We receive a great deal of messages from people who are inquiring about basic plumbing issues. While it is impossible to answer everyone’s questions, we here at George Plumbing would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight about a few things we use in our homes every day.
What is Water Hardness?
Many water lines contain calcium or magnesium which are materials than can “harden,” the water by changing the PH level and a residue that can build up causing problems in dishwashers, washing machines, water lines, humidifiers, or anything else that has water piped through it. These dissolved minerals come from limestone in the water table that rain water has to pass through in order to reach the ground water. It takes some of this material with it because water is an excellent mild solvent. Hardness is measured in Grains per Gallon (gpg) from a scale of 0 gpg (Soft) to 10.5 gpg (very hard).
Iron residue in water is slightly different than normal water hardening from natural sources. Iron often comes from the pipes leading to your house and can contain a slightly metallic taste or add a reddish-brown tinge to the water that can stain fixtures and clothing. If the problem persists, an expert plumber might need to be called in to deal with the issue. Iron does not yield huge health risks, but is unsightly and can be a symptom of a larger plumbing problem.
If your water has a slightly rotten smell to it like eggs that have gone bad then there might be hydrogen sulfide gas entering the line through a leak or tannins (or low PH acid water) which might require PH balancing equipment if the problem persists after a few treatments. This is one of the reasons why hiring an expert technician or plumber to evaluate and assess your situation is never a bad idea.
Often times, the best and easiest method for dealing with hard water problems is to have a water softening system installed in an out-of-the-way place where the water enters your home, usually a garage or basement. Through regular, yearly maintenance the system can be operated without incident for years before requiring replacement. Softer water means less damage to your internal lines, less buildup around shower heads or faucets, and healthier pipes without sediment or grit for the water to fight through.
There’s a smell coming from my drain. What do I do?
The sink garbage disposal, a clogged shower or bath tub drain, or a slight sulfur smell coming from any drain are the three main culprits of sewer smells leaking into the house. Each is easy to handle in their own way.
One the most efficient and inexpensive ways is to dump a large handful ice cubes into the disposer. This works in two ways. The ice will eventually break down into smaller bits so the teeth in the disposal unit don’t have to work too hard to break it down. The other reason is the running water will help push the smaller broken bits of ice down into the recesses where, if any of them get stuck, they’ll eventually melt. Turn on the cold water and run the disposer to flush it out. The ice will clean the disposer grate and blades. Follow the ice flush by putting a half of a lemon in and grind that. The lemon juice is a mild way to remove odor and build up while also disinfecting the blades. Some people use ammonia, or coffee beans or grounds but these might cause more problems depending in the unit you are using.
Smell from the Shower Drain
In each drain, there is a P-trap that retains water to create a seal between the house and the sewer line. If the shower (or any drain) is not used for a long period of time, the water in the P-trap evaporates and allows the sewer gas into your home. To fix this, simply pour water into the drain to fill the trap. 1-3 cups of water should do it depending on how long the drain has gone without use. The retaining water in the P trap is what blocks the sewer gas from entering your home. Another possibility is a leaking drain pipe, the shower pan, or at the point where the two connect. Repairing the drain or the pan is a large task that includes removing the shower. There is typically a rubber seal around the pipe where it connects to the drain, which can be replaced. Calling a plumber is your cheapest and least stressful option to repairing a broken shower pan.
Sulfur Smell in Garbage Disposal or Kitchen Drain
Most bad odors in bathroom drains come from hair mixed with grease from the soap. A fascinating scientific chemical reaction will continue as the soap slowly breaks down the keratin in the hair. To alleviate this, pour two cups of bleach down the drain and let it sit overnight. The next morning flush the drain with a large pot of boiling water. The bleach will start to dissolve and soften the hair and make it slippery. The boiling water will melt the grease and flush the debris into the main line.
If you have any questions or would like a quote from us, please contact us at (951) 694-3800 and one of our trained staff will be with you shortly.