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Prepare Your Plumbing for Guests, Part 1: Kitchen

Your sister and brother-in-law plan to come to town for a visit, along with their small army of children. Of course you offer up your guest bedroom and camp cots for their stay. As the date approaches though, you notice how slowly your sinks drain, how quickly the hot water runs out in the kitchen, and how particularly your garbage disposal behaves.

Will your plumbing survive larger meals, more dishes, and an increase in running water? Take the following steps to make sure it does.

Before Your Guests Arrive

1. Check for Leaks

Leaks waste water and endanger your system's ability to maintain water pressure. Visually inspect the pipes under your sink. Look for any puddles or drips. Most under-sink leaks require a few small plumbing parts. Also check for any leaky faucets.

2. Check for Clogs

If your sink drains slowly or doesn't drain at all, it will only perform more poorly when it must withstand a larger load. If you feel confident checking for and clearing out a clog yourself, put a bucket under the P-trap (the elbow-shaped pipe under the sink) and unscrew it to remove the clog. If you don't think you can handle the project, call a professional plumber.

3. Clean Sink and Disposal

Whether or not your drain has clogged, it'll function better over time if it starts out clean. Scrub down the sink surface, soak the faucet to remove mineral deposits, and use ice chips or citrus peel to clean the garbage disposal.

4. Cover Drains

Cover your drains with a strainer or plug so large debris doesn't get washed down. You can find generic strainers at most hardware stores. Or you can contact your supplier or manufacturer to find covers tailored to your drains.

5. Post Reminders

You know better than to pour grease or wash stringy foods down the drain. To ensure everyone visiting knows how to treat your plumbing, post a reminder by the sink. Make sure none of the following items go down the kitchen sink drain:

  • Fruit stones and rinds, which damage the disposal blade

  • Non-food items like bones, glass, paper, or plastic, which clog the drain

  • Starchy foods, which turn to a glue-like consistency in the drain

  • Stringy vegetables, which wrap around the disposal blade

If you choose to post a paper note, have it laminated at an office supply store. This protects your reminder against the wet environment found around most kitchen sinks.

6. Prepare for the Worst

Hope for the best, but pick up a drain snake or a sink plunger to ensure you can deal with a minor problem yourself. You may also want to stock up on a non-caustic drain cleaner for minor clogs (check with your plumber if you don't know what brand to choose).

7. Provide Garbage Bins

Make sure you put a garbage bin near the sink. Your reminder about what not to wash down the drain will work better if guests have another convenient place to put waste. Grease, animal bones, stringy vegetables, and hard waste should go in the trash, not in the sink.

During Your Guests' Stay

1. Enforce Guidelines

You may hesitate to make strict requests of your guests. But it's not unreasonable or rude to ask that your houseguests follow rules you set up. Put your reminder in a noticeable place. And, if you see someone using the sink in a non-approved way, approach him or her.

You don't have to be punitive, but you should be firm. After all, you-and not your guests-have to deal with any damage dealt during the visit.

2. Run the Dishwasher Overnight

You'll likely have more dishes to do while your visitors are in town, but resist the temptation to run the dishwasher frequently. Fill the dishwasher completely to save water. Wait to start a load until night or evening. This prevents the dishwasher from reducing the water pressure you need for the kitchen faucets and bathroom appliances.

3. Turn on the Water before Using the Disposal

Without a little water, even approved foods can clog your disposal. Run a stream of cold water for at least 15 seconds before you switch it on. Leave the water running until you turn off the garbage disposal to ensure the waste breaks down properly. Check with your hands that everything broke down and drained away as it should.

If you notice a clog, leak, or other plumbing problem, call a professional plumber from EZ Plumbing right away. Smaller issues could go unnoticed for some time when only two people occupy your home. But when you entertain guests, the last thing you need is the extra strain on your pipes to put them out of commission.

For more information on protecting your plumbing while entertaining, tune in to "Prepare Your Plumbing for Guests, Part 2," where we'll cover precautions in the bathroom.


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