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Here’s How to Fix 5 Common Plumbing Problems Yourself (and Stop Throwing “Repairman Money” Down the Drain)

You can do it!...and your wallet thanks you.


The average repair costs a whopping $450, but before you call a pro, try these easy, inexpensive fixes that will solve common plumbing problems for pennies — no special skill required!

Clear kitchen pipes with hot water.

Kitchen pipes often get clogged when liquid fats from dirty pots and pans go down the drain, then harden inside the plumbing, reveals home insurance expert Melanie Musson. To clear pipes easily, pour hot-not boiling-water down your kitchen sink. “The hot water melts the fat and grease, helping dislodge and move the gunk down the pipe before it can build up and cause plumbing headaches.” Aim to “flush” your pipes this way about once a week, and you may never have a kitchen sink backup again!

Boost water pressure with a vinegar ‘shower cap’.

Shower slowed to a trickle? Your shower head is likely clogged with minerals, says home pro Gladys K. Connelly. “Just grab a zip-top bag, fill it with white vinegar and use rubber bands to tie it around the shower-head, then leave overnight.” The vinegar’s acetic acid will bust minerals to return your water pressure to normal.

Freshen your disposal with ice cubes.

If there’s a mystery odor wafting from your disposal, here’s some good news: A little stink doesn’t mean it’s broken. There’s likely just some leftover food in the mechanism, says plumber Marques Johnson. His advice: Drop a handful of ice cubes into the disposal and turn it on. As the ice gets crushed, it safely polishes the inside of the disposal, scouring away built-up debris.

Unclog toilets fast with a little dish soap.

Next time your toilet is clogged with toilet paper, simply grab dishwashing liquid, says bathroom maintenance expert Aleksandar Pecev. Squirt 1⁄2 cup of dish soap into the toilet bowl, then slowly add a bucket of hot water and let sit for 10 to 20 minutes. “This helps the detergent lubricate the pipes, making the blockage easier to dislodge.” Once the water level in the toilet has subsided, pour in more hot water and flush.

Banish backups with baking soda.

To lift the most stubborn clogs, add 1⁄2 cup baking soda to a bowl of warm water and pour down the drain. Let sit 5 minutes, then follow with 1 cup of white vinegar. “It’ll fizz like a science project volcano,” says Connelly. Wait 10 minutes, then run the water to flush the gunk down the pipe.

Pesky plumbing problems solved!

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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