Why physical drain cleaning beats the chemicals


Firstly, we’ve found that physically get rid of the clog is so much better drain cleaning than chemicals. Because chemicals usually don’t work. Plus, you’ve got to keep them around your house.

My friend, Jason Carroll, with Keller Williams Commercial, sends me a lovely monthly newsletter. I felt this month the topics were spot on to what we talk about a lot here at Garvin’s and decided to share them with you. Enjoy!

Do not dump household liquids down storm drains or sewers or throw hazardous material into trash bins for collection. Many state and local governments ban the disposal of hazardous materials into standard household trash. Contact your local waste agency or visit earth911.com to enter your zip code and learn about the specific disposal options and recycling locations near you.

American households produce over 4 million pounds of household hazardous waste every day. Source: University of Utah

What’s Hazardous in Your Household?

All Purpose Cleaners & Disinfectants

Drain Openers

Furniture Polish

Oven Cleaners

Paints, Varnishes, Solvents & Thinners


Fertilizers & Pesticides

Pool Chemicals

Nail Polish Removers w/ Acetone

Aerosol cans

Medical Waste & Drugs

Flammable Fuels

Cooking Oil



Tires &Antifreeze

Products with Mercury

Do you have any more tips on recycling? What has been your experience with recycling hazardous materials? Did anything on this list surprise you?


Chemical Free Drain Cleaning

drain_cta_revToday’s Soap Box is on liquid drain cleaners. If you’re unsure what I mean, I’m referring to products like LiquidPlumbr ™ and Drano ™.

One of my technicians suffered chemical burns as a direct result of cleaning a drain after a liquid product failed to clear a line. The homeowner also failed to tell us that they had treated the line with the “drain cleaning” product. Those are air quotes, because it didn’t end up cleaning anything.

The Drano ™ website states the following precautions:

Open carefully. Do not squeeze bottle. Avoid splashing. Clean up spills at once. Keep hands, face, and children away from drains while using Drano® Max Gel Clog Remover. Never use a plunger during or after use of Drano® Max Gel Clog Remover because Drano® Max Gel Clog Remover may still be present if drain did not clear…

Read product label for additional information and precautions. Source: http://www.drano.com/standing-water

The bolded text above, is my emphasis — plunging, or otherwise trying to get through the line, may cause a splash into your eyes or on skin, and, the precautions warn against this.

Safer things you can do to unclog your drain:


1. Use a screen (and an additional screen if needed) to stop items from going down the drain. This is true for showers, tubs, sinks and kitchen sinks. Take the captured items and dispose of them in the trash.

2. Soap scum can develop in the lines. These are greasy substances and can be found in laundry lines as well as sinks and tubs or showers. To remove this greasy substance, use VINEGAR. Straight, undiluted vinegar can help keep the lines from building up too much soap scum. You can run a load of hot water and vinegar in your washing machine to help clear lines. This is not a drain cleaning solution, but rather preventative care.


  • Shower: remove the screen and see if there is hair attached to it- this is the most common problem. Remove the hair and throw it in the trash. If this is not the cause, the clog may be further down the line and you should call a professional. Traps under showers can cost a lot to replace and you don’t want to damage them by using corrosive materials or the wrong equipment.
  • Toilet: purchase a plunger and use it. It is a homeowner necessity. Most toilet clogs can be cleared this way. If this is a recurring problem, see my blog on Bad Toilet Paper. If a toy or other non-waste item falls into the toilet, you may call a professional as the toilet may need to be removed to retrieve the item. Do this before you need sewer cleaning.
  • Sink: pull up the stopper and check for a clump of hair or other debris, remove it and discard it in the trash. If this isn’t the problem, the clog could be further down the line. You may call a professional, or remove the p-trap under the sink and use a flashlight to see if you can locate a clog in the pipe. You may be able to use your hand or a snagging type tool (found at hardware stores) to grab and remove the blockage.
Here’s a video if you’d like a visual of what I’m recommending for small lines.
As always, if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask! AskPlumbingGirl@hotmail.com

Rip off Plumbers: When Drain Cleaning Goes Bad

Dateline NBC ran a story yesterday that completely appalled us regarding rip-off plumbers! This is how we at Garvin’s feel about it.

Problem 1: The guy is a salesman!

Why would anyone send a salesman to look at a plumbing job? Because he isn’t a plumber, he’s a salesman. He could have just as easily quoted her a price over the phone for a new water heater. Honestly, his clean shirt is a giveaway. (Not that a plumber can’t be clean, but if he works for a living — as opposed to sells water heaters —he might be a little dirty on the knees, shoulder and/or brow.)

Problem 2: He literally doesn’t care about the customer.

Really? He walked in circles! And he lied about not only the water heater being broken, but created fear in her by giving her bad information. I’m SO angry when people use unethical fear-based “information” to scare people into buying what they have to sell. I could go on a soapbox rant just on this, but I will restrain myself.

Problem 3: He drives away in a brand new van with a vehicle wrap

It is pretty clear at this point how he was able to pay for that. That’s all I care to say about that.

Problem 4: What are the consequences?

Now what? He goes on to plumb another day. Meanwhile, he’s taking business from ethical, honest plumbers. He’s paying his bills with other people’s money. He’s giving the plumbing profession a bad name.

If you ever get ripped off, let the BBB know! Let the Chamber of Commerce in your area know! Tell someone who can address it whether you’ve been scammed regarding drain cleaning, sewer repair, or rooter service!

Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032600/vp/43048433#43048433

With Heated Emotion,


Defective Toilet Paper can Cause you to need sewer cleaning

dreamstime_9956210It was just last month that I was informing the public of the abuse of toilet paper, then, last week, my warnings finally got credence as I stumbled upon an article regarding the dangers of BTP. You may read the article here from dailycamera.com regarding: “CU sues over defective toilet paper”.

I need to warn you, friends, of the epidemic that is causing sewer backups at an alarming rate all over the nation. It is due in a large part to  BTP — yes, Bad Toilet Paper.

What is considered Bad Toilet Paper and how can I protect myself from it?

There are two main types of Bad Toilet Paper:

1. The first kind has a street name of Ultra. It is branded under multiple names and is readily available commercially. It is difficult to recognize it’s malicious nature due to the strong marketing involving cute bears that make number twoosies in the woods. The danger really comes in when this product is used in bulk. With its high absorbency factor, it grabs a hold of any water it can, forming into a dense lump that sits like a washcloth in your sewer lines. This BTP then builds up like spit-wads on a classroom ceiling. Removal involves a professional with sharp tools like a sewer snake or sewer jetter…that means calling for professional sewer and drain cleaning.

2. The other kind of BTP out there is a brownish, paper towel like quality toilet paper. It is neither comfy on the skin nor to the sewer line. It is not absorbent nor does it disintegrate well. Both these properties make it a poor choice for anything other than clogging sewer lines. This product can usually be found in CU dorms and gas stations.

To protect yourself from BTP takes some level of stealth. A recent visit to my local Target yielded 7 out of 10 Ultra brands of toilet paper. I fought my urge to give in and proceeded to the standard 2-ply. Unless you shop at wholesale sanitary supply stores, you should not have a concern with the 2nd type of BTP.

I thank you for the platform on which to voice my concern of this growing epidemic and hope you are now better informed of the dangers that can cause you to need sewer cleaning. Choose wisely!

With Tongue in Cheek,


Another Sewer Cleaning Hero

dreamstime_9421492I’d like to share another testimonial we received in our plumbing department:

I just wanted to write a little note to thank you for providing excellent customer service through one of your employees, Mike.

On April 11th and 12th his courteous and persistent work helped me work through a difficult and scary sewer cleaning situation in my house. Even though he injured himself, he returned the next day to finish his work and then helped me to move forward in the cleanup of mold by referring 2 other companies that deal with these situations.

I’ve used your services many times, hopefully won’t have to use sewer cleaning service again anytime soon, and all employees have been very professional and courteous.

I’ve recommended your company to others and will continue to do so whenever the opportunity is there.

Again, thank you very much!

Mike {a Denver Homeowner}


If you’d like to see more testimonials, please click here.

Sewer Replacement

gavin-van-w-o-banner_compressedWhen it comes to sewer line replacement, we have found many consumers to be very confused. I reviewed plumbing websites from around the country to see what people who sell sewer line replacement are saying. I found some to be flat-out lies, while others try to explain it well.

Some companies want the revenue of their customers, whether or not it’s in the best interest of the consumer. DAILY, I repeat, DAILY, we are getting calls from homeowners who are told they need complete sewer replacement (at the cost of $1800-24,000). We offer second opinions, and in most cases, we are able to solve the problem for under $400. We’ll get the sewer scope (a type of sewer camera) to work to tell you if you need sewer replacement or just sewer cleaning.

If you feel pressured to replace a line, don’t make a decision based on your fear, pressure or on the sales skills of the person talking to you.

I suggest, as with any large decision, to get a second opinion — it could save you thousands of dollars and days of time. (Not to mention saving your yard, drywall, etc.)

Whether or not you will become our customer, we are happy to answer any questions you have regarding sewer replacement or sewer lining. Let our 70+ years of experience answer your questions. We know the good guys and the bad guys in our industry. We are happy to refer you to the good guys.

I’ve got your back,


Average Joe ways to be a little greener, like not using chemical drain cleaning

dryerA good friend of mine has a deep fear of being labeled as a hippie.  I won’t tell you his age, but it’s older than me, and it probably has to do with his and his dad’s military background. Nonetheless, he recognizes the importance of treading lightly on the environment. Here are some non-hippie ways for Average Joe to do good in honor of Earth Day:

Laundry Room:

Keep your dryer filters clean. Clean the lint screen after every dryer cycle. Twice a year, check and clean the outside vent and vent hose from the dryer.

Avoid chlorine bleach. Bleach is poisonous and irritating. It is terrible for septic systems that rely on good bacteria to break down solids. When bleach is poured into plumbing, it forms toxic and cancer-causing organochlorines.


Don’t use harsh chemical drain cleaning solutions. These are toxic and corrosive and usually are not effective. If you can’t get it with a plunger, you might have to have a profession drain cleaner come and use a sewer snake (rooter service).

Sorry Ernie, but Rubber Ducky is not welcome here. Vinyl products, such as rubber duckies and other bath toys, as well as vinyl shower curtains, aren’t made in an environmentally safe way, plus they can add toxins to water when they get hot.


To kill weeds, use boiling water or vinegar.  Boiling water will kill any roots, so don’t put it on weeds that are near plants or flowers you’d like to keep. You can spot treat weeds also with undiluted vinegar. To keep pests away, cotton balls with vinegar can be placed around your garden, or you can spray them with a solution of equal parts water & vinegar.

Ok, Joe, I hope this helps you be a little greener with little effort, and no one would dare label you a hippie 🙂

With All kinds of Hippie Earth-day Love,


Sewer Jetters Aren't for everyone

drain_ctaWithin my industry, we hear of service providers using certain tools that we don’t think are the right fit for the customer. One example is using a jetter or mini-jet on a residential property. We have found jetters to be fantastic for large commercial drain cleaning jobs where sludge, grease and sediment are problems. Butt (hehehe), for residences, we use a machine created in the late 30’s and consists of a tightly wound cable with blades on the end. The size of the blades depends on the circumference of the pipe we are cleaning. We feel it is the best tool for clearing most clogs, including roots, hair and food. If a person has roots in their 4″ line, why would someone choose to blast them with water from a jetter? Why would they use 2″ blades and not cut along the edge where they are growing in? Why would they risk flooding someone’s home with high-pressure water gone awry?

Here’s another too that’s not right for everyone: tankless water heaters. They just aren’t the right fit for certain people. We have found their high cost coming down as the technology improves. We have found restaurants to be big fans of these as they require high volumes of hot water on demand to be critical for business. Butt, hehe, empty nesters really don’t require them.

Thirdly, don’t embarrass yourself with chemical store-bought drain cleaning products. If you would like a solution besides one of these products, please call or e-mail me because, here’s me standing on a soapbox, in my opinion, they cause more problems than not. I have technicians who have gone to homes to clean lines when these products didn’t work and have gotten severe chemical burns on their arms, necks and faces in some cases. Other times, we have seen pipe damage that could only be remedied by replacement. Feel free to search the internet for the negative effects of drain cleaners.

I ask that if you have questions, call us. We won’t laugh. We won’t criticize. We will offer advice based on our 72+ years in the drain-cleaning industry in Denver. Now go have fun! And if you want a jetski, by all means, get one!

With Love & In Fun,


PS. and I NEVER want to hear another joke about plumber’s crack!

Dear Garvin's Sewer Service

dreamstime_xxl_20866752Sewer service isn’t all we do! We also employ some amazing technicians in other fields beyond sewer and drain cleaning. And when they get some praise, we like to brag about them.

“This is just a short note to thank you for sending George [edited] to help me with a furnace problem on Sunday, March 27th. George was most helpful and professional in assessing and dealing with the problem. Unlike some repairmen I have had in the past, who try to impress me with technical jargon and leave me in the dust, George took time to fully explain and educate me as to how the furnace worked, how the problem affected its performance, and what he could do to fix it. He was not condescending when he explained why using the filter I was using was detrimental to the performance of the furnace.

George is one of a number of reasons, along with Matt and the plumbing crew, that we have switched all of our plumbing and heating business from [competitor] to you.

Thanks again,

L. Meyers, Denver”


Thanks L. Meyers! We’ll be sure to tell George!

Beyond Sewer Service – A Furnace Testimonial

dreamstime_xxl_20866752Here at Garvin’s we’re so much more than just a drain and sewer cleaning service. Here’s a letter I wanted to share with you from a happy customer:

To Whom it may concern:

I had the pleasure of having some work done on my furnace on 2/13/2011. I would like you to know that George T. is a great asset to your company. I have lots of work done on my house as I am a single female and no handyman! George was very professional, efficient and thorough checking out the noise my furnace has been making. As luck has it, of course, the furnace refused to make the noise while he was there, making its repair difficult. He took two fans off the furnace to check for any problems but found nothing. However, the noise miraculously has stopped, at least for the last 2 days.

I will be sure to use your company whenever I have any items that your company deals with. Thank you for your service. You are lucky to have George as an employee.


DJM, Lakewood Homeowner


Thanks DJM! We’ll pass it along to George! Have something you’d like to say about Garvin’s Sewer Service? Visit Plumber Girl on Facebook!