11 Preventive Plumbing Maintenance Tips You Should Know

Deane Biermeier
Written by Deane Biermeier
Reviewed by Joseph Wood
Updated May 19, 2023
A woman checking faucet
Photo: SeventyFour / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Use these tips to help you avoid leaks in your wallet

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Drip, drip, drip. That’s a sound anyone likes hearing. Luckily, maintaining your plumbing system is not as difficult as you might think. By performing preventive care, you can potentially avoid common issues like broken or rusted pipes, leaks, and clogs. Learn how to care for your plumbing system using our handy plumbing maintenance tips.

1. Watch What You Flush Down the Toilet

Be careful of what you flush down the toilet. Items such as hair, food waste, grease, and wipes can form solid masses and clog your drains. 

Toilet paper and waste are the only objects that should get flushed down the toilet. It’s the easiest way to make sure you avoid a costly (and unsightly) repair.

2. Check for Toilet Leaks 

While a significant leak in your home's plumbing will typically require a licensed plumber to repair, there are a few things to be on the lookout for regarding more subtle toilet leaks that not only waste water but can cause trouble if ignored. 

Occasionally check around your toilet's base for pooling water on the floor or dripping from under the tank. Repairing these could mean simply tightening the floor or tank bolts. However, the problem could be with the wax ring or tank gaskets, which will require a bit more work to resolve. Address these problems right away to avoid a more urgent water damage issue. 

More commonly, your toilet may suffer a slow leak that's nearly undetectable without testing. In that case, you may notice the tank needing to refill itself from time to time for seemingly no reason. To test if water is slowly leaking within your toilet, place a couple of teaspoons of food coloring in the tank and wait. If after about a half-hour you notice the color showing up in the bowl, you likely need a new flapper or another part is failing. 

You don't have to wait for symptoms to appear to check on these types of toilet leaks. You can keep an eye out for visible leaks all the time and perform the food coloring test every once in a while. 

3. Fix Leaking Faucets and Showerheads

Did you know that faucet water leaks can waste up to 180 gallons of water per week, according to the Environmental Protection Agency? These leaks can happen as a result of:

  • A corroded valve seat

  • Problems with the O-ring

  • A worn-out washer

Not only do leaks waste a lot of water, but they can also increase your water bill. To prevent any issues from arising, inspect your faucets and showerheads regularly for signs of leakage.

Ensure that your handles aren’t leaking when you turn your water off. They tend to be a sneaky culprit for water leaks. You should also check under your sinks while the water runs to establish if one of your pipes is leaking. If you see water stains, you’ll need to address the issue right away.

4. Check Appliances for Water Leaks

A kitchen and living room
Photo: Nazar Abbas Photography / Moment / Getty Images

Most of the appliances in your home, such as the washing machine, refrigerators, and water heater, connect to your main water line. Each of their processes can use heavy amounts of water, causing leaks at any point.

You’ll know you have a leak if there are water stains or standing puddles in areas around the appliances. Manufacturers always supply maintenance guidelines to help you care for the product. Following them will help you stay on top of any issues and schedule the necessary repairs.

5. Watch What You Put in Your Garbage Disposal 

While having a garbage disposal in your kitchen is a fantastic convenience, it does have some limitations to bear in mind. Placing incompatible things in the disposer can cause both immediate problems and ones that aren't apparent for a while. 

Avoid putting fibrous foods, uncooked starches like rice and pasta, coffee grounds, or eggshells in the machine. These items can harm the disposer or easily clog up its inner workings. Fruit pits, bones, and other hard items can also easily damage the blades inside and are difficult to remove. 

Finally, while putting grease (especially hot, liquid oil) in a drain or disposer may seem innocent enough, the substance cools quickly in your home plumbing, congeals back into a solid there, and can lead to clogs deep in your home's plumbing sometime down the road. 

6. Keep Your Drains Clear

If you’ve noticed water going down your drains slowly, you may have a slight clogging problem. Your first choice might be to buy a chemical drain cleaner since it’s a heavy-duty response and can clear the blockage right away.

Sometimes, this isn’t the best move because these products contain acids that can eat away at your pipes or damage your toilet. Instead, you can use a mixture of hot water, vinegar, and baking soda. The contents will bubble up and clear out your drains, allowing your water flow to return to normal.

“Alternatively, use an enzyme cleaner from your local plumber or hardware store and allow the natural enzymes to do the heavy lifting for you,” says Joseph Wood, Expert Review Board member and master plumber and Founder of the Boston Standard Company in Mattapan, MA.

Try to use this method at least once a month or any time you see water leaving your drains slowly. But if you’ve tried these methods and the problem remains, contact a professional plumber in your area.

7. Inspect Your Sewer Drains

Your home is either connected to a septic tank or a sewer line, depending on where you live. Septic tanks treat your wastewater on-site, usually in a space near or underneath your property. On the other hand, sewer main lines connect to your city’s water system. All of your wastewater gets sent underground to a nearby treatment facility. 

Regardless of your home’s sewage system, your drains should get inspected by a professional. Due to the constant flow of water, pipes can clog with debris from time to time, causing problems with your sewer drains at home. 

Schedule sewer line maintenance at least once a year to prevent this issue from happening. A plumber will come in and clear out any slight blockages before they become substantial problems.

8. Check Your Water Pressure

Have you had moments where you’ve been looking forward to showering, and the pressure was trickling out slowly? You’re not alone. We might not think about it too often, but water pressure regulation is healthy for our homes.

When you have lower water pressure, it will take longer to do the dishes or have a quick shower. It can cause leaks or burst your pipes if it’s too high since they aren’t used to the heavy water pressure. That’s why balance is key.

You can test your water pressure levels using a pressure gauge. It will let you know if the pressure is too high or low. Another preventive measure you can take is installing a pressure regulator. Pressure regulators maintain your water level, so it doesn’t go above the required level. With these two tools, you’ll help keep your water bills at a reasonable price.

9. Shut off Outdoor Fixtures With the Seasons

Don’t forget to shut off your outdoor fixtures on a seasonal schedule. If possible, shut off the water supply to these fixtures—think outside hoses, faucets, and sprinkler systems—and drain and insulate them in the fall before freezing temperatures start. Depending on where you live, you may have to blow out your sprinkler system and follow a sprinkler winterization procedure.  

10. Create a Preventive Maintenance Schedule

It’s no secret we all have busy lives, so it can be challenging to make sure there’s ample time for our household tasks. However, when it comes to plumbing issues, leaving any problems for too long could create lasting damage in your home.

On average, the cost of plumbing repairs is around $330 but can increase as high as $3,000 if the issue is more severe. To avoid these not-so-wallet-friendly prices, create a plumbing maintenance schedule.

Walk around your house and note things that may need a tweak or fix. Add them to your favorite calendar app so you can organize your time correctly. Your plumbing maintenance scheduling will keep your system working the way it should be and keep your money in your pockets.

11. Don’t Hesitate to Call a Professional

A little bit of plumbing maintenance goes a long way. As long as you keep a consistent schedule and follow preventive measures, things should be fine. 

On the off chance you experience an issue you’re not sure how to handle, search for plumbers near you. Their expertise will prevent the problem from worsening and leave you a happy homeowner.

Conroy Baltimore contributed to this piece.

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