Man being splashed with water from sink.

Plumbing Tips for Dummies

Learn how to handle common plumbing emergencies, issues, and breakdowns with our all-purpose plumbing guide!

Basic Plumbing Tools to Have at Home

If you have any interest in working on your own plumbing, make sure you have these four tools on hand:

  • Cup plunger

  • Drain snake

  • Flange plunger

  • Slip-joint pliers

A cup plunger is a stereotypical plunger you’ll see in tv and movies—a reddish-orange bowl-shaped rubber cup attached to a handle. Because the cup plunger has a flat bottom it’s suited for flat surfaces such as your bathtub or sink. However, don’t try to use this plunger on your toilet—it won’t create a tight seal on the rounded bowl and you could end up in a messy situation.

A flange plunger is the plunger style that’s better suited for toilet use. The rubber cup of a flange plunger has an extended sleeve that fits into the toilet drain to create more suction. (It’s also generally a good idea to use a different plunger for use in your toilet than the one you use in the sink or bathtub.)

A drain snake is a good tool to have around your home because every home will run into issues with clogs and blockages at some point. One-use drain snakes can be bought at most home stores. If you’re looking into more heavy-duty options beware—improper use of a drain snake can damage your plumbing.

A pair of slip-joint pliers can help you get in hard-to-reach areas as well as tighten nuts and bolts. Having a pair of these pliers can help you if you’re trying to retrieve a lost piece of jewelry from a p-trap or even repair your kitchen faucet.

The Importance of Bathroom Ventilation

Your bathroom fan does more than vent out unpleasant odors. Excess moisture from bathing creates steam which sits on your walls, ceiling, floor, mirrors—everywhere. Without a way to vent this excess moisture out of the bathroom, it can lead to mold or, over time, serious water damage.

Know What Can (and Can’t) Go Down Your Drains

There are many products and foods that can harm your plumbing if disposed of improperly. Make sure everyone in your family knows what is disposable in your garbage disposal or toilet and what’s better off in the trash.

Flushable wipes

Talk about a swing and a miss. Although flushable wipes are advertised as being flushable, they don’t break down in your plumbing the same way regular old toilet paper does. What’s more, many people will use baby wipes and even antibacterial wipes as substitutes for flushable wipes.

All these thicker materials won’t break down after you flush them away—if your plumbing already had obstructions that were causing issues, you could find yourself with a fully clogged toilet in no time.

Grease and animal fat

Grease, animal fat, and cooking oils are three of the most well-known clog-causers in the home. It can be easy to let the hot grease or other liquids run down your drains, but once these leftovers cool down, they coagulate and can stick to the interior of your plumbing. If you’re flushing hot water down your drain regularly it can melt the grease or oil buildup, but once it cools off again, it hardens all over again—now maybe with some of the other kitchen waste you just tried to dispose of stuck to it.

Let your cooking pans cool and use a paper towel to remove the leftover grease or drain the excess liquid into a coffee tin and let it harden before disposing of it in the trash can.

Stringy foods

Stringy foods such as celery, corn husks, banana peels, and even eggshells can wrap around the impellers on your garbage disposal and prevent them from grinding food waste against the outer grind ring. Throw these leftovers in the trash to protect your garbage disposal.

How to Handle a Major Leak

There’s nothing quite like the panic you feel if you come home to water leaking out the base of your bathtub or toilet.

Shut Off the Water

The first step when dealing with a major leak is to shut off the water supply. You can do this from either the appliance supply line or your main water line. You can locate the toilet shut-off valve on the pipe that connects your toilet to the wall. The sink shut off valve is likely underneath your sink. You’re looking for a small silver handle (sometimes shaped like an oval). Turn this valve to shut off the water to your leaking appliance.

If you can’t find the supply water shut-off, look for the main water supply line and turn off the water to your home from there.

Call a Plumber

Once you have the water supply turned off (or if you can’t locate your supply or main water shutoffs) contact a plumber for help. Most major leaks require professional equipment and expertise to fix the problem in the shortest amount of time and prevent water damage to your home.

Take Photos of Damage

Taking pictures of any serious damage and filing an insurance claim will ensure that you’re covered from any major issues.

The Best Way to Unclog Every Drain in Your Home


Grab your flange plunger and roll up your sleeves—plunging the clog (with the correct tool) should work on most clogs. If you’ve tried plunging with no results, it may be time to call in a professional to get to the root of your issue.

Sink and Bathtub

Like your toilet, try a plunger before moving on to other methods of unclogging. Using your cup plunger, make sure the end is flat against the surface of the sink or bathtub before pushing down. Allowing a few inches of water into the sink or tub will help the process.

If this doesn’t fix your sink clog, check out your p-trap—AKA the curved piping under the sink. Place a bucket underneath the pipe and grab your slip-joint pliers to remove the cleanout or access plug. Let the pipe drain out into the bucket and check for any obvious obstructions like hair or dental floss. Remove anything and replace the access plug, then run some water down your sink to make sure everything is sealed up properly.

If a plunger or clearing your p-trap didn’t work, it’s time to move on to a plumber’s snake. Use a one-use plumber’s snake and thread it into your sink or bathtub drain. Try to guide the snake without forcing it down your drain so it doesn’t cause any damage to the interior of your pipes. Once you’ve reached the clog, pull the snake back up and dispose of any hair or debris it pulls up.


There are many plumbing jobs you can handle on your own, but some require the expertise and experience of a professional plumber. EJ Plumbing is a local, family-owned business that cares about getting your home (and life) back to normal. Contact our team for a wide range of plumbing services online or by phone at (650) 513-8852.