Top Do’s and Don’ts for Garbage Disposal Maintenance

pexels-photo-545021.jpegGarbage disposals are one of the most appreciated appliances in any modern home. As long as they are used and maintained properly, they can give you years of service and convenience. Unfortunately maintenance is often overlooked and many people don’t understand what should, and should not, be put in a disposal.

Read on for some do’s and don’ts to keep your garbage disposal running problem free.

  • Avoid buildups by running cold water through your disposal on a regular basis.
  • Run your disposal on a regular basis to help keep it running at peak efficiency.
  • Keep your disposal blades nice and sharp by feeding it some frozen vinegar ice cubes from time to time. It’s a great way to give it a nice cleaning, sharpen the blades and take care of strange food smells.
  • Try putting food items down in small pieces, one at a time, instead of shoving them all down at once.
  • Let the water run for up to 15 seconds (or more) after it has finished grinding so that it flushes the food down the drain.
  • Add a quarter cup of baking soda to the disposal and let it sit overnight once a week. The next morning, pour vinegar into the disposal to create a chemical reaction that will effectively clean the insides of your unit.
  • Use three to four tablespoons of Borax for smelly garbage disposals. Dropping in lemon or orange slices as the water runs will also clean and deodorize the pipelines.
  • Check the disposal for fallen items like spoons, bottle caps, jewelry and other small things before running the disposal. For safety purposes, always use tongs rather than hands to retrieve items that may have fallen into the garbage disposal.

DON’T….

  • Overload your disposal as it may cause clogs.
  • Put in anything that in your disposal that isn’t food, like glass, plastic, metal, paper, cigarette butts, wood, sponges or anything that might be combustible.
  • Throw in large bones, coffee grounds or harsh chemicals. Many of these chemicals damage the blades and can even eat away at the pipes.
  • Pour any oil, fats, or grease in your disposal. It could accumulate around the blade system and clog your drains.
  • Throw in foods with fibrous materials, starchy consistencies, or expanding capabilities like celery, cornhusks, artichokes, onion skins, rice and pasta, or potato peels.
  • Use hot water to flush the disposal. It can cause the grease to liquefy and clog the drain.
  • Reach into the garbage disposal. Never, ever put your hands into the disposal unit. Instead, you can safely use needle-nose pliers, tongs or even a bent coat hanger to pry out whatever fell in.
  • Call a plumber without resetting first if the unit isn’t working. If that doesn’t work, check to make sure it’s still plugged in and receiving power. If the power is still flowing in, you can then try hand cranking it.
  • Put eggshells in the garbage disposal because the thin membrane on the inside of the shell can wrap itself around the blade of the disposal and begin clogging your drain.
  • Throw in fruit pits from avocados, peaches, mangoes, apricots, plums or other similar fruits.

Need some help diagnosing a problem garbage disposal? If your drain is smelly then check out this guide to help keep your drains smelling fresh!

Don’t get caught off guard if a malfunctioning garbage disposal causes bigger plumbing problems.

To find out how to help protect yourself in the event of a home repair emergency, visit www.slwofa.com.

Tips to keep drain odors away

water-kitchen-black-design.jpgThere’s no question: household drains do a lot of dirty work in your home. They flush away cooking scraps you put in the garbage disposal, they move water away from your foundation, and handle everything your laundry room and bathroom can spout at them. Luckily, there are some easy steps you can take to keep odors at bay.

Check your pipes for obstructions – If your drain pipes are stopped up with food and other debris, they may smell bad. This is because the clogged matter begins to decay in the pipe while it stays lodged somewhere along the plumbing. A plunger or plumbing snake can help resolve the clog.

Kitchen drains are not the only ones prone to nasty odors—bathroom drains can smell, too. These odors are most often caused when hair gets washed down and trapped in your pipes, which slows draining and subsequently allows odors to take hold. You can get shower and bathtub strainers at any home improvement, hardware, or plumbing supply store—these work pretty well in keeping hair and other debris out of your bathroom plumbing.

Schedule routine maintenance – As mentioned above, it is natural for a drain pipe to smell bad. But merely resolving the issue once won’t keep the stench away forever. Once a week (make it a regular part of your weekly cleaning schedule), pour boiling hot water down your drains. For a long-term solution, make sure to have a professional check your pipes on a regular basis to ensure that they perform their duties at optimum effectiveness, and keep nasty debris from accumulating and stinking up your plumbing.

Pick your style of deodorizing – Every household seems to have its own remedy for stinky drains and many of them are quite effective. Some use the simple method of dousing drains with white vinegar, boiling water, or essential oils with boiling water, while others favor a mix of soap or baking soda with lime, or even ice and rock salt. You can truly take your pick.

One of the most effective solutions we’ve found makes use of vinegar and lime. Here are a couple tips on how to use this method to clean your drains:

  • Fill an ice tray halfway with vinegar, then drop a wedge of lime in the center of each cube. Once frozen, dump these vinegar-lime ice cubes into your garbage disposal system to clean your unit’s blades and the drain pipes while replacing foul odors with a citrus-fresh scent.
  • If your sink doesn’t have a disposal system, you can mix vinegar and lime juice together and pour down the drain to flush the bad smells out of your pipes. Be sure to rinse afterwards with hot water.

Use a drain screen – If you do not use an in-sink garbage disposal system, you should consider using a screen over the sink drain and other drain holes. This will prevent any solid matter from entering your drain pipes, keeping it free of gunk and grime.

Go easy on your drains – Be mindful of what you dispose of in your drains. Do not pour grease, chemicals, paints, or adhesives down the sink. Try not to dispose of food in the sink that could get clogged in the pipes. Remember, any decaying matter in your plumbing line may cause your drains to smell bad. Often times a dishwasher can be a culprit – if your dishwasher isn’t draining please read this!

To find out how to help protect yourself in the event of a home repair emergency, visit www.slwofa.com.

 

Early Recognition: Helping to Avoid Big Home Repairs

Repairman Repairing OvenSometimes costly, large-scale home repairs can be avoided by recognizing early warning signs. Especially when it comes to HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems in our home. Here are five common signs of potential home repair problems and what they mean:

 

Sewer line and drainage problems

When more than one drain in your home has started to work improperly, this is likely a sign there is a problem with the external line that connects to the street. There are many possible causes for a backup or blockage. Tree roots may have found their way into the sewer line or a foreign object has blocked the flow or, worst-case scenario, your sewer line has broken completely. No matter which of these issues is occurring, you should contact a plumber immediately. If it is something as simple as a root intrusion or a foreign object, the plumber may be able to remove them or complete a small spot repair before the problem gets worse. This could potentially save you the thousands of dollars it will cost to have the line replaced completely.

Water line leaks

Most people use about the same amount of water every month. If you notice a sizable increase in your bill and you haven’t modified your usage – filling a pool or increasing your outdoor watering – this could signal you have a problem. One of the first things to do is examine all of your fixtures. Dripping faucets and leaking toilets can waste a lot of water over the period of a month. Though you can visibly see a faucet dripping, the leaking toilet may be a little harder to detect. Dye testing your toilet is an effective way of checking for leaks. Once you locate the source of your problem, you can address it directly and avoid any further increased water bills.

If all of your fixtures seem to be in good working order after the visual and dye testing, and there are no other visible signs of water leakage in your house, i.e., mold spots, water dripping down walls or between floors, or warped drywall/ceilings, then it is time to contact your water company. You may be experiencing a leak on your external water line. The water company will typically send someone out to test your line and verify if there is a water line leak.

Service line troubles

Do you have patches of lawn that have suddenly become greener than the fairways at the local golf course? This can often be a sign that you have a leak in one of your external lines. When either a water or sewer line leaks into the surrounding soil, the grass is provided extra water or nutrients, resulting in a more green and luxurious appearance. If you are experiencing this, it is a good idea to have your buried service lines checked. The water company will typically check for a leak on their line. If no leak is found on the water line, contact a local licensed plumber to inspect the sewer line.

Maintaining and monitoring your plumbing is a must. A majority of Americans cannot afford a major plumbing expense if the problems become too severe, and Millennials are even less prepared. By keeping tabs on your plumbing, and having a home repair or home warranty plan, you can possibly prevent the financial burden of catastrophic plumbing failures.  Fixing a service line is a costly home repair.

Heating and air conditioning trouble

Every HVAC system makes noise, but if you notice a change in these noises, including bangs, squeaks, and creaks, it may be time to have your unit looked at. These sounds could indicate that you have a bearing or belt going out, or worse.

If your home is heating or cooling unevenly, and you have checked to make sure the vents are open and there are no structural issues with the home, it may be a sign that there are heater or air conditioner problems. This could also be a sign that there is a problem or leak with your ductwork. Another common cause of this is the location of your thermostat. A thermostat may be located in a position that does not allow it to gauge the temperature of the entire space, such as near a vent or in a smaller space of the home, causing your HVAC unit to shut off before the entire space has been adequately heated or cooled.

Shockingly simple electrical repairs

Lights that flicker in the home may be a symptom of a bad or loose light bulb, but if replacing the bulb does not solve the problem it may be due to an issue within the light fixture itself, or the wiring to the fixture. If this problem is occurring across multiple fixtures in the home, it is time to contact an electrician as the likely cause is faulty wiring within the home and this is a home repair you probably don’t want to try to do yourself.

Circuit breakers may occasionally trip if you have overloaded a circuit, but in the event the breaker is constantly tripping, even with just single lamp or fixture plugged into it, the breakers may have worn out and are no longer usable. Use caution while doing anything with the breaker panel, as power still flows to the unit, even with the main break.

To find out how to help protect yourself in the event of a home repair emergency, visit www.slwofa.com.

5 Plumbing Tips You Should Know

5 Plumbing Tips You Should Know

When faced with a plumbing issue, there are many DIY plumbing fixes a homeowner can try before calling in a professional. Check out these plumbing “myths” for the best ways to deal with a clogged sink, flushable wipes and more.

  1. “Use hot water to flush down grease.”

This is a common misconception. Grease sticks to pipes, drains and hot water. Even boiling water doesn’t remove grease or help it ‘flush’ down your drain. When hot water cools over the grease, the grease hardens and it actually creates a thick coating inside of your pipes. This can cause long-term issues, including backed-up or even burst pipes. Instead, wipe the grease out of pans or pour it into a disposable jar and place in the garbage.

  1. “Clogged sink? I’ll just use the plunger.”

Not so fast. DIY blockage-unclogging is not as straightforward as you may first think. It may also prove to be hazardous. After a few unsuccessful tries with the plunger, you may think that pouring a household chemical cleaner or drain cleaner into the sink is the logical next step. After waiting and seeing that nothing has happened, you may then reach for your plunger again. Here’s where you really need to be careful! Splash-back from plunging can cause irreversible skin damage, and if contact is made with the eyes, it can cause blindness. NEVER use a plunger after using a chemical to clear a blockage. Always use a plunger in a safe way — without any chemical agent.

Consider making your own natural drain cleaner using a half cup of baking soda and vinegar, which is much less harsh than chemical cleaners.

Something to be aware of: even if you are using a plunger safely, but you have a double sink, once the blockage is dislodged, the pressure from plunging can actually cause the blockage to come up the other drain. To prevent this, be certain you’ve covered the second drain opening completely with duct tape. Unblocking one drain to simply block another will give you more than you bargained for.

  1. “It’s okay to flush if it fits down the pipe.”

Wrong. Just because the object might seem to fit down the pipe, it does not mean it’s OK to flush. Take articles, such as scraps of food or female sanitary products, for example. These objects could fit down a sink or toilet from the entry point, but in reality, most pipes are no more than 4” wide. So, flushing even small bits of food down the sink can result in a buildup of debris and risks a clog in the piping.

In a similar way, female sanitary products may disappear down the pipe but then quickly absorb water and expand. This may cause blockages, which can lead to bigger drainage problems for the whole plumbing system. It’s always best to remember that unless it’s a liquid (not grease or oil), then it’s always best to use your trash can to dispose of such items.

  1. “Flushable wipes are flushable.”

Not as obvious as it sounds. Most wipes, including ones advertised as flushable, really cannot be eliminated by the sewer or septic system. The fact is, they just do not break down fast enough to truly be flushable. Consumer Reports’ own study agrees. Mixed with other debris, they can snag on pipes and block the system, causing serious damage. Toilets are designed to remove human waste. Use your trash can for everything else.

  1. “Pipes can handle all my weekend guests.”

Think again. You might be able to handle an overflow of house guests and in-laws, but your sewer or septic line might not be. This line conducts all waste water from your home, including the kitchen, showers, AND toilets.

So, if you have extra guests staying over for an extended period of time, ensure that everyone staggers shower and bathroom time to make certain that the lines have enough time to clear (this is especially important if you have slow drains.) By asking your guests to be mindful with their water usage during their stay, you can help you save yourself a stinky, soppy backyard, or a flooded basement.

Knowledge is power. Now that you are aware of these common plumbing myths, you have the knowledge to keep your plumbing, water line and sewer/septic lines flowing as they should, and hopefully protect your home against unpleasant and costly issues.

To find out how to help protect yourself in the event of an in-home plumbing emergency, visit www.slwofa.com.

6 Ways to Protect Your Home from Water Damage

home water damage

Did you know, water damage is more likely to occur in your home than fire damage? We protect our homes from catastrophes, but water damage could be just as dangerous.

Plumbing leaks are common anywhere there is running water, such as:

  • Toilets
  • Faucets/Sinks
  • Dishwashers
  • Ice makers
  • Water heaters
  • Tubs/showers
  • Washing machines
  • Internal pipes and hoses

Water damage isn’t only a problem financially; it can lead to serious health risks from chemicals, toxins and mold, such as rashes, asthma or other chronic health conditions. Additionally, recent studies have shown that children with prolonged exposure to water- damaged rooms in their home are at a higher risk of developing eczema.

Whether from a slow leak or flooded basement, there are things that a homeowner can do to mitigate or minimize the extent of water damage.

  • Check for leaks or cracks in hoses that run to the washing machine, dishwasher and refrigerator at least once a year and replace these hoses every five to seven years.
  • Be sure the caulking around tubs and showers is free of cracks.
  • Know where your water main is located and how to shut it off.
  • Install floor pans under appliances to prevent damage from slow, undetected leaks.
  • Use water leak alarms, which will alert you to a leak in basements, laundry rooms, bathrooms, kitchens and sump pumps.
  • Buy a water flow monitoring system, which attaches to your water main and, if flow that exceeds normal use is detected, will automatically shut off the flow of water into your home.

When the problem is from your water service line, that’s when repairs can really get costly. Service Line Warranties of America offers affordable warranties to help cover those repairs. Enter your zip code to learn more.

Flashback Friday: In-Home Plumbing Tips

Plumbing systems are pretty simple – they use pressure and valves Plumbing suppliesand you just have to keep them dry and warm so problems don’t arise. Here are a few tips that can alert you to small problems in order to avoid bigger problems in the future.

Warning signs of a potential in-home plumbing problem:

  • damp cabinets
  • leaking or dripping faucets
  • wobbly toilets
  • leaking refrigerator, dishwasher or washing machine

What you can do to help preserve the integrity of your in-home plumbing:

  • To save yourself money and the plumber time, know where your home’s main water shut-off valve and sewer stack are located. (This also includes the valves for washing machines, icemakers, sinks and toilets. A stud sensor can also detect pipes and wiring to help you locate valves.)
  • Insulate exposed pipes in a crawl space or in the garage with plastic or foam insulation.
  • Apply insulating caps to outdoor fixtures.
  • If you plan on being away from home for a few days, open taps to a small trickle to prevent pipes from freezing.
  • For leaky shower heads, replace the washer.
  • Fit tub and shower drains with strainers to catch hair and clean them regularly.
  • Don’t use your toilet as a wastebasket.
  • If you have hard water, you probably have a build-up of mineral deposit on your shower head. Remove the build-up by putting one cup of distilled vinegar in a plastic bag, immerse the shower head in the vinegar, secure the bag to the shower head with a twist tie and let it soak overnight.
  • Check washer hoses for bulges and leaks as well as sediment build-up where the hose connects to the piping.
  • Ensure the water heater temperature is not set above 120°F, or “medium” for older water heater models.
  • Reduce water pressure and install water softener to expand the life expectancy of your in-home plumbing pipes. Normal pressure will register between 40 and 85 psi.

 

To find out how to help protect yourself in the event of an in-home plumbing emergency, visit www.slwofa.com

Flashback Friday: Put Your Landscape on a Water Diet

When plants absorb sunlight to produce iStock_000001999339Smalloxygen through photosynthesis, the water in their leaves evaporates, requiring the plant to pull water from the ground – which could be trouble for some plants in drought-prone areas.

During periods of extreme heat and drought, this process can use all of a plant’s water resources quickly. As a result, when the weather is hotter, a natural reaction when gardening is to water the plants. Unfortunately, too much of a good thing could be detrimental to the plants. If plants are overwatered during the hottest months, it could send mixed signals, encouraging growth at a time when the plant should be conserving resources. Sometimes it’s better to put your landscape on a strict water diet to ensure healthy plants and conserve water during the hottest months.

So what’s the right amount of water for your plants? That relies on several factors, including:

  • Climate
  • Types of plants
  • Current weather predictions

In order to keep your landscape on a strict diet and conserve water, here are a few simple tricks from the Environmental Protection Agency:

  • Select plants native to the climate, which will require less water since they are adapted to adjust with the seasons locally. Local nurseries can give you the best advice for native plants along with tips on how to properly care for them.
  • Water plants in the early morning or late evening and not during the hottest part of the day. Be sure to note the weather forecast so you don’t water in the morning only for it to rain later in the day.
  • Use mulch to help retain moisture in the soil.
  • Group plants with similar watering needs together, which will help not only conserve water, but concentrate your watering areas correctly.

When monitoring your plants, there are some tell-tale signs they need water:

  • Drooping leaves and stems
  • Flowers that lose their petals too soon
  • Plant coloration – look for a brownish color

These simple tips will help keep your landscape fit and trim this summer. Interested in learning more about photosynthesis? Check out these articles on How Stuff Works andEncylopedia.com. For more information on finding native plants in your area, check out Find Native Plants.

 

Water-Themed Summer Playlist

While working on water conservation and enjoying the summer, jam out to our water-themed playlist!

 

Purple Rain – Prince

Waterfalls – TLC

Ice, Ice Baby – Vanilla Ice

November Rain – Guns N’ Roses

No Rain – Blind Melon

Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple

Water Runs Dry – Boyz II Men

Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon and Garfunkel

Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head – BJ Thomas

I’m Only Happy When it Rains – Garbage

Red Rain – Peter Gabriel

Set Fire to the Rain – Adele

Cake by the Ocean – DNCE

Cry Me a River – Justin Timberlake

Moon River – Henry Mancini

Take Me to the River – Talking Heads

Nightswimming – REM

Green River – Creedence Clearwater Revival

Sea of Love – The Honeydrippers

Black Water – The Doobie Brothers

I Love a Rainy Night – Eddie Rabbitt

Sitting on the Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding

Tide is High – Blondie

 

Service Line Awareness Week Recap

Service Line Warranties of America (SLWA) hosted the first annual Service Line Awareness Week from March 20-26. During the week, we focused on providing citizens educational materials to help demonstrate simple ways to improve water conservation. Here are some fun tips and facts that were featured:

 

  • You can refill an 8-oz glass of water approximately 15,000 times for the same cost as a six-pack of soda pop.
  • Americans use 5.7 billion gallons of water per day from toilet flushes, an average of 1.5 to 3.5 gallons per flush.
  • Adjust mowers to a higher setting. Taller grass shades the roots and helps retain soil moisture so your lawn requires less water.
  • Re-use your pasta water. Try straining your pasta water into a large pot. Once it cools, you can use it to water your plants.

 

In addition to the fun facts and educational materials that were provided, SLWA also ran two contests for residents. Residents were encouraged to share photos and/or stories about how they conserve water. The winner from each contest received a water conservation prize pack. Randy C. From Kansas City, Missouri, won our #SLAWeek Story Contest. Take a look at his winning story:

 

“We installed a 1150-gallon tank under our deck a few years ago and then added heavy gutters to collect most of the rainwater from the backside of our house. We use it to water our raised-bed gardens, wash the dogs, water the house’s foundation (something we have to do in Kansas), any power washing, and occasional lawn watering (by running it through a pump and then sprinkler). In the house, we flush one toilet with it and use it for all devices which create steam – humidifiers, irons, etc. – to avoid damage caused by our local hard water. Near-term future plans include adding a solar shower in the backyard using the rainwater; longer-term future plans include a secondary pressurized set of water lines in the house providing non-potable water where appropriate. I think our norms for water use in the US are insane – treated, drinkable water is a precious resource that takes energy to clean and then move around, and then it’s largely used thoughtlessly for things that don’t require that level of sanitation. The goal at our house is to make that division as clear as possible and then use the appropriate water source for any given task.”

Flashback Friday – Madison, Wisconsin

Today we travel to the capital of the State of Wisconsin. Named for the fourth President of the United States, James Madison, the City offers residents and visitors entertainment, adventure, and history. It features the 250px-Wis-capitolWisconsin State Capitol Building, modeled after the U.S. Capitol’s dome.

Once you have taken in the sites at the Capitol Building, make your way to the Olbrich Botanical Gardens. Open year round, the gardens span 16 acres of beautiful landscapes. Featuring multiple outdoor gardens, you can enjoy the roses in the Rose Garden, absorb the beauty of the Perennial Garden, and work up an appetite at the Herb Garden.

During the cold Wisconsin winters, make your way inside to the Bolz Conservatory. This 50-foot-high glass pyramid is a tropical oasis. Home to a waterfall, a diverse tropical plant collection, and free-flying birds, you will feel like you have just stepped out of a blizzard and into the tropics! Some of the more unique plant life is located in the Conservatory, where you can observe banana, vanilla, and coffee plants before getting up close and personal with a collection of carnivorous plants. Just don’t get too close!

After wandering through all of the gardens, you are sure to have worked up an appetite. Take a stroll back down to the Square at the State Capitol Building and check out the Dane County Farmers’ Market. Choose from a selection of meats, vegetables, and cheeses and a variety of baked goods. This year-round weekly market gives residents and visitors alike the chance to sample some of the best produce and products from local vendors. For those more interested in a festival atmosphere, Memorial Day weekend offers you the chance to attend the World’s Largest Brat Fest. The event provides a carnival-like atmosphere Brat Festfeaturing games, live music, fireworks, and of course, Bratwurst. The event has donated more than $1.6 million to local charities and grows larger every year. This year’s event sold over 163,000 Brats alone! After you have taken care of your food cravings, you can explore the many museums around the City, where you can enjoy both classic and contemporary art.

There are many great sites to enjoy in Madison, but to see Madison from the best perspective, you should navigate toward the Brodhead Airport in Middleton, Wisconsin, where you will find Ted Davis, Bi-planeowner and pilot for Biplane Rides of America. Mr. Davis offers local tours of the Madison area in his New Standard Model D-25 Biplane. Able to carry four passengers in the front seat with the pilot in the rear, you can take in the sights of the local area, or enjoy a tour of the Wisconsin rivers and Lake Wisconsin.

Enjoy the wind rushing through your hair, and then relax a little after your adventures in Madison.

For more information on things to do and see in Madison, visit www.visitmadison.com.

To find out how to enroll with Service Line Warranties of America, and bring yourself peace of mind, visit www.slwofa.com.