'Tis the Season to Talk About Clogs

THE HOLIDAY SEASON is fast approaching. One of the gifts you can expect to receive if you are a service plumber is a substantial increase in the number of calls about house sewer clogs. I dont need to tell you how you may want to prepare internally for this onslaught or bounty, whichever you care to call the holiday increase of drain line stoppages. I do, however, have some ideas about the public

THE HOLIDAY SEASON is fast approaching. One of the gifts you can expect to receive if you are a service plumber is a substantial increase in the number of calls about house sewer clogs.

I don’t need to tell you how you may want to prepare internally for this onslaught or bounty, whichever you care to call the holiday increase of drain line stoppages. I do, however, have some ideas about the public relations and image building that you should consider before the holidays.

If you have a newsletter that you send to your customers, this is a good topic for your next issue. It is also a good reason to call the features editor of your local newspaper or TV station to suggest that now would be the time to prepare a story about how to avoid the social disaster of having the drains stop up during the holidays.

When Dr. Seuss wrote about the Grinch, he did not have in mind the holiday forces that come together to shut down your sewer system at the worst possible time and in the worst possible season. That most inconvenient time is during or following the family gathering or holiday party that brings together more houseguests and more sleepovers than any other time.

The holiday sewer blahs make for a good feature story. If you act now, you can be the spokesman for the industry. You’ll get the professional respect of the community as the local expert on the subject and, of course, you’ll get the service calls if the readers or viewers ignore your advice.

The following would be my script. I would urge you to localize it and embellish it as it fits your circumstances. I would warn you that this is not a scientific dissertation. These are just the observations of one old guy who remembers the good old days of 7-gal. flushes.

Today’s 1.6-gal. toilets are designed to be magicians. They make the load disappear from the toilet, but we all know that, in reality, the load is still there. It has disappeared from view. It is a plumbing optical illusion similar to Houdini or Blackstone who did the trick with bigger stuff like elephants!

As we all know, the problem is that the toilet load being flushed with 1.6-gal. of water does not carry very far. The day is saved, so to speak, by the other wastewater that normally runs concurrently in the home. In most homes there is a balance that occurs as the wastewater from bathing, normal kitchen chores and clothes washing routinely provides the water needed to carry all the stuff through the drain line to the street.

Everything changes during the holiday season. The water entering your house is colder than at any other time of the year. There is a higher quantity of water flowing and this water doesn’t remain inside the house long enough for tempering. Even if you don’t notice the difference between warm water and cold water flushing and load carry, your sewer line does. Cold water flushes more like syrup. The increase in houseguests means many more toilet flushes that are not balanced by other warm wastewater uses (the clothes washer loads and showers), unless you throw some unusually wild parties.

When you add the additional trauma of large quantities of rinds, peelings and turkey bones fed too quickly into the food waste disposer by some guest eager to get back to the party, then you have the formula for a major drain stoppage.

One of the special realities of disposers is that when you finely grind food waste, it absorbs water and expands rapidly, which can cause an almost immediate stoppage.

In my personal life I recall having used a single sump sink with a disposer to catch wood shavings from a small kitchen carpentry project. I cleverly thought that I could send the shavings down the drain. It is possible, but not that day or with the quantity of water I had flowing and certainly not with the speed with which I fed the disposer.

I have also managed to create monumental clogs with cantaloupe rinds, potato peels and shrimp shells, and always, as Murphy’s Law dictates, at the worst possible time.

You should caution homeowners in the course of your holiday public relations gig to feed the disposer slowly and run the water faster to avoid many of the holiday sewer blahs.

My own worst-case example was pumping the contents of a single sump sink up the vent onto the kitchen roof and down into the rain gutter. I did this just hours before the holiday party was to begin. It made for a lot of really different party small talk.

The story for your newsletter or to suggest to the features editor of either the newspaper or TV station will do several important things for you and your business: It will help to make the holidays brighter for some people; it will build your professional reputation; and it will remind all who read or hear that you are the expert to call if they ignore your professional advice.

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