REMOVING RUST STAINS FROM SINKS, TUBS AND TOILETS

Yesterday, we covered some of the ways that rusty pipes, fixtures and water heaters can lead to rust particles in your water supply. This week, we’ll talk about what you can do about the brown stains this water can leave on your sinks, tubs and toilets over time.

These stubborn stains aren’t necessarily the result of rust problems in your plumbing system or even in the water authority’s pipelines. Any water with a sufficiently high iron content can leave these stains behind over time, even if the water tastes normal and appears to be clear. So if you live in an area with lots of iron deposits underground, that iron is probably leaching into the groundwater and could potentially lead to these troublesome porcelain stains.

It usually takes a good amount of contact between rusty water and porcelain for tough stains to appear, so you’re most likely to see this in areas where there’s always standing water, like your toilet bowl. If there’s a brownish ring around the water line or brown streaks leading down from the outlets where water flows into the bowl, these may be rust stains that won’t come clean with the usual toilet cleaner and scrub brush.

In sinks and tubs, the place where these stains most frequently form is in the little ridge around the drain. If you have a leaky faucet, there may also be brown stains right where the water drips.

You may need a plumber’s help in identifying and correcting the underlying issue. If it’s rusty pipes or a rusty hot water heater, you’ll need to replace those items to stop the flow of rusty water. And if it’s coming from naturally occurring iron-rich water, installing a water softening system can help bring the problem under control.

As for cleaning those stains, you have your work cut out for you — over time, severe rust stains can permanently etch themselves into the porcelain. But if you’re up to the challenge, try these trusted remedies:

Abrasive scouring pads. The rough side of a standard two-color kitchen sponge may be all you need to lift away light stains, but there are also versions of this product that are designed specifically for tough stains on toilets and tubs. This is a good first choice because there are no chemicals involved (which is eco-friendly) and high quality scouring pads can usually be cleaned and reused several times.

Pumice. The airy, crumbly volcanic rock is renowned for its gentle scouring abilities, and there are a few pumice products that are ideal for removing rust stains from porcelain. Try using a pumice stick or scrubber designed for porcelain and tile — much like with a scouring pad, you’ll need to apply some elbow grease, but you’ll save money in the long run with multiple cleanings per product.

Lemon juice and salt. If you don’t have either of the above-mentioned products on hand, you may still be able to clean those stains without taking a trip to the hardware store. A wet paste of lemon juice and salt is a potent combination that can effectively attack rust stains if given time to penetrate. It doesn’t form a sticky paste, so it’s tough to use this technique on a toilet bowl, but it works great on flat surfaces like sink and tub drains. Let the mixture soak for at least 15 minutes or up to several hours, then scrub away with a toothbrush.

Chemical cleaners. If those environmentally safe scouring techniques don’t work for you, you can always try a chemical cleaner — but your everyday cleaners won’t cut it. Even bleach is a poor match for tough rust stains. Look for a cleaner that contains hydrochloric acid and is safe for use as a tub and tile cleaner. Follow the safety instructions carefully, as these products are hazardous if mishandled.

No sink, toilet or tub is made to last forever, and etched-in rust stains may have you thinking about replacement. The experts at your local Rods Away can not only help you install new fixtures, they can help you stop the problem at its source.

WHEN RUSTY WATER APPEARS, FIND THE SOURCE FAST

You count on the water coming from your taps to be clean and clear. So what if the color and taste are suddenly a little off? The culprit could be rust, and depending on the age of your pipes and water heater, it could be coming from inside your house.

There’s also a chance rusty water could stem from your public water supply, especially if you live in an older city that hasn’t refurbished its water system in many decades. But before you even call your local plumber, you can collect a few clues that can point to the source of the problem.

Is It Rust?

It often doesn’t take a laboratory test to determine if the impurity in a water sample is rust. Sufficiently rusty water will have a distinctive metallic odor and a reddish brown appearance.

The rust particles themselves are oxidized iron, and while they can leave unsightly stains in your porcelain sinks and white linens, they don’t pose a health hazard, according to the University of California. One exception may be people afflicted with a rare disorder called hemochromatosis, which allows the body to accumulate excessive iron levels.

Where Is It Coming From?

The first question is whether the rusty water is originating within your home plumbing system or in the public supply. To investigate, go to the fixture where you first noticed the rusty water and fill a glass with cold water only. Check the sample for rusty odors or coloring, then let the cold water flow for several seconds before checking another sample. Next, run the hot water for several seconds and sample that.

If the rusty water is only present in the hot water supply or if it goes away after several seconds of running water, those are both strong indications that the rust source is in your home. But if you have continuous rusty water in both taps, you should call your local water authority immediately to report the problem.

Your DIY test should also help you further narrow down the source if you find that it’s coming from within your home. If rusty water came from the cold water tap, that indicates a corroding pipe or pipes in your home plumbing system. And if it’s coming only from the hot water tap, that means your water heater is probably rusting out.

What Can I Do?

No matter the cause, the fix comes down to one word: replacement. If an old section of the public water system is rusting out, it’s the public authority’s responsibility to replace those failing pipes. And if the same is happening to the pipes in your home, a qualified plumber can conduct a thorough investigation to identify the rusty pipes and craft a plan to replace them.

If the source is your water heater, replacement is also the recommended route. Once corrosion begins, it will usually progress until the integrity of the tank fails completely. But there is one important thing you can do to avoid your new water heater from suffering the same fate: replace the anode rod every few years.

An anode rod is a long, metal rod that extends into your water heater tank. Its purpose is to attract corrosive particles so they attack the rod and spare the water heater. But the rod itself is eaten away in this process, and when it’s whittled down to its core, there’s nothing stopping those particles from moving on to attack the tank. The lifespan of an anode rod is typically five years, or shorter if you have a water softening system.

Do you need help investigating the source of your rusty water or inspecting your hot water heater to make sure it’s protected? Call your local Rods Away now to request service or ask for more information.

COMMON CAUSES OF TOILET CLOGS

Inadvertently clogging the toilet — or discovering too late that it’s already clogged — is one of the more embarrassing plumbing mishaps. And it can also be a tricky one to address because there are so many potential causes.

The good news is that most toilet clogs can be avoided altogether with an ounce of prevention, and many more can be cleared up with just a minute or two of vigorous plunging. But for those other, more difficult causes, you may need to call upon your local plumbing pro.

Here are a few of the most common reasons why your toilet might be clogged:

You Flushed the Wrong Stuff

The toilet is for disposing of human waste and toilet paper — and that’s it. You’re taking a risk whenever you flush anything outside of those parameters, like tissues, cotton balls, cotton swabs, dental floss, feminine products or diapers. If these things get caught somewhere in the drain line, they won’t break down and move on like toilet paper can. So resist the urge to flush anything else, and if you have children in the home who might be tempted, be sure to talk to them about what’s flushable.

A Jam in the Trap

All drain pipes have something called a trap — a u-shaped bend in the pipe that remains filled with water. That water acts as an important barrier against foul odors that might otherwise waft into a home from the sewer line. Your toilet’s trap is great at getting this job done, but unfortunately, that bend in the pipe also makes a good place for a clog to develop. Even if you’ve been careful about what you flush, something like using too much toilet paper can create a clog there.

Ineffective Flapper

If you take the lid off your toilet tank, you should see a round rubber gasket at the bottom. This is the flapper, and it opens during flushing to allow the water in the tank to flush down into the bowl. If the flapper doesn’t open fully, you may get a weak flush, which can cause clogs by failing to push the contents of the bowl far enough down the drain pipe. This is easy to fix — the flapper is usually attached to the flush arm with an adjustable chain, so move the chain a few links to shorten it and try a test flush.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Water-conscious homeowners have been buying low-flow toilets for years, but the early versions weren’t as powerful as the ones you can buy today. And just as with the flapper example above, the first low-flow toilets may not always flush hard enough to push the contents through. If you’re consistently having trouble with one of these models, it may be time to consider an upgrade.

Hit the Roof

When your toilet won’t flush, it’s possible that the clog isn’t in the drain pipe, but in the toilet’s vent. Plumbing fixtures typically vent to a home’s roof to allow fresh air into the plumbing system, where it replaces the vacuum of air created when water drains. When this vent becomes clogged with leaves or debris, it can cause slow, gurgling or stopped drains, even in the toilet. This job is best handled by a professional, because the vent will need to be cleared out from the rooftop opening.

Down the Line

If the source of the problem isn’t in the toilet, the drain pipe or the vent, it must be in the sewer line. This is often a worst-case scenario if a problem occurs in a section of sewer pipe located under private property, because it often involves digging up the yard and racking up several hours of labor. Sewer line problems aren’t always caused by what’s flowing through the pipes; tree roots can put pressure on these lines over time, leading to a break. To find out what’s going on in the sewer line, request a camera inspection from your local plumber.

A toilet clog isn’t the end of the world, but if you don’t know the cause or can’t clear it on your own, help is only a phone call away at your local Rods Away.

REPAIRING YOUR PLUMBING AFTER A FLOOD

If your home is impacted by flooding, there may be hidden plumbing damage that you won’t find until a licensed plumber conducts a thorough inspection of your property. Here are a few of the most common post-flood plumbing problems:

Clogged Drains

Floodwater invariably contains some amount of dirt and silt, and when the waters recede, that residue is left behind. Any drains in your home that were covered by floodwater could be clogged with these particles. In many cases, the usual DIY tools — a plunger or a plumbing snake — can clear these clogs. But if you’re worried about damage down the pipe and are planning on a professional plumbing inspection anyway, you may want to leave these drains as-is until your plumber gives you the all-clear.

Dirty and Damaged Fixtures

Any plumbing fixtures that suffered physical damage due to wind, structural failure or floating or flying debris will likely need to be replaced. But those that are undamaged will still need some TLC in the form of a thorough cleaning with diluted bleach. When it comes to faucets and showerheads, you may need to disassemble them and soak the individual parts in bleach to prevent mold growth.

Broken Pipes in the Home

The risks of flying debris from a hurricane and floating debris from a flood present a double whammy to your home’s pipes. If a pipe is cracked or broken, you may not even be able to identify the problem until after the floodwater recedes and is completely removed from the home. If you notice new puddles after the floodwater is gone, shut the water off at the main valve while you wait for your plumbing inspection.

Broken Pipes Underground

All that standing water and the saturated soil beneath creates a crushing weight. Unfortunately, buried water and waste lines may fail under this load. If you see sinkholes on your property after the water recedes, that’s a possible sign one or more of these lines has collapsed under your lawn. A plumber may need to conduct a camera inspection to confirm.

Foundation Damage

Pipes can break if they’re moved around by a home’s shifting foundation. Foundation damage can occur during a flood if there’s movement in the saturated soil beneath the foundation. This unsteady ground may make the foundation crack, and plumbing pipes are just one type of building material that could be damaged as a result. In these cases, foundation repair must usually be completed before certain pipes can be replaced.

Damage this extensive can feel overwhelming, but there’s no job too big for the dedicated plumbers at your local Rods Away. If you’ve been affected by a hurricane or other flooding and need your plumbing inspected or repaired, call today.

THE BENEFITS OF A COLD SHOWER

Most of us hate the thought of taking a cold shower so much that we’ll call for repairs the moment the water heater starts breaking down. But others do it on purpose for the benefit of their health, skin, hair and energy. Think you can handle a frigid shower first thing tomorrow morning? If so, these are some of the perks that may await you:

Increased Alertness

If you shower in the morning, a couple of minutes under the cold water may wake you up more effectively than a double espresso. It’s not just the shock of the cold that snaps you awake — it’s also the way your body responds to help keep you warm. In cold temperatures, your body will stimulate longer, deeper breaths so you can take in more oxygen, and it will increase your heart rate to assist with blood flow. Under a cold shower, you’re unlikely to feel the warming sensation these responses are designed to create, but you’ll definitely notice the extra spring in your step.

Immune System Boost

Another side effect of the blood circulation boost you’ll get from a cold shower is that your white blood cells will start coursing through your body. If you’re feeling a little under the weather, this little kick to your natural disease-fighting system may help you fight those symptoms even faster. The circulatory workout also benefits your health by giving your heart safe exercise, clearing out your arteries and lowering your blood pressure.

Fat Burning

We’re still not done with all the fringe benefits of your body working hard to keep your warm — it may even help you lose weight. The fuel your body uses to keep you warm is fat, which gets burned up in the process. So if you want to get your metabolism moving, keep the workout going by stepping under the cold water after hitting the gym.

Vibrant Skin and Hair

Hot showers feel great, but they can dry out your skin. Cold showers, on the other hand, may make your skin look better than ever by tightening your pores. If you have oily skin or acne, this could be a game-changing part of your skin care routine. As for your hair, cold water can help flatten out the strands so that they appear shinier, and can promote follicle strength and overall scalp health.

Soothing Muscle Pain

One of the reasons why professional athletes take ice baths after training is because it soothes tired muscles. A cold shower can offer the same benefits, and is especially useful for minimizing the intensity of delayed muscle soreness. Try cold showers after your workouts for a week and see if you can tell the difference.

Cold showers aren’t for everyone, but if you ease into it, you might find that it’s not so hard and that the benefits even outweigh the unpleasantness. Even if you don’t like your showers cold from start to finish, you can get some of the benefits — like tight pores and shiny hair — by simply switching from hot to cold for the last minute or so of your shower.

Of course, if you’re taking an unplanned cold shower, that’s another story. Call up your local Rods Away for maintenance, replacement or emergency repairs for your home’s hot water issues.

WHY DOES MY BATHROOM GROUT CRACK?

If you’re the type of homeowner who pays attention to little details, you might find that there are sections of your bathroom grout that don’t look as good as they used to. Specifically, you might find a crack or two, especially in joints where the wall meets the tub, shower or floor.

Cracks may develop as a direct result of age, but they can also be products of problems during tile installation or when mixing the grout. Read on to learn why grout cracks, how it can be repaired and when it should be replaced.

Root Causes

When you see grout cracking only or primarily in joints, the root cause is usually movement between two surfaces. Houses are constantly moving in tiny increments as a result of foundation settling, humidity, temperature and other factors. If the grout in a bathroom is an inflexible material, as most grout is, cracks can develop when a bathtub moves one way while a tile wall moves another way.

There are also ways in which installation can doom grout to failure, underscoring the importance of putting bathroom tile projects in the hands of a trained, qualified installer. For example, if grout is improperly mixed with too much water or additives, it could leave air pockets after the grout has fully dried. These make the grout weak and brittle, leading to cracks.

Grout can also crack if too little adhesive is used to install the tiles. If a tile pulls away from the wall after the adhesive dries, it’s up to the grout to hold it in place – and that stress is liable to cause cracks.

Patch It Up

If you just have a few isolated areas of cracked grout, you may be able to repair them yourself. The first step is to completely remove the old grout from the affected area. If the grout is truly crumbling, this might not take much effort. But if the grout isn’t coming out easily, use a grout saw or grout removal tool to finish the job. Vacuum the crack thoroughly to capture any dust left behind.

Next, choose a replacement that is less likely to crack – silicone caulk. The primary benefit of using caulk is that it’s flexible. If your cracks are caused by shifting surfaces, a line of caulk may survive where grout failed. You’ll want to choose a color that matches your existing grout, which will probably necessitate a trip to a tile shop or large hardware store. Make sure it’s a mildew-proof caulk designed for use in wet environments.

During the application process, it’s essential to follow the caulk’s directions to the smallest detail. While this job isn’t beyond the reach of DIY amateurs, experience counts. Silicone caulk sets quickly and can be difficult to work with. Practice on scrap materials first if you’re unfamiliar with the process, and if in doubt, call in a pro.

A Fresh Start

Not all grout problems are quick fixes. If cracking is widespread, too severe or caused by major underlying installation problems, you should have the situation assessed by a professional. You may be able to get by with regrouting only, a days-long process that involves removing all existing grout, reinstalling new grout, allowing it to cure and finishing up with sealant.

If there are problems beneath the tile, though, the job will never be done right until you rip the tile out and start over. And when things look that dire, you may as well think big — what else isn’t working out in your old bathroom? What begins as cracked grout could lead to inspiration for the dream remodel you’ve always wanted. And a quick call to your local Rods Away Plumber is an important step toward making those dreams a reality.