Helpful Plumbing Tips

Q: What can I use to clean my faucets and fixtures?

A: This is one of the most common questions asked because the last thing someone wants to do is damage the finish of their new faucet, sink, or tub. Here are some of the more common items that we get asked about.

Faucets:

With any type of finish, the most important thing to remember is that hot water and a soft cloth is all you usually need to keep the faucets looking like new. Over a period of time, you may see a build-up of calcium, soap, or iron deposits around the handles or aerator. In this case, using a mild household soap along with the hot water should help remove those deposits. If you have unsoftened water, regular cleaning becomes very important. If the calcium deposits build-up on the faucets over a period of time, they will be very difficult to remove without more aggressive cleaners, but it is important to remember that aggressive and abrasive chemical cleaners will greatly affect the life of the finish and should be avoided if at all possible.  You might also want to look into the EasyWater conditioning system, which is a non-chemical water conditioner/de-scaler that can help with long-term scaling issues throughout the house.

China Sinks & Toilets, and Cast Iron Products:

Regular non abrasive bathroom cleaners work great for a thorough cleaning of all viterous china or cast iron products with porcelain finishes. Just like with faucets, it is important to never let calcium or iron deposits build-up over a period of time. You want to avoid using cleaners with abrasives in them as the abrasives will scratch the finish and cause it to lose it’s shine.

Fiberglass or Acrylic:

Regular non-abrasive bathroom cleaners are the best thing to use on your gelcoat fiberglass or acrylic tubs and showers. Any aggressive cleaner with abrasives will easily scratch and damage the finish and should be avoided. Most of the ‘scrubbing bubbles’ type cleaners will do a great job.  For stubborn stains such as from iron, you should have success with a fume-free oven cleaner.  After cleaning, it’s best to protect the finish with an acrylic boat wax or Gel-Gloss, which is a cleaner/protectant designed for fiberglass products.

Stainless Steel Sinks:

A rinse and towel drying after each use takes care of most everyday clean-ups. At least once a week the sink should be scoured with a mildly abrasive cleanser, such as Comet or Bar Keepers Friend.  By rubbing back and forth in the direction of the ‘grain’, you will remove the stubborn stains and greasy film build-up and also blend usage scratches into the satin finish of the sink.  After scouring, rinse thoroughly and wipe dry. Also keep in mind that wet sponges, clothes, cleaning pads, and rubber mats left in the sink can lead to discoloration. Steel wool pads should never be used to clean your sink as they leave small iron particles in the grain lines which rust and can damage the sink

Cultured Marble Vanity Tops:

The finish on your cultured marble vanity top is a clear gelcoat finish that can be damaged if the wrong cleaners are used. As with most bathroom products, a mild household soap with hot water will remove any deposits and bring the high gloss finish back to the top. One product that we have have great success with on marble tops is Gel-Gloss. It cleans without harming the finish and leaves a thin wax coating so deposits, stains, etc… do not stick as easily to the finish.

Q: Do you recommend the ‘In-the-tank’ toilet cleaners ?

A: Most of the toilet cleaners that work in the tank seem to take care of keeping the tank and bowl clean. However, it is important to know that they will shorten the life of the parts in the tank, especially the flapper. The chemicals that keep the toilet clean really eat away at the rubber flapper resulting in its premature failure. Most toilet manufacturers will not warranty any tank parts if these cleaners are used.

Q: Can I use any bath oils or gels in my whirlpool jetted tub?

A: For all traditional residential whirlpools or jetted tubs, the answer is no. The residue from the oils and/or soaps will not flush themselves out of the piping and pump system which will cause bacterial growth throughout the whirlpool system. For this reason, all whirlpool manufacturers will discourage the use of these products. Most whirlpool tub manufacturers now offer therapeutic tubs with an air jet system that pushes warm air through a series of jets at the bottom of the tub.  This type of system allows the use of any bath oils, shampoo, soaps, etc. without harming the equipment.  Here is a link to the Kohler website for an example of this type of jetted tub.

Q: When I use my whirlpool jetted tub, some black stuff comes out of the jets.

A: Any discoloration of the water or gel-type material that comes out of a whirlpool tub when the tub is used is usually due to bacteria forming within the whirlpool system. This can be the result of the tub not completely draining itself after use, or from using soaps or bath oils. Periodically, depending on how bad the problem is, it is a good idea to flush the whirlpool system using hot water and 1-2 cups of dishwashing machine detergent. Let the whirlpool run for 15-20 minutes, drain the system, and repeat the process with only hot water to flush the system out.

Q: If a toilet is flushed when someone is in the shower, the water turns scalding hot.

A: On most older shower faucets this problem is quite common because they cannot control or limit how much hot & cold water go through the valve. If the temperature in the shower is correct and then water is run somewhere else in the house, the valve cannot adjust for this which results in a surge of hot or cold water. All new tub or shower valves with a shower-head installed in the State of Michigan are required by code to have an internal mechanism to balance the hot & cold water pressure so if there is a sudden drop in hot, for instance, the valve will automatically lower the cold at the same rate. The result is that the person using the shower only will feel a very minor change in temperature. The only real solution to this problem is to replace the complete shower valve with a new style that is ‘pressure-balanced’.

Q: I’m in need of a new toilet, but afraid of the performance of the water-saver toilets.

A: While this may have been a problem when all the toilets were first required to flush on 1.6 gallons back in the 1990’s, it has not been a problem for quite some time. Hedlund Plumbing has installed just about every manufacturer of toilet available in the United States and has found that the Kohler Cimarron toilet ranks at the very top as far as flushing capabilities and performance go. The Kohler Cimarron uses the new Class-6 technology which ensures you can have all the advantages of a water saver toilet without any plugging  issues.  This is new technology that meets the current Water-Sense Label requirements and only needs 1.28-gallons per flush.problems.  There are also getting to be more dual-flush high-efficient toilets available such as the Sterling Rockton model that give the option of 1.6-gal. or 0.8-gal. flush, which can end up saving tens of thousands of gallons over the course of a year.

Q: My water heater periodically makes a snapping or popping noise.

A: Over a period of time it is not uncommon for the foam insulation that is installed around the tank to separate in areas, and as the heated water causes the tank to expand it rubs and moves against the insulation. This can also be a sign of a build-up of water deposits within the tank.  It might help to flush the water out of the tank periodically to help keep the tank clear.  Other than being an annoying sound, it is not anything that you should be concerned about, and the only solution is to replace the water heater.

Q: Our hot water throughout the house has a ‘rotten-egg’ smell.

A: This problem with smelly water seems to occur when well water reacts with your water heater. Inside the heater is a magnesium anode rod which is factory-installed to attract sediment and minerals in the water in order to keep them from attacking the tank itself. This is meant to lengthen the life of the heater, but sometimes well water can cause a sulfur type smell to appear in the water. There are two potential solutions to this problem. First, the water heater manufacturers recommend replacing the magnesium rod with an aluminum rod which can reduce or eliminate the sulfur smell. The other solution is to remove the original magnesium rod completely. While this solution usually solves the odor problem, may slightly shorten the life of the heater and void the manufacturers warranty on the tank.

Q: How can we get hot water to the faucets faster, especially in the morning?

A: This is a growing concern for homeowners, as water and sewer rates keep increasing. It is not uncommon for it to take 1-2 minutes to get hot water through a faucet. The simple solution for this problem is to have a hot water recirculation pump installed at the water heater, such as the Comfort Pump from Grundfos Pumps. This pump circulates the hot water from the heater to a faucet located at the furthest point away from the heater. This is a specially designed pump system that includes a timer so that the pump can automatically come on before water is typically used throughout the day or night. Also, it can be shut off for times of the day when nobody is home in order to save on utilities.  For installation costs please feel free to call or email our service department.

Q: How can the pressure to my faucets improve?

A: If the pressure problem is limited to a particular faucet, it might be possible to improve it by cleaning or installing a new aerator on the end of the spout. Over time these can clog and reduce the flow considerably. There might also be a problem with the supply shut-off valve. If there is any reduction in size between the shut-off valve and the faucet, you will see a lower flow rate. If the pressure problem is uniform throughout the house, it is likely that there is a build-up of deposits inside the actual piping, especially if the pipes are older galvanized steel pipes. There is no easy solution to fix old piping. In almost all cases, the old steel piping needs to be completely removed and new copper or PEX piping needs to be re-installed. With new piping, you will see a drastic improvement in the pressure throughout the house.