As temperatures in many areas drop below freezing and stay there without the cover of snow where it has traditionally been, we are encountering more questions on how the extremely cold weather is affecting the pipes and plumbing system in your home. Beyond frozen pipes, winter can cause all kinds of problems for your plumbing, including clogged drains and blockages.
Cold Weather & Clogged Drains
Cold weather can clog drains. Pipes collect debris like hair, soap scum, scraps from foods, and oils regardless of our efforts to keep these things from going down the drain. Over time, these build up and when the cold weather hits, all of these elements in your pipes can stiffen up and solidify. If you figure in water frozen by the cold temps and pipes that have not been properly insulated from these temperatures, you’ve got a fully clogged drain or shower thanks to winter.
How Do I Avoid Cold Weather Drain Clogs?
If you are dealing with these colder conditions, avoid the extra headache of a frozen drain pipe with a few easy steps.
Protect the pipes with what you put down your drains- Avoid grease, fat, oils, bones, coffee grounds, and foods like potatoes or oatmeal slip down your garbage disposal. In fact, try to avoid using your garbage disposal and ensure these types of items are tossed in the trash instead to avoid getting your drain clogged.
Clean your garbage disposal- Ice and rock salt or vinegar can be great for scraping the inside of the grinding chamber to dislodge any buildup while completely dissolving in a rinse with water. Fill the disposal with ice cubes, then add a cup of salt or vinegar to the disposal. Then run it for several seconds with the water turned on.
Use cold waterAlways run cold water if you do use your garbage disposal. You may think that hot water would be better, but cold water reduces the breakdown of some of those starches in the food and keeps them more solid so they continue to flow down the drain without sticking.
Start AND finish with waterBe sure to always turn the water on first and continue to let it run for 15 to 30 seconds after you turn the disposal off.
How to Clear a Clogged Drain in Cold Weather
If you find your drains stopped up by a cold weather clog, here are a few tips you can try.
Boil Some Water -Carefully pour boiling water down the drain. The extreme heat may thaw the obstruction enough to get things moving again, even if it is only temporary. Many harsh chemicals will severely diminish the effectiveness of your septic system, so if you are considering this option, also consider the colder temperatures also slow the natural breakdown of the materials in your septic system. You do not want to further hinder your system by killing thousands of organisms struggling to keep up during the cold weather.
Call a Professional- If the hot water doesn’t work or if you are experiencing frequent clogs, it may be best to seek help from a professional. Often, if you are experiencing clogs when the temperature drops, you have a partial clog that’s being made worse by the cold weather. To keep things moving more permanently, you may need to have your drains cleared by a professional with the necessary experience and equipment. They’ll explore the actual cause of the clog and all your options to fix it more permanently.