How Your Washing Machine Washing Can Lead To Premature Drain Cleaning

Washing machines can give you drain cleaning concernsFor most of our blogs, we write about the three main drains that contribute to the most common needs for drain cleaning: the sinks, the toilets, and the shower drains. Sinks because people send way too much grease down, toilets because people flush things they shouldn’t, and showers because people lose a lot of hair when they wash.

For decades after running water entered the home, these were the only three drains that people needed to worry about. When people were washing their clothes, they’d do it by hand and would wash clothes outside or over the sink, without adding another drain.

The first electric (automatic) washing machines started showing up around 1937. On the most basic level they were not too different from what we have today and wouldn’t have had dedicated freshwater lines. Instead they would have been placed close to a sink and a hose would be attached to the sink spout. When it was done, another hose would transfer the wastewater back to the sink’s drain. Once again, everything was retrofitted and no new plumbing would have to be installed. However, the threads and lint from the clothes (not to mention the mud from the largely agrarian society) would have caused fairly frequent drain cleaning.

After World War II, everything changed. During the war new washing machines weren’t being made because of conservation of materials. But when the GI’s came home it created a housing boom, which lead to attached garages, televisions, and connected plumbing for our friend the washing machine.

So there’s a bit of history about how people have washed their clothes, but how can washing machines create havoc with our sewer system?

Soap scum: If you don’t think soap can be a problem, then you’ve never cleaned a drain! Soap doesn’t always break down in the way we’d like, and it can cause problems in sinks, dishwashers, and, yes, washing machines. And if it doesn’t break down it just sits there and catches passing materials, such as…

Lint: If you read Parade in the Sunday paper, you’re probably familiar with Marilyn vos Savant. Marilyn responds to reader’s questions about every topic under the sun, but one caught our eye a decade back when a reader asked where all of the lint in the dryer’s lint trap comes from. After all, his clothes were years old, shouldn’t the extra material from the manufacturing process have been washed away long ago? Marilyn informed the reader that most lint doesn’t come from the manufacturing process, but by the constant disintegration of clothes…your clothes lose tiny pieces of themselves every time you wash and dry them. This is pretty evident whenever you clean out your lint trap, but you simply don’t see all of the lint that heads out your washing machine drain. It’s usually not a problem, but if you’re one who buys a lot of new clothes (which do shed more lint initially than old ones) and use too much soap in the washing machine, it could lead to the need for premature drain cleaning.

Mud: Some of us “mud” more than others. There are farmers, dirt bikers, and those of us who just like to get dirty in the garden. The dirt and dust get wet and actually get harder to deal with than when they were dry, and if they combine with the lint and the soap then you can have real drain cleaning problems.

If your washing machine drain in the culprit in your problem, give Garvin’s Sewer Service a call. We’ll be sure to get your drains cleaned in Denver or anywhere along the front range.

 

 

4 Signs That You Might Be Needing Sewer Cleaning Soon

 

Sewer cleaning might be on your calendar soon.Unless you’ve just moved in, you know your home pretty well even if you don’t realize it. You can’t consciously describe the normal blowing of your furnace in winter, but you certainly can tell when it starts making a different noise. You seldom notice the refrigerator cycling on, but when it goes off with a quirky noise you start wondering if you’re going to be heading to the appliance store soon.

It’s much the same with your drains. Since you use them every day, you get used to the way they work, and it’s not until something changes that you really notice it. It can be the subtlest of changes, but you notice because something is different. Here are four signs that you might be needing sewer cleaning soon, so keep an eye and an ear out for them.

The Sink Slows: A strange sound coming from your sink could be an early indication that something weird is going on. Do you hear a new gurgling sound as you let the water out? Do you hear a similar sound when you flush the nearest toilet? All of your sewer pipes are connected, so it’s important to notice these connections.

You know how fast your water goes down the drain, so when it’s even a little slow it’s very easy to notice. If you have two sides of the sink, test the water drainage on both sides. Run the garbage disposal to give both sides an equal footing. If it’s a problem with the garbage disposal, maybe it’s time for a new one. Or you can unplug it, unhook it from the sink, and check to see if there’s a clog between the garbage disposal and the pipes leading away from it. If, when you run the disposal, water sprays up through the other side of the sink, you have a drain clog. Work it with your “sinks only” plunger, and if that doesn’t work give Garvin’s a call and we’ll get them clean.

A slow sink doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re entire sewer line is clogged, but it might be the first sign. Are you also having problems with your…

Angry Toilet: Aside from being the great name of a rock bank for sewer workers, you’ve got to watch out for Angry Toilet. It might first start out as Placid Toilet, simply letting the water flow away a little slower than usual. This could simply be a clog, so give it a go with a plunger. But if you flush and you see water coming up through you shower drain, it’s pretty obvious you’re the victim of a sewer drain clog. The water you’ve flushed has nowhere to go, and it might just end up in the lowest drain in your home, which is often a shower drain.

Watch Your Washing Machine: Washing machines can eject their dirty water with some force, so when it’s at the end of its washing cycle the water is going to go somewhere. Usually that “somewhere” is down the drain and into the sewer system, but if there’s a sewer clog then that somewhere is usually up through the sinks, toilets, or showers.

Sniff For Smells: Sometimes a clog is just bad enough where it will let the toilet flush and the sink drain, but just barely. When that happens, each flush might back up enough to get around the trap but not enough for you to see the problem. If you smell something, don’t delay in calling a professional drain company.

Your senses will tell you when you’ll soon be in need of drain or sewer cleaning. Be aware of the changes in your home and you’ll be able to prevent a catastrophic backup. Before that happens, give Garvin’s Sewer Service a call!

 

 

 

Avoid The Grease Monster!

 

There’s a cute series of books by Ursula Vernon called Dragonbreath. It’s very popular among young kids of grade school age, because it mixes regular prose with lots of graphic novel pictures. It’s a great bridge to chapter books without pictures.

The main character, Dragonbreath (who’s a dragon, not a sewer snake), is a young dragon who goes on all sorts of adventures, most of which are a short bus ride to locations all over the world (yep, you read that right). He’s featured in books with titles like Attack of the Ninja Frogs, Curse of the Were-Wiener, Revenge of the Horned Bunnies, and Nightmare of the Iguana. But the one we want to talk about is The Case of the Toxic Mutants, in which Dragonbreath heads toward that place we’re all familiar with, the sewer!

We’ll, you might be familiar with the sewer all that much, but we know it pretty well. And we like that particular book because of the grease monster that lives there (made up of a lot of potato shavings for some reason). Now, when most people hear “grease monster” they think about the huge clogs that city sanitation workers find deep in the sewers from years of people sending grease down their drains. But this grease monster is actually quite friendly, and for some reason has a symbiotic relationship with the rats of the sewer who continuously bring him pieces of food to sustain him.

So why are we telling you all of this? Well, it’s a good read if you have kids. But we also want to remind you that grease monsters are not friendly! Real grease monsters clog up public works and make it difficult for the stuff you get rid of to get as far away from your house as possible. Always put your grease in the trash, not the sink…doing this is the simplest way to prevent a premature need for drain cleaning. Avoid the grease monster and avoid drain cleaning service!

Famous Sewers From Hollywood

 

Have you ever been to the Internet Movie Database? (www.imdb.com) It’s hard to describe it without using the word “depository.” It’s the website where you reference, cross-reference, and find out just about anything you want to about a particular movie.

So when we were thinking about sewers in movies (we think about sewers a lot), the first thing that comes to mind is one of the most well-regarded thrillers ever, 1949’s The Third Man. The movie stars Orson Welles and has a dramatic climax with a chase through Vienna’s brick-arched sewer system. An amazingly clean sewer system.

Internet movie database also has a section called “plot keywords” where it cross-references the movie with keywords that are relevant to every other movie. And look at that, there’s the keyword “sewer systems” that takes us to a list of other movies that have a scene taking place in a sewer system.

Well, we all use sewers every day (and we make sure to clean them out every day), so it’s not surprising that sewers would be showing up in a few movies. Here are some of our favorites that have big sewer troubles.

 

Batman Returns:

  • Plot: One of the most well-known movie with sewer connections is Batman Returns from 1992, the second Batman movie starring Michael Keatondreamstime_xxl_41494451 and directed by Tim Burton. Danny DeVito plays The Penguin, and as a baby his heartless parents toss him into the river, which runs to the sewers, which runs into an abandoned zoo waterway with some abandoned penguins. Later in the movie much of the action returns to the sewer where Penguin attempts to dispatch a corporate enemy, and Batman, via drowning.
  • Believability Grade — D+: Let’s take a look at that sentence again: “his heartless parents toss him into the river, which runs to the sewers, which runs into an abandoned zoo waterway with some abandoned penguins.” Did the screenwriters honestly believe that all of these water systems connected? Does the sewer flow directly into the river? And even if the those waterways were connected, how the heck did the baby float upstream from the sewer to reach the penguin habitat?

Finding Nemo:

  • Plot: I think most of you know the plot Finding Nemo, but here’s a quick refresher: Nemo is captured by an Australian dentist and put in the office’s fish tank, while Nemo’s father Marlin has to traverse the ocean in order to retrieve his son. At the end of the movie, Nemo plays dead so that he’s flushed down the dentist’s drains and then pops out of a nearby ocean pipe, where he’s soon found by his dad.
  • BelievabilityGrade — D-: If you’re enjoying the movie enough, you might not have noticed exactly what happens here. And you might ask “where’s the sewer you’re talking about, I don’t remember a sewer.” And our response is…exactly! All drains from homes and businesses do not go straight into the ocean, so there’s no way that Nemo is going to just “pop out” into the ocean. Sorry, everybody, but Nemo never would have made it.

Phew, that was exhausting railing on two movie that many people love. Oh well, it was fun. (If we’d been thinking about janitors and drain cleaning, we probably would have been talking about The Toxic Avenger all this time.) When we’re not watching movies, we’re cleaning your drains…so when you need sewer drain cleaning, give Garvin’s Sewer Service a call!

Sewer Snake? No, Sewer Turtles!

 

The Sewer Snake, danger in the sewers!

Sewer Snake: Coming soon to a toy store near you!

In a recent blog we made reference to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who live in the New York sewers and fight crime in their Turtlemobile. And it got us thinking…how on earth did they never face an enemy named Sewer Snake?! That episode would write itself! And as Denver’s premier sewer service, we started thinking some more: we can believe the part about mutated turtles the size of men. We can believe that they would be smart enough to retrofit their van into a vehicle with means of dispatching hordes of bad ninjas. But living in the sewer? Sorry, but that just doesn’t work.

Why? Because sewers are terrible, terrible places. That’s why we get paid to deal with them instead of doing it as a hobby; it’s a disgusting job that very few people want to do. So what are the limitations to our friends the TMNT living in the sewers?

Sewer Gas –  Human waste releases a large amount of methane as it decomposes. This poses two problems for our turtle pals. First of all, you can’t breath methane, and if it displaces all of the oxygen it will asphyxiate you. Turtles can hold their breath for a long time, but they can’t live indefinitely without oxygen.

Second, the Turtles are always building something in the sewer, often using welding equipment (how do you think Donatello tricked out the Turtlemobile, anyway?) At the very least, the methane will catch fire, which is bad enough until you realize that burned methane causes carbon monoxide, another deadly asphyxiant. At worst methane can explode if there’s a high enough methane-oxygen combination.

Pathogens Most animals are averse to the smell of feces because it’s a concentrated harborer of pathogens, and it’s important to get away from it. Bodies get rid of it because it was something it didn’t need or something that would actively harm our body. Modern sanitation has saved hundreds of millions of lives by getting our waste far away from us quickly.

Now, forget that the Turtles would have to deal with the constant smell that’s in a sewer; maybe their mutated noses simply don’t mind. But (most) animals don’t just avoid their own waste, they also avoid the waste of other animals. Many parasites don’t care what animal they’re in, and some bacteria and viruses cross not only species but also class (think avian flu, which can infect birds and humans). Heck, even box turtles that people keep at home transmit salmonella.

The Turtles would have a hard…nay, impossible time staying healthy if they lived in the sewer. Even Sewer Snake would be at risk!

They’d Lose Friends Here’s something that most people don’t think about…in order for you to smell something, a particle of it has fly into your nose and latch onto one of your olfactory receptors. So when you’re in a sewer, you’re walking through those particles constantly, and it’s going to get into your clothes. And when you go to the surface you’re going to be taking that smell up with you. The Turtles would smell terrible when they reached the surface, and not even April O’Neil would want to hang out with them.

Their Shells – Their shells are just too big to fit through standard manhole covers. Just sayin’.

BUT…! – Despite what the shows and the comics and the movies say, maybe they don’t actually live in the sewer! Maybe instead they live in the storm drain, sometimes called storm sewers. Since storm drains don’t contain blackwater like a traditional sewer system, the TMNT could avoid the dangers mentioned above. Living in a storm drain, the only thing they have to worry about would be a flood, which could be avoided if they had the proper barriers in place. And even if they got trapped, they could probably hold their breath until the waters receded (the Turtlemobile would get soaked, though).

So there you have it: four reasons the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles couldn’t live in the sewer, and one reason why they might actually be living in the storm drains. And Hollywood, if you need any more information on Sewer Snake, give us a call

 

 

 

The Sewer Drain Cleaning That You’re Responsible For

 

video_ctaWe try to blog here at Garvin’s as much as possible, and sometimes we forget what we’ve covered and what we haven’t. Well, we just realized that we’ve never broken down the different parts of your sewer system, so here it is. We’ll also tell you exactly what parts of sewer drain cleaning are your responsibility.

But first, let’s talk about what the sewer isn’t. The pipes that bring fresh water into your house isn’t part of the sewer system. Neither are your sprinklers or your garden hoses. ”Sewer” is only about the stuff that’s leaving your home, so let’s break it down a little bit more.

Drains: Drains are the first part of your sewer system and the part with which you’re most familiar. These include sink drains, shower drains, washing machine drain, dishwasher drains, and toilets. In modern houses, most of these are made from plastic, no matter what the fixture itself is made out of. Drains use gravity to move water from the drain and to the sewer pipes.

Perhaps the most amazing part of a drain is the trap, also called U-traps, S-traps, J-traps, or P-traps. These bends in the drain trap a small amount of water in your pipe, and while at first that might seem like the opposite of what you’d like, it actually plays an important part in your drain system. The water acts as a non-permeable barrier for gas, preventing sewer gases from coming back up into your home. Hurray!

Upper house lateral: When the drains come together they form the first part of the sewer line. Since the sewer line that leaves your house is called the house lateral, this first part is called the upper house lateral (since it’s the portion most uphill). This is the part of the sewer line that you’re responsible for, and the part that you’ll have to hire sewer cleaning for when you have a house-wide clog. Common problems include pipe breakage and tree roots that get in as they search for nutrients.

Private cleanout: Most houses have a private cleanout outside of the house, and it’s likely you’ve never even noticed it before. It might be hiding in your front bushes, wait for the day you need sewer service!

Lower House Lateral: Once you reach the property line of your sewer line the problem is no longer yours (well, it’s not yours to have to clean…you might still have to deal with the effects of  a backed up sewer). If the problem is beyond your property line, the city will need to clean it out, usually via the…

Public Cleanout: The lower house lateral is still pretty small, so it’s not like the public workers can just climb in there and clean it out. And they don’t want to climb down into the sewer every time there’s a clog on their watch, so they have a cleanout where they can send down their own rooter service.

The Sewer: This is the public sewer system where everything people put down their drains eventually goes. It’s much less glamourous than it is on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

So there you have it…the life of sewage! Having problems with a clog in your drains or the upper lateral? Give Garvin’s Sewer Service a call for the best in sewer drain cleaning!

 

 

 

Things That Even Sewer Cleaning Can’t Prevent

 

Here at Garvin’s Sewer Service, we’re always interested in helping you prevent the need for emergency sewer cleaning. Even though it’s how we make our living, we’d rather see you for preventive drain cleaning than to have to rush to your house because you’re ankle deep in blackwater. We’d rather establish a relationship with you as your go-to honest sewer cleaners than to be at our doorstep every month due to preventable problems.

But some problems just can’t be avoided no matter how careful you are. Here are a few issues that you’ll need to call a professional sewer service to deal with.

Sewer Line Breaks – Some sewer lines can sit in the ground for a hundred years and only require occasional sewer service. Other’s will break after fewer than 20 years, simply because the ground underneath them wasn’t compacted enough (it’s the same reason you get potholes in a road). So you don’t always know when a sewer line break is coming, and there might not be any warning.

When your house lateral sewer line breaks (the part that you’re responsible for), you’ve suddenly lost your connection between the water leaving your home and the public sewer system. At that point it’s pretty obvious what happens: instead of heading down the sewer pipe, anything you send down the drain is now hitting dirt, and while some of the water can be absorbed by the ground, any solids will be stuck in place. As you use a drain, either via a toilet flush or a letting it head down a sink, anything that goes down has nowhere to go, and at that point it can start coming back up. When that happens, give us a call and we can confirm the break with a sewer camera and talk through your options.

Sometimes there is warning, though. If the pipe hasn’t broken completely, it might be letting some of the sewage go through, just not so easily. So if you’re noticing slow drains all around, give us a call and we can send down the sewer scope to see if it’s simply a clog or something much worse.

Public Sewer Problems: There’s one thing more disgusting than having your own sewage back up…and that’s having someone else’s sewage back up into your home!

The public sewer line isn’t your responsibility, but it can be your problem. Public sewers can have blockages from time to time, but thankfully it’s not that often. There’s a chance it could be a root problem, but more than likely the pipes were simply so old that they broke or disintegrated, or a grease monster grew in the sewers from people pouring too much fat down their sinks.

The only thing that you as a resident can do is to not send your own grease down the drains, and preach the wonders of grease prevention to your neighborhood. Oh, and vote “yes” if there’s a tax increase for public works!

An Inconsiderate Guest: You can baby your drains and sewer lines all you want, but all it takes is a single guest who’s apparently never used a bathroom before to shave a Bigfoot and decide way to hide the evidence is to flush it down the toilet all at once. You can’t prevent this, but suddenly you’ve got a huge problem on your hands.

When unpreventable problems come your way, don’t think twice before giving us a call right here at Garvin’s Sewer Service. We’ll be there in a flush!

 

 

Preventive Sewer Cleaning Stops Your House From Becoming A Biohazard Zone

In the last blog we talked about the different types of water in your house: the whitewater coming in, the blackwater goes out, and the graywater that some buildings can divert in order to water plants.

What’s going out of your house and into the sewer system right now is called blackwater. That’s water than has fecal contamination, essentially any water that comes out of your toilet. Why the big deal about fecal contamination? Well, beyond simply being gross and smelly, feces is one of the easiest ways for pathogens (anything that makes your sick) travel from human to human.

Now imagine that you haven’t invested in a little preventive sewer cleaning from Garvin’s sewer service. If you haven’t had rooter service in a while, or if you’ve got a grease monster growing in your sewer pipe at the wrong place as to have your sewer pipes back up.

That’s bad. Really bad.

Why?

You lose all your stuff because of the water: What’s getting wet when your sewer backs up? Paperwork, boxes of Christmas ornaments, luggage, and, if you have a basement, lots and lots of carpets. Even if it weren’t a biohazard, you’d have to get rid of it. Wait, what’s that about a biohazard?

Biohazard: As we mentioned above, anything that comes up from your sewer pipes is blackwater, so most anything it touches is going to have to be destroyed. That includes your carpet (and it’s pad), that luggage we mentioned above, the artificial Christmas tree box (and the artificial Christmas tree within!) Just about everything that got we is going to have to get tossed. You might not even know that you’re missing something for six months until it’s tax time and you realize that you could have saved those papers with a little preventive sewer cleaning.

You’ll never look at your sinks and toilets the same way again: If you see sewage coming up through your toilets, sinks, or showers, you’re never going to look at them the same way again. You might sterilize them with bleach again and again, but you just won’t be able to get the image of them sitting filthy out of your head. You might be paying for new sinks out of your own pocket.

Once you have a sewer back up, you’ll wish that you’d taken the initiative and given Garvin’s Sewer Service a call for some preventive sewer cleaning. Ready to do whatever it takes and protect the way you live? Contact Garvin’s today!

 

 

 

The Different Types of Water Coming Into And Leaving Your Home

 

We deal with water every day, and our goal is to always make sure that the water gets to where it’s supposed to be. If we’re working on plumbing, we make sure that the water in your pipes reaches your sink instead of flowing onto your floor, and that your wastewater heads out of your house when you need sewer cleaning.

Whitewater: White water is what’s coming out of your freshwater pipes (while it’s technically clear, most water coming from your sink comes out with lots of air mixed in, making it appear white in many circumstances. We’re lucky here in the Denver area to have very good water, with most towns being free from violations. It helps that we’re some of the first to use the water after it comes off the mountains.

Blackwater: Blackwater is any water that has a measurable amount of fecal contamination. This is any sewer water that is connected to pipes that come from toilets. The water coming from your house is blackwater because all of your wastewater is gathered by a single sewer pipe in order to be transferred to the public sewer system. About 10-20 perfect of wastewater is blackwater.

Graywater: So what’s halfway between whitewater and blackwater? You guessed it! Graywater is wastewater from a home or business that doesn’t contain anything the goes down the toilets. Since this is a significant amount of water when you consider all of the sources of water from a house — sinks, showers, washers, and washing machines — graywater is the future of water usage. Graywater can be minimally treated (within a home or business) and then be used to water plants and gardens. This is also helpful because it takes pressure off of local water treatment plants.

Houses and buildings can be converted to handle graywater. However, it requires a considerable change in your habits, as you’ll need to switch to different types of soap for your dishes and clothes, as well as the type of hand and body soap that goes down your sinks.

We all used dozens of gallons of water every day, so it’s good to know exactly what’s going on with it in your house. And when your blackwater won’t go down, contact Garvin’s Sewer Service for the best sewer cleaning in the city.

 

 

What’s Actually Going On In My Drain?

Here at Garvin’s we’ve told you many times “don’t pour this” or “don’t flush that.” We know we sound like broken record, but preventing things from going down the drain is the first step to keeping a clean drain.

But sometimes we forget to tell you exactly why you shouldn’t be sending these things down the drain. Let’s take a look at some of the scientific reasons you should avoid the most common drain cloggers.

Grease: Grease is a fat, meaning that it is soft and solid at room temperature (oils, on the other hand, are liquid at room temperature). Grease is hydrophobic, meaning that it doesn’t mix with water;  as you know from having touched it in the past, grease is very slick and doesn’t wash off your hands without soap  What that means for your sink is that the grease trapped in your pipes is constantly sloughing off the water that’s going past it, and the cold water doesn’t nothing to move it along.

Hot water, on the other hand, can liquify it and send it further down your pipes. Unfortunately, this isn’t a good thing, as hot water only stays hot in your drain and sewer  pipes for a very short time before hitting the cold water or cold pipes and re-solidifying. Now you have grease blogs that are even further out of reach, which by itself might require professional sewer cleaning

Grease might repel water, but it simply attracts more grease as it goes down the drain. Once the grease blog gets big enough, it also grabs everything else heading down the drain. Once that happens, your trickling drain becomes a completely clogged drain, which, if it’s deep enough in your sewer pipes, can cause slow toilets, sinks, and showers.

Hair: What is hair, anyway? Hair is made mostly of keratin, the second toughest natural biological substance (after chitin, found in the exoskeleton of lobsters and insects). While our hair falls out every day, each strand is actually very strong whether it’s on your head or down your drain. This is the first problem with hair… it’s very tough and doesn’t degrade very quickly.

The other clogging problem comes with the way that it tangles when it goes down your drain. It grabs other hairs, combines with them, is in turned grabbed by the grease we mentioned above. At that point you’ve got the stickiness of grease mixed with the entangling nature of the hair. At that point, the clog monster has the ability to grab just about anything you send down.

Dental floss: Think of dental floss as “super hair.” If you’ve ever tried to break it by hand, you know that it’s almost impossible, and it won’t biodegrade in your pipes.

Band Aids, Condoms, Tampons: Here’s what most people think when they flush these things: “I want to get this away from me right now.” Well that’s not reason to destroy your plumbing! Of course, none of these things degrade in the pipes, and they just get worse the more water they absorb. Do yourself a favor and just put them in the trash.

Remember, just because something goes down the drain or flushes doesn’t mean that it’s gone forever. If you do end up getting a clog from these, give us a call for rooter service…we’ll bring the blades or the sewer jetter and get your pipes healthy again.