If you’ve ever needed to call a plumber to repair a toilet, bathtub, or sink, you know just how costly their expertise can be. While there are certain situations where you have no choice but to hire a pro, there are also definitely times when you can be your own plumber. Fixing a clog may seem intimidating at first, but don’t worry — we spoke to some plumbers who shared the expert hacks they use in their own homes. Read on to learn their five top tips, and you might just find you can save hundreds on repairs.
Prevent toilet troubles with white vinegar.
To prevent sediment from clogging toilet pipes, simply grab white vinegar from your pantry. “It dissolves and breaks down hard water deposits,” says Michael Davis, plumbing expert for Plumber Tip. “Just add ¼ cup of white vinegar to your toilet tank once a week or so to help prevent the mineral buildup that can cause clogs.”
Clear kitchen drains with table salt.
If water is backing up in your sink, try this old-school plumbers’ trick: Pour ½ cup of table salt down the drain; wait at least 30 minutes — or overnight, if it’s an especially stubborn clog — then rinse with tepid water. Salt breaks down grease, the most common cause of kitchen clogs. Plus, its gritty texture scrubs the inside of the pipe, making it run free and clear again.
Avoid water heater repairs with a quick flush.
Since minerals in your hot water tank can cause clogs, most tanks should be flushed once a year, says Noah Hale, who works for the Indiana-based plumbing company Complete Comfort. It’s easy: Shut off the power, gas, and cold water to the tank and turn hot water on in a nearby sink to prevent air pockets in pipes. Connect a hose from your tank’s spigot to a bucket, drain until the water is clear, then shut it off; disconnect the hose and turn the tank back on — and you’re done!
Head off hair clogs with a dryer sheet.
The number one cause of bath and shower obstructions? Hair. “To prevent hair from blocking pipes, place a fabric softener sheet on top of the drain,” suggests Audrey Monell, president of Forrest Anderson Plumbing & Air Conditioning. The sheet is porous enough to let water through, yet hair will stick to it, preventing clogs. Bonus: Use a scented sheet and your shower will double as an aromatherapy session!
Keep disposals humming with lukewarm water.
To ensure it runs smoothly, pour lukewarm water down your garbage disposal once a week, says plumber Kimberly Shaw. She explains tepid water won’t congeal fats (leading to clogs) like hot water does. What not to pour down the drain? Starches like rice or pasta. Says Shaw, “Just like grease, they turn gooey and clump.”
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.