From the Magazine

How to Easily Solve 5 Common Plumbing Problems

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The average plumbing repair costs between $175 and $450. But before you call in a professional, experts say there’s plenty of fix-it magic you can do yourself — no special skills required.

Freshen a disposal with “lemon ice.” 

If there’s a mystery odor wafting from your garbage disposal, here’s some good news: A little stinkiness doesn’t mean it’s broken. “There’s probably just leftover food in the mechanism,” explains plumber Marques Johnson. His advice: Drop a handful of ice cubes and lemon rinds into the disposal and turn it on. “As the ice gets crushed, it safely polishes the inside of the disposal, scouring away built-up gunk, while the lemons leave it smelling fresh and clean.”

Stop a running tank with a microfiber cloth. 

A running toilet wastes about 250 gallons of water a day. The fix: Remove the lid from the tank, flush the toilet and lift the flapper — that’s the rubber cap at the bottom of the tank — to prevent it from refilling. “Using a microfiber cloth, rub the bottom rim of the flapper, then rub the hole beneath the flapper” advises Jeff Patterson of BathroomRepairTutor.com. “This removes debris that prevents a tight seal, stopping water loss.”

Dissolve hair clogs with a bleach rinse. 

When an out-of-reach tangle of hair keeps your tub from draining, there’s an easy solution: Pour a cup of bleach down the drain, leave it for 20 minutes, then run hot (but not boiling) water. Bleach dissolves hair strands, clearing your drain’s path.

Speed a slow drain with a plunger suction trick. 

Next time your kitchen sink starts draining slower than molasses, forget harsh chemical cleaners and grab a plunger. “Push it down over the drain to create a tight seal, then make a quick, sharp pull up,” advises Johnson. The up-and-down motion moves the debris, helping break it up so it’s easier to push through the pipe. Have a double sink? Just plug the drain of one sink with the stopper before plunging the other to create a tight suction.

Enjoy a spa-like shower with a vinegar soak. 

Water pressure in your shower go from Niagara to nada? A blocked filter (a screen that catches minerals) may be to blame, says Patterson. His fix: “Unscrew the head of the shower, remove the screen and soak it in vinegar. In a few hours, the buildup will dissolve.” Rinse the filter, put it back in place, and the water will rush out again!

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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