Why Chemical Drain Cleaners are Bad for Your Plumbing

When dealing with a clogged drain, we often head straight towards our chemical drain cleaner and immediately pour it down the clogged pipe. Chemical drain cleaners may seem like the perfect solution, but cleaning your clog isn’t the only thing they can do. There are some risks involved when using drain cleaners in your household pipes.

Generally speaking, the more you use drain cleaners, the more your pipes can become damaged over time. Let’s take a look at why drain cleaners are damaging and how alternative solutions are beneficial.

Chemical Drain Cleaners are Bad for Plumbing

As one of the most popular methods of clearing clogged pipes,  drain cleaners may seem like a quick and easy solution to a stubborn clog. However, not all drain cleaners are safe for pipes. The chemicals used in drain cleaners need to be strong in order to dissolve drain clogs.

Once applied to a clogged drain, these chemicals react with electrons in the blockage to generate heat and gas, therefore dissolving the clog and clearing the drain. Because of their high toxicity levels, these products are hazardous to your health if inhaled or swallowed.

Different Types of Drain Cleaners

Generally speaking, chemical drain cleaners come in various forms, including gel, liquid, and powder. If your pipes are old, lye, trichloroethane, and other harsh chemicals can do more harm than good. There are three basic types of chemical drain cleaners:

1. Acid drain cleaners – This type of drain cleaner isn’t commonly found in stores and is instead purchased by licensed plumbers. Because they contain large quantities of sulfuric or hydrochloric acid, they are extremely dangerous for your health. Furthermore, they can cause damage to your pipes if used incorrectly.

2. Caustic drain cleaners – This solution erodes the typical “gunk” that makes up most common clogs. It’s typically used for more heavy duty clogs that require dissolving the substance.

3. Oxidizing cleaner – Bleach and nitrates are used to clear blockages by causing organic material to lose electrons and become oxidized. In general, this solution is best for food-based blockages in kitchen sinks.

DIY Drain Maintenance

Drain cleaners dissolve blockages in your pipes with a chemical reaction. In doing so, they are often so powerful that they damage your pipes and even melt right through plastic plumbing in PVC in some cases. Instead, let’s take a look at DIY solutions to clear a clogged drain without causing any harm:

  • Pour half a cup of baking soda down the drain followed by half a cup of vinegar. Let it sit overnight then flush the drain with hot water. This method can be used with regular drain maintenance at least once per month.
  • Mix baking soda with salt or lemon juice and pour it down the drain. Let it sit for up to an hour and if you need to shift the blockage, pour boiling water down the drain.
  • Pour very hot (not boiling) water down the drain followed by cool water to flush out the clog.
  • Use a drain snake.

DIY Not Working? Call Ihn Company.

No one wants to wake up or come home to a clogged drain. We understand how inconvenient a really bad clog can get, so call the professionals at Ihn Company. We have serviced Southeastern Wisconsin with our commercial and residential plumbing repair for over 30 years. You can trust us to do quality work and put your worries at ease. Contact us today!

Spring Plumbing Checklist

Spring is finally here and that means it’s time for your spring plumbing checklist. It’s safe to say that most of us do spring cleaning, but have you ever thought about a little preventative maintenance on your plumbing? This may seem unnecessary but it can save you money down the road and reduce your chances of plumbing issues in the future. Let’s take a look at ways to ensure your plumbing system is in tip-top shape this season.

1. Inspect Your Toilet Bowls

The first thing to check in the most plumbing-heavy rooms are the pipes. Take a look at your toilet tank and bowl for cracks or leaks. It’s also important to make sure the toilets are flushing properly. To easily check if your toilet is leaking, add a few drops of food coloring to your toilet tank. If the color appears in your toilet bowl, then your toilet is leaking.

2. Check the Area Under Your Sink

After inspecting your toilet, check the water supply valves under your sinks to make sure they aren’t sticking. Remove all of the items from under your sink and inspect the area. Make sure there isn’t any lime build-up on the turn off valves and the bottom of your pipes show no signs of a leak.

3. Take a Look at Your Water Heater

Water heaters have a limited lifespan and typically require replacement after roughly ten years. The temperature of your water heater should be set no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent scalding and reduce energy use. Furthermore, a proper temperature allows your home to get the best balance of energy efficiency and performance.

Consider a water heater upgrade if your unit displays any of the following issues:

  • You notice rusty water.
  • Your home lacks hot water.
  • Your water heater is leaking.
  • You hear odd noises coming from the water heater.

4. Sump Pump Maintenance

It’s important to periodically check the discharge lines to make sure that they are working properly. Look around the area where the discharge line is emptied outside of your home and remove any visible obstructions. Additionally, you can evaluate your sump pump by pouring a few buckets of water into it. If the pump doesn’t quickly turn on and discharge the water, you may be in need of a professional inspection to clear the blockage.

5. Don’t Forget About the Outdoors

Next, inspect your yard drains, gutters, and downspouts. These should be cleaned out and free of debris. Turn on your outdoor water to check the outdoor faucets for leaks and ensure the water is flowing correctly. Even a small, constant drip can unnecessarily waste water. Furthermore, it can potentially seep into the ground and damage the foundation of your home.

We Can Help You Complete Your Spring Plumbing Checklist

Overwhelmed by this spring to-do list? We understand that not every Milwaukee homeowner wants to get involved in plumbing repairs. With over 30 years of experience, Ihn Company is your one-stop-shop for all Milwaukee plumbing and foundation repair services. Contact us today!

Frozen Sump Pump and Discharge Line Prevention

In Milwaukee, it’s not uncommon for excessive rainwater to cause flooding and other damage to basements. To deal with this, many homeowners use a sump pump to remove the excess water and move it away from their homes. But in the winter months, it’s common to have a frozen sump pump discharge line. And if your discharge line is frozen, it prevents the pump from removing water from your basement. Left untreated, this can lead to potentially severe and costly problems.

Here are a few ways that you can avoid a frozen sump pump line during the cold season.

Inspect the Area Around Your Frozen Sump Pump

It’s important that you periodically check your discharge lines to ensure that they are working properly. Look around the area where the discharge line is emptied outside of your home. Be sure to remove any visible obstructions. This is especially important during the winter months as debris, snow, and ice can block the end of the line.

Furthermore, you can look out for these warning signs of a damaged sump pump:

  • Odors
  • Ice or snow blocking the line
  • Sump pump frequently turning off and on
  • Frozen discharge line
  • Clogged sump pump

You may also want to check that it is not discharging water that will eventually freeze, thus creating dangerously icy conditions in a spot that could cause you trouble. In other words, don’t let your sump pump discharge large quantities of water onto your driveway and sidewalk.

Insulate Your Frozen Sump Pump Discharge Lines

When it comes to insulating your discharge lines, there are a few options to choose from. In some cases, simply wrapping your discharge line and intake section with insulation will prevent the water from freezing. In addition, you can pick up a few items from your local hardware store to help with insulation.

Avoid using automotive anti-freeze on your sump pump. Instead, heat tape is an excellent source to wrap your pipes and prevent them from freezing.

Insulating the discharge lines and intake section is a great way to make sure that water remains warm and moves about freely. Also, this can help keep those parts of your sump pump from being damaged by external elements and help you contain any leaks that may have occurred.

Keep Your Water Running

Not only does water freeze when it is especially cold, but it freezes when it isn’t moving. If water is unable to flow throughout your home, the water within your sump pump is more likely to freeze. If this happens, the sump pump will no longer work. Additionally, redirecting some of the excess water away from the basement will help to lessen your sump pump’s workload. Overall, this prevents it from overworking itself and lowers the risk of a frozen discharge line.

Add a Slight Slope to Your Sump Pump

Gravity provides one of the easiest methods to prevent a frozen discharge line and keep the water flowing. Keep the water flowing by letting gravity do the work for you.

Try to make the sump pump lines go at a slope instead of a straight line. Even if you don’t have a natural slope, you can make one. You can create a slide that turns into a drop-off or even a trench at the end of the sump pump line.

Call Ihn Company

It’s not too late to check over your sump pump and drainage line to ensure everything is working properly. If you’re not sure if your equipment is up to par, schedule an appointment with a professional.

Ihn Company is your one-stop-shop for all Milwaukee plumbing and foundation repair services. Contact us today and save yourself the money and headache of unexpected problems arising.

How to Tell If You’ve Got a Hidden Plumbing Leak

plumber making house call

If left untreated, plumbing leaks can quickly lead to really expensive issues, such as floor, wall, and paint damage. Leaks also don’t come from the most obvious places in your house.

Think you may have a hidden house plumbing leak? Here are a few subtle signs to look for.

1. Mildew or Mold

It is true that mold thrives off of dark, moist environments. And, not only does a busted pipe fill these criteria, it quickly becomes a breeding ground for mildew and mold.

If you see mildew or mold popping up on non-shower walls or in corners of the bathroom, it’s a huge sign of water leakage. And the longer it takes you to detect the leak, the easier and faster the mold will grow.

It’s a race against time since heavy amounts of mold and mildew can seriously affect your health.

2. Damaged Walls

If your walls have become warped or stained and you have no idea why, this is a clear sign of a leak. When drywall is exposed to moisture, it starts to bubble and warp.

If you leave it unattended, it can spread to the ceiling and collect water there. That can then result in sagging and leaking water.

3. Smell From Old Water

Old water from a pipe has the tendency to smell really bad. If you clean your bathroom and it still smells musty, that is a sign of a leak.

If the water is hidden, then it may have been left unable to dry. This is worrisome because it can cause serious water damage.

4. Low Water Pressure

Low water pressure is a sign of two things: You have a leak or there is an issue with your water company.

The cause of low water pressure can be really hard to pinpoint, so it’s best to call a professional right away.

5. Strange Noises

If you’re hearing unidentified noises in your walls, more likely than not, you’ve got a leak.

Worse yet, if you hear water rushing through your pipes while you’re not using them, call a professional right way. This is a huge sign of a leak, and can possibly lead to flooding.

6. Get Help for House Plumbing Issues Right Away

If you’re suspicious of house plumbing issues, it’s best to call a professional right away. Water leaks can lead to water damage that will be more expensive to fix if you wait. Calling a professional sooner rather than later is often the best choice to make.

And remember: Look out for any strange noises and stains on your walls or ceiling. Noises and stains are signs of water leaks that should not be ignored.

Also, if your water pressure goes down for an unknown reason, call your water company and see if any issues have occurred. For instance, a burst power main can cause a drop. If you can’t find a reason, however, it’s best to call a professional plumber for help.

If your Milwaukee home or business needs water pipe repairs, click here to see the full list of services that we provide.

5 Signs It’s Time to Give Up on DIY and Call a Plumber

plumbing working on a job

With all the DIY videos on YouTube, doing your own home repairs has become a popular way to save money. But when it comes to plumbing, doing it yourself can lead to burst pipes, sewage backup, and other costly disasters.

Don’t take the risk: Know when to call a pro.

The following is a list of common plumbing issues you should not attempt to fix yourself. If you experience any of these issues, you need to call a plumber.

Low Water Pressure

The cause of low water pressure can be difficult to determine. It may be a warning sign of a clog or a leak. Or it could be a problem with the water company, like a burst water main.

Whatever the cause, attempting to fix the problem yourself is likely to damage your pipes and make the problem worse.

Resistant Clogs

Most of the time, drain clogs are not hard to solve yourself. You should be able to unclog pipes with a simple drain snake tool or monthly application of a liquid drain cleaner like Drain-O.

But if a clog persists with little or no improvement after you try these methods, you need to call a plumber. Too many attempts to release a stubborn clog can cause too much pressure and damage the pipes. Excessive use of liquid drain cleaner can damage plumbing as well.

Frozen Pipes

Frozen pipes are a plumbing emergency. If you experience frozen pipes, call a plumber as soon as possible.

Water expands when it freezes. When that happens in your pipes, it can cause pipes to burst. These burst pipes can flood your home or damage your foundation. Burst pipes are also extremely difficult to locate, reach, and fix.

Signs your pipes may be frozen include stopped water, clanking noises when water is turned on, or visible frost on the pipes. If you experience any of these, don’t hesitate to call a plumber.

Strange Pipe Noises

If you hear the sound of water running through your pipes when no one is using them, you probably have a leak. If not taken care of, this can quickly cause damage and even flooding in your home.

A gurgling noise is probably the sign of a blocked drain pipe that must be addressed. Call a professional for help.

Sulfur, Sewage, or Gas Smell

If you smell an odor like rotten eggs in your house, it might be the sign of a broken vent or burst sewer pipe. This would be extremely hazardous to your home and the environment. Get professional help right away.

Similarly, if it smells like gas in your house, leave the house immediately. Do not turn any electronics on or off, and do nothing that could cause a spark. Get out of your house, then call your utility company and 911 from outside.

Call a Plumber

Don’t ignore these scary warning signs. Call a plumber before things get much, much worse.

See all our services here, or contact us to make an appointment today.