Every clog is different, just like every home is different. But you can prevent clogs in your drains by taking a number of preventive measures. Whether your house is older or modern, sooner or later you will find yourself with clogged drains on your hands.

Here are some great ways to prevent clogged pipes:

  1. The first tip is simple: be careful about what you put down your drains. Some of the most common causes of clogged drains are cooking grease, coffee grounds, hair and soap scum.

  2. Buy a drain strainer that covers the drain’s opening. This should catch hair and foreign matter before it can reach the drain and create a blockage.

  3. Run very hot water through the sink after you’re done using it. Hot water allows materials such as food or oil to run through the drainpipes instead of amassing together to create a clog.

  4. Pour a handful of baking soda down the drain every so often. Then follow it with hot water.

  5. You can also pour one cup of vinegar down the drain on top of a cup of baking soda. Let sizzle for about 15 minutes and then rinse with hot water. Repeat as necessary.

  6. Avoid using caustic chemical drain cleaners. Over time, these can corrode some pipes—and sometimes they don’t even remove the whole clog.

  7. Take care of your sewer lines and septic tank. You can call a plumber to help snake your main sewer on an annual or semi-annual basis. Doing this can remove tree roots that often grow into pipes at the joint and cause sewage backups.

  8. If you have a septic tank, get your tank pumped every three to five years and regularly treat with a bacteria additive to keep the system in balance.

You can actually do damage to the plumbing by trying to unclog a drain yourself. A common mistake when trying to clear a clogged drain is exerting too much pressure. This can cause a host of problems, including cracking or breaking the pipes. Another mistake is using drain cleaner for every clog, every time. Most drain cleaners contain harsh chemicals that can damage pipes, and with time, overuse of these cleaners can cause erosion and leaks. Certain types of pipes should never have drain cleaner used in them. Be sure to read labels thoroughly before using any clog remover product to ensure its safe use.

Generally when you have a foul odor when flushing the toilet it means the toilet wax ring is not sealed to the toilet or the floor. Whenever you put water into a drain, it first has to push the air away. If the wax ring is not sealed, it will simply push it between the floor and the bottom of the toilet into the room, instead of down the pipe. Because both air and water take up space in the pipe, you can’t put the water in unless you move the air out. Typically we send it up the main vent of the house and out the roof, but if the roof vent is blocked, then there is no place for the air to go. To eliminate the bathroom odor, you should reseal the toilet to the floor and the clear the main vent of debris.

What you have is more than a temporary toilet clog – it’s likely a branch line blockage between the bathroom and the main sewer. You’ll probably need to hire a professional plumber to clear and clean the drain line. If you don’t have a clean-out port big enough to accept a cable with 3-inch blades, the service technician will have to pull up the toilet in order to thoroughly snake the line.

When a black ring starts to appear around the base of a toilet under the linoleum it generally means the wax ring that seals the toilet to the floor underneath is leaking. The color is coming from a black bacteria, mold or sewage. The only way to fix this is to pull the toilet off the floor, remove the toilet’s wax ring and replace it with a new wax ring gasket. I would also suggest making sure the drain line is cleared under the toilet – as long as you have it off the floor. If the toilet cannot flush properly, then the water will build up and put pressure on the wax ring causing it to leak. If you’re not accustomed to this kind of work, you might save yourself a lot of headache by calling an experienced plumber to check for toilet leaks and to get the job done right the first time.

The average faucet flows at about 2.2 gallons per minute, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. If you wash your hands for 20 seconds you will use close to three-quarters of a gallon.

A low-flow aerator will slow down the flow to 1.5 gallons per minute or less. Instead of three-quarters of a gallon of water, you’d just use a half-gallon. At first, this might not seem like an extreme difference but the average American family will save about 700 gallons of water per year by installing an aerator – that’s about 40 showers’ worth.

Water pressure is important when washing up, and this quality isn’t sacrificed when you install a low-flow faucet aerator. It’s called an “aerator” because it adds air to the water stream so you won’t notice a much of a difference, if any at all.

In addition to saving water, low-flow faucet aerators also cut down on your electricity spend. Every time you run hot water, your water heater needs to kick on. Since you’re using less water with the aerator, there’s less water that needs to be warmed up. The EPA estimates that the energy savings is about equal to the amount of electricity needed to run a hair dryer for 10 minutes every day for a year.

When picking out your aerator, it’s important that you choose a good one. There are a lot of models out there, some more effective than others. You may already have one, but if it’s outdated, it may not be as effective as you think. Look for an aerator with the WaterSense label on it. This is a distinction earned by meeting EPA criteria, including a flow of 1.5 gallons of water per minute or less as well as a quality water stream.

There are several possible reasons for discolored water, but ultimately water testing will be critical in diagnosing the cause of the problem. Minerals, including iron and magnesium, algae, pipe degradation and resin beads can all cause black water.

Magnesium is often found in water and when mixed with oxygen, turns black. If you look in your toilet tank and the inside is black, then you have magnesium and probably iron in the water. In either case, they are harmless to you. But if you want them gone, you will have to filter your water.

There are simple steps anyone can take to reduce their water heat usage and save money.

Take showers instead of baths: Showering requires less water than a traditional bath. Baths are nice, but they tend to be wasteful.

Spend less time in the shower: Though it can be a pain, one of the best ways to cut your water bill is to spend less time in the shower. Hot showers are relaxing, but those minutes standing there with your eyes closed add up.

Lower your water heater’s temperature: Lowering your water heater’s temperature by just a few degrees can translate into big savings in the long term.

Turn off your water: Be sure not to let hot water run while scrubbing dishes, etc. Ideally your water should be off any time you aren’t actively using it. Every second counts!

Insulate: Insulating the water heater and the first few feet of pipes connected to the heater means less heat lost and less money wasted.

There are lots of simple ways to lower your water heating cost. One of the best ways to save money is often to replace your water heater with a newer more energy-efficient unit. Tankless, or on-demand, water heaters or hybrid units are good options also for reducing water heating costs. While these choices may seem more expensive at first, they will actually save you money in the long run.

Also be on the lookout for energy-saving dishwashers and washing machines to help save on water heating costs.

Normally, a pipe attached to the water heater drain pipe is a recirculation line. While not absolutely necessary, a recirculation line keeps water in the pipe hot and reduces the amount of water wasted before you get hot water. The pipe could also be for a pressure relief line. If it goes to a floor drain, then it is a pressure relief line.

Your gas water heater should be 18 inches off of the ground, as per the National Fuel Gas Code. This is the standard for water heater installation requirements. This is a requirement for gas heaters that are kept in garages, but it’s still a good idea to follow this code wherever your water heater is located, if possible. Basement water heater installation doesn’t require an 18-inch elevation, but it certainly can’t hurt.

This rule is in place for the safety of you and your family, to help prevent fires and even explosions in the event that a flammable substance is spilled near your gas heater.

These rules are part of the Uniform Plumbing Code, and one of the reasons this code exists is for the sake of safe installation and maintenance for water heaters. It should be noted that per the Uniform Plumbing Code, the distance of 18 inches is not from the bottom of the heater to the ground, but from the ground to the pilot light or other lighting mechanism.

When installing your heater 18 inches off of the ground, it’s important to remember that the stand between your heater and the ground should be strong enough to hold up a full tank, not just an empty one.

While the 18-inch rule is part of the Uniform Plumbing Code, regulations can change from city to city. Make sure to check with your local offices prior to installation.