Don't flush kitty litter or these other things either

May 21st, 2019  |  Home

We’ve all heard about some things not to flush down the toilet. But did you know when it comes to multi-storey commercial and residential buildings, drain backups are the No. 1 cause of damage?

They also are the bane of some insurers’ existence.

“Very often we see cat litter and wet wipes and feminine hygiene products being thrown down toilets,” said Adam Bartman, a second-generation plumber said in an interview with Canadian Underwriter.

“In these high-rise buildings, there is a vertical pipe from the roof to the ground. In the vertical position, there is very infrequently blockages, but as soon as it changes direction horizontally, you get a lot of accumulation of grease,” said Bartman, co-founder of Reed Controls Inc.

Horizontal pipes blocked

Unlike homes, in high-rise buildings there are vertical pipes from the roof to the ground. In the vertical position, there is very infrequently blockages, but as soon as it changes direction horizontally that’s when the troubles begin.

“Somebody will be in their apartment and suddenly they hear the sink start gurgling and a minute later there is black water spewing out of their sink because the water has nowhere else to go,” Bartman said.

“All of the people above them are using their kitchen sink and everything appears to be normal. The water is going away. Meanwhile, the poor guy on the second or third floor is getting crushed by drain backup.”

A faulty toilet or dishwasher on an upper floor can also cause water damage to the floors below it. Things can get complicated when dealing with insurance claims involving a condo corporation, a landlord’s insurance and/or tenants’ insurance. Administrative work can also increase wait times for insurance money.

“There’s a whole bunch of stuff that works well in a single-family home that has one shut off valve and turns off the whole house. But most commercial buildings are more complicated than that. There are hundreds of valves in various locations,” said Bartman, whose company has designed networked devices that connect to plumbing valves designed to let building managers shut down water right away.

Things you can do

There are, however, things you can do to help. Here are 7 things you should never flush or put down the drain:

1) Kitty litter – And yes, we also mean the “flushable kind,” which is a misnomer. Kitty litter clogs toilets, period. Take you cat’s waste and dispose of it in the garbage. In addition, there are toxic ingredients in the kitty litter that shouldn’t be introduced to the water system.

2) Feminine hygiene products/condoms - Tampons and condoms may look small enough to be flushed but they don’t dissolve in water and tend to get lodged in the pipes, causing an unsanitary mess.

3) Facial/baby wipes - The fibres that make up the disposable wipe are considerably thicker than toilet paper. Even three-ply paper breaks down very easily in water, but the wipes won’t.

4) Coffee Grounds/Egg Shells - These two items are bad for pipes for the same reason: they don’t move well down the drain. Coffee grounds are heavy and clump together, and even when egg shells are put through a disposal, the small pieces stick together.

5) Oil and Grease - Cooking oil and grease, even in liquified form, can cause huge headaches not only for your drain but for the municipal sewer system.

6) Dental floss and Band-Aids – Dental floss is not biodegradable, can easily get tangled and wrap itself around pipes. Ditto for Band-Aids, many of which are made out of plastic.

7) Hair – Although it may not be intentional, hair can wreak havoc on drains. It can also trap other things leading to unpleasant odours and slow drains. Some experts suggest getting a mesh hair collector for your sink and tub.

In the end, common sense goes a long way toward preventing problems and insurance claims!

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