidet. These products are offered at home and hardware stores at a fairly nominal cost. Best of all, installing them is simple enough that many homeowners can do it themselves. If you want to install bidets in your home toilets, you can also outsource this job to a trusted plumber.

Finally, if you’re looking for a way to both treat yourself and enhance the value and marketability of your home, you can always opt for a toilet upgrade. A reputable plumber can help you learn more about the best options at your targeted price point. Many products offer bidet functionality, music, heated seats, and lights.

Why It’s Important to Get Everyone in the Home on Board

Flushable wipes may be lurking in more areas of your home than you think. Given that these products are handy, people tend to use them all the time. Moreover, nearly all of them are clearly labeled as being “flushable” and thus, people who aren’t in the know will continue sending them down your commodes. You may have people in your home who are using these or similar products as makeup removal cloths or household cleaning tools.

The best way to avoid backups is to let everyone in your home know the truth about flushable wipes. Sure, they can be flushed, but they probably shouldn’t be. Unless wet, flushable wipes are used to clean bottoms and human waste, it is both safe and sanitary to dispose of them in the trash. Rather than using flushable wipes for personal care after visiting the commode, purchase toilet paper spray or a bidet. You don’t have to subject your plumbing system to extra wear and tear just to feel good about yourself after leaving the bathroom.

At Landry Mechanical Inc Plumbing HVAC & Electric, we’re committed to helping residents of Sutton, MA and the surrounding area keep their residential plumbing in top condition. We’ve been providing reliable HVAC, plumbing, and electrical services since 2008. If you’ve got plumbing problems, we’ve got solutions. Call us today to schedule an appointment for service.

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Understanding What Plumbing Backflow Is and Why It Happens

Friday, July 15th, 2022

Backflow is one of the most dangerous plumbing issues you can face. In addition to damaging your pipes, backflow can also contaminate drinking water and make you sick. To keep backflow from occurring, it is necessary to understand why it happens and how you can stop it.

What Is Backflow?

Backflow is a type of plumbing problem that occurs when your wastewater does not flow in the right direction. Instead of flowing down into your sewer system, the wastewater instead travels into your fresh water supply. There is a variety of different situations that can count as backflow. In some cases, backflow can cause dramatic gushes of discolored water from your faucets. In other situations, backflow can be so subtle that your water supply’s color, smell, or taste might not change noticeably.

There are several different ways that backflow can happen. It is usually divided into back-siphonage backflow and back-pressure backflow. Back siphonage occurs when a vacuum inside of your pipes physically sucks wastewater backward. Meanwhile, back pressure happens when excessive wastewater pressure causes wastewater to flow in the opposite direction.

Both types of backflow have the same basic result. You end up with wastewater from your toilets and drains coming out of your faucets. The contaminated water supply can cause a huge, disgusting mess throughout your home. Even smaller levels of backflow are still problematic. You might not notice a difference, but you can still get sick from the toxic chemicals and dangerous microbes in wastewater. Backflow is also dangerous for your pipes. When your plumbing system has backflow, your pipes are more likely to corrode, warp, or develop leaks.

How to Tell if You Have Backflow

Since backflow can happen so gradually, you might not realize you’re dealing with this plumbing issue. Backflow can usually only be confirmed by testing your water quality.

Here are a few signs that it might be time to test your home for backflow.

  • Strange odors around your faucet
  • Slow moving drains
  • Water that is brown, yellow, pink, or otherwise discolored
  • Strong sulfur smells from your water
  • Odd tastes in your water
  • Small particles floating around in your water

Causes of Back-Pressure Backflow

The water pipes throughout your home are all part of a carefully balanced system. A combination of pipe size and pipe placement is supposed to ensure that upstream water supply pressure is always higher than downstream water removal pressure. Water flows in the direction of least resistance, so this allows the clean water to “push” wastewater away from any water supply pipes. However, some plumbing mixups can cause pressure in water removal pipes to become higher than the water supply pressure. When this happens, the wastewater flows back upstream, causing a back pressure backflow to develop.

Back-pressure backflow often happens when your plumbing system was installed incorrectly. There are a lot of little mistakes that can add up to cause water pressure differentials. This is especially true if your plumbing system includes pressure-producing fixtures like elevated water tanks, boilers, or water heating systems. These can dump a lot of water into your drains at once, resulting in backflow. Even small things like the heat expansion from a boiler can increase pressure in the wrong part of your pipes. These disruptions may change water pressure levels enough to cause back pressure backflow to happen.

Back pressure backflow is also sometimes caused by a plumbing problem. If you have a leaky pipe, water supply pressure can drop just enough to let other plumbing issues make your wastewater pressure higher than your water supply pressure. Problems with your wastewater removal lines may also increase downstream pressure. If you have a clog in a drain line, water can back up behind the clog, increasing pressure enough to result in backflow.

Causes of Back-Siphonage Backflow

Back-siphonage backflow is also linked to uneven water pressure levels, but it’s more drastic. Instead of water just accidentally flowing in the wrong direction, back-siphonage happens when a vacuum occurs. The negative pressure can pull wastewater up into your supply lines very suddenly and sharply. Back siphonage is less common than back pressure, but it can result in more clearly contaminated water.

Back siphonage tends to happen when a lot of water is suddenly removed from your water supply system. It is most commonly associated with firefighting efforts. When firefighters are using a hydrant, the extreme drop in water pressure can end up forcing wastewater up into your water supply. Back siphonage can also occur when a water main break lets all your potable water spray out of your system. This tends to create a vacuum in water supply pipes that lets back-siphonage develop.

How to Prevent Backflow From Affecting Your Home

As you can see, there are multiple ways for backflow to occur inside your home. Some of these causes are preventable. Keeping your plumbing system up to code is one of the best things you can do. Local building laws regulate pipe sizes, placements, and angles to help minimize the risk of backflow.

You also need to remember that your entire plumbing system is designed to work together. Doing something like adding a new boiler can disrupt water pressure levels everywhere. To prevent these sorts of plumbing mistakes, you should consult with professionals any time you want to change part of your plumbing system or install a new fixture. They can help you figure out if your wastewater and water supply lines are up to the task.

Even if your plumbing system was perfectly designed, outside forces can still cause backflow to happen. To protect your home, it is a good idea to try some backflow prevention measures. There are a variety of plumbing add-ons that force water to flow in a single direction. These are very useful for halting backflow in case of a water line break or another issue. To protect a single faucet, you can install a hose bib backflow preventer. This compact, affordable device uses a spring-controlled seal to keep water from flowing backward. Another similar option is a pressure-type vacuum breaker. This device continuously monitors water pressure for a specific part of your system and closes a valve if it detects an imminent backflow.

Other backflow prevention measures can be installed within your plumbing system to provide more widespread protection. Barometric loops and air gaps are two styles of pipe placement that help regulate water flow and prevent siphoning. You can also use options like a reduced pressure principle backflow preventer. These more complex systems use multiple valves to control water pressure, and they can protect your whole home from any backflows.

If you are concerned about backflow, it is essential to get professional input. At Landry Mechanical Inc Plumbing HVAC & Electric, our highly trained technicians can help you get your plumbing up to code and stop backflow in its tracks. We serve the central Massachusetts area around Brookfield and Grafton, and we provide a wide variety of HVAC, plumbing, and electrical installs and repairs. To learn more about the services we offer, give us a call today.

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