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The Christmas holiday is a time for families to come together and enjoy good company and good food. Unfortunately, an untimely clogged drain or toilet can quickly undermine the good spirits and bring the festivities screeching to a halt. By keeping a few important plumbing tips in mind, however, you can help ensure that holiday plumbing problems won't put a damper on the merriment. After all, you want your holidays to be remembered for presents, not plungers!

8 Holiday Plumbing Tips

1. Leftovers in the Trash, Not the Drain

When it’s time to clean up, resist the urge to simply scrape the leftovers off your dishes and into your sink. There are a lot of foods that should never go down your disposal (more on that in a moment), and if you don’t have a disposal, you definitely want to be careful about what goes down your drains. One of the easiest ways to prevent unwanted leftovers from going down the drain is to use a simple, inexpensive sink strainer. Once you’re done washing off your dishes, you can simply dump the collected waste in the garbage or compost.

2. Know What Goes in the Disposal

Homeowners sometimes treat their garbage disposal unit as a magical device that can eliminate any kind of waste. Unfortunately, there are many materials that can cause serious damage to the unit and clog your drains. In addition to familiarizing yourself with some of the common myths associated with garbage disposals, you should also be sure to avoid putting the following foods down the drain:

  • Fibrous or stringy foods (such as celery or other tough vegetables)
  • Rice, pasta, or bread-based products that can expand when exposed to moisture
  • Animal bones and fat
  • Eggshells
  • Cooking oils and grease
  • Paper, metal, or plastic materials (this should be obvious, but accidents happen)

3. Wait 10-15 Minutes Between Showers

If you find yourself hosting guests overnight during the holidays, the last thing you want to deal with is an ice-cold shower in the morning! Spacing out the time between showers to about 10 or 15 minutes not only allows your hot water supply to replenish but also gives your drains an opportunity to clear out. Each additional person showering means more hair that could potentially end up in your drains. A typical shower drain can handle a bit of hair, but a few extra showers could quickly create a backup. Again, using a strainer over the drain can be very helpful when it comes to keeping your drains clear of potential clogs.

4. Toilets Are For Waste and Toilet Paper

When you’re hosting guests for Christmas, your toilets are probably going to have to work a bit harder than usual. Unfortunately, not everyone may be as considerate of your plumbing as you are! Make sure your guests know not to flush bathroom items that commonly clog household toilets:

  • Sanitary napkins
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Cleansing wipes
  • Facial pads
  • Cotton balls and swabs
  • Paper towels
  • Cigarette butts

5. Dispose of Grease Properly

Grease is one of the greatest threats to your plumbing at the best of times. When you’re serving a multi-course, homemade meal, the danger is even greater. When hot, grease seems like any other liquid, but it quickly congeals when it cools or comes into contact with cold water. When it solidifies in your drain, it restricts flow and catches other materials until it hardens into a major clog. Rather than disposing of grease down the drain, pour it outside or into a can or plastic bag that can be tossed into the garbage.

6. Wait to Use the Dishwasher

When you’re cleaning up after Christmas dinner, it can be tempting to run a dishwasher cycle while you continue to clean other dishes. Unfortunately, you might be creating more work for yourself by doing so. The dishwasher and the garbage disposal typically share the same drain, so running the disposal or pouring anything into the sink can wind up pushing that waste back up into the dishwasher’s cleaning cycle. Even worse, if your drains become clogged, running the dishwasher could cause the water to back up and flood your kitchen.

7. Only Cooks in the Kitchen

Keeping kitchen traffic to a minimum not only makes it easier for you to prepare food and clean up afterward but also helps you to avoid costly plumbing “accidents.” Maybe your cousin dumps a plate of food into your sink, not realizing you don’t have a garbage disposal. Or perhaps your aunt loses a bracelet down the drain, or one of the kids doesn’t know that grease-filled pans shouldn’t go into the dishwasher. Taking a few steps to control your kitchen environment can help ensure that this Christmas won’t be remembered as the one where the sink overflowed.

8. Prepare Your Drains

Pour a brine solution (or very strong salt water) into your sink to eliminate odors. This is great kitchen sinks because it keeps grease from building up in your drains, plus it’s an ideal preventive measure that can definitely save you money down the road. Now, you won't have to mask odors with your usual holiday blend of potpourri!

9. Buy a Drain Snake

Your sinks, showers, and toilets are more likely to see a lot of use during the holidays, with guests and overnighters making frequent use of them. So, keep a plumber’s snake handy and learn how to snake your own drain should a plumbing emergency occur at an inopportune time (is there ever an opportune time?). A drain snake, also known as a hand auger, is a tool used to clean out clogged in smaller drains such as the bathroom or kitchen sinks. For larger pipes, such as your toilet, you may need a larger toilet auger to do the job. Learn more about snaking your drains here.

10. Be Proactive with Professionals

Hosting Christmas dinner can put a lot of pressure on your household plumbing. Your kitchen and bathroom are likely going to get far more use than normal, so minor problems and clogs that you tolerate the rest of the year can quickly become a serious issue when visitors arrive. Scheduling an appointment with a professional plumbing service to check your drains for clogs and make sure everything is in good working order can help prevent unexpected headaches when you’d rather be sleeping off a turkey-induced food coma.

At Express Sewer & Drain, we know you’d rather be focused on making your Christmas a holiday to remember than dealing with plumbing issues. We also realize that sometimes things go wrong. That’s why we’re standing by to handle your plumbing emergencies so you can get back to enjoying the holiday with your family. If you encounter a problem that’s too much to manage on your own, our team of seasoned professionals (no pun intended) is ready to help!

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