6 of the Very Best Tips We Learned from Plumbers This Year

published Dec 15, 2021
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Your sink is an essential part of your kitchen and your daily life. It’s so essential, we’re guessing you still end up using it, even if there’s a day that you don’t cook at all. (That coffee pot isn’t going to fill or rinse itself!) As with any home asset, you need to take care of your sink — and its drain and pipes! — in order to avoid potentially expensive repairs. So, who better to ask for advice about sink maintenance than plumbers themselves? This year, we spoke with lots of plumbing experts — getting insider info on their favorite products, tools, and hacks.

Here are six of the best tips we learned from plumbers in 2021. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

1. Use Cascade Platinum pods in the dishwasher.

We polled plumbers about their favorite dishwasher detergents. The most common answer? Cascade Platinum ActionPacs. James Bedford, a plumbing expert at Roto-Rooter Plumbing and Drain Service in Greeneville, Tennessee, says these powder and gel pods are the “ideal mix for removing dirt off dishes.”

Ray Brosnan, a plumber who works for the Ireland-based Brosnan Property Solutions, agrees. He says Cascade Platinum pods are especially useful if you have hard water — the ingredients soften the water during the cleaning process, which means your dishwasher will be less vulnerable to hard water damage.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

2. Wash greasy pots and pans with cold water.

Greasy dishes can be tough to clean, so you’ll need the right products — and the right type of water. You’d think hot water would be your best bet at staving off oil, but according to Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, cold water is the way to go. That’s because cold water keeps grease solid, so it’ll travel more easily through pipes without clogging them. That said, it’s definitely best to try to minimize the grease you send down the drain. Always wipe out pans into the trash before you wash them.

Credit: Coco Morante

3. Use baking soda and vinegar to flush out grimy drains.

Dealing with a stinky, grimy drain? James suggests whipping up your own mixture of 1/3 cup baking soda and 1/3 cup white vinegar in a bowl. Then, pour the fizzy mixture down the drain to flush it out. Super easy and inexpensive!

Credit: Joe Lingeman

4. Keep starchy and fibrous foods out of the garbage disposal.

Most home cooks aren’t aware that some foods are totally off-limits for in-sink disposals, says Paul Abrams, the public relations director at Roto-Rooter. Abrams says that stringy or fibrous food should go into the compost or the trash. “Things like celery, rhubarb, or poultry skin will exacerbate any existing slow drain problems,” he says. “Clogs love fiber.” Starchy foods are also a no-no. Starch thickens when wet, which can result in a big clog in your drain. 

5. Use Dawn when hand-washing dishes.

When we surveyed plumbers about the best dish soaps on the market, we weren’t surprised to hear one stood out above the rest. According to Miami-based residential plumber Ryan Thompson, Dawn dishwashing liquid — the classic blue formula — is amazing at removing grease from dishes and clearing leftover grease from your drain pipes. If you’re not using it already, keep a bottle in your kitchen!

Thompson doesn’t just recommend Dawn for clearing greasy, grimy dishes — he also says it’s a must-have for clearing drains, too! If you accidentally pour grease down the drain, simply squirt a few tablespoons of Dawn, then run the faucet after a few minutes. 

6. Grab a plunger as your first defense.

Most people turn to a store-bought drain cleaner to fix a clog, says Abrams. Stop. Before you grab the bottle of drain cleaner, try using a plunger first. “Use a dedicated sink plunger, not the toilet plunger,” Abrams says. A shallow red-cup style plunger is the best tool for the job.

To plunge, add a little water in the sink so the cup of the plunger is submerged. If you have a double-bay sink, close the other drain before plunging — otherwise the water will go right up and out that opening. A few quick plunges are usually enough to release the clog.

What smart tips have you learned from your plumber? Tell us in the comments below.