Do you have guests staying with you for the holidays? Even a small handful of guests can put a temporary strain on your plumbing, due to the extra use of the kitchen sink and toilets. If you want to avoid a holiday plumbing crisis, keep these three rules in mind.

1.) Garbage Disposals Are Not Meant To Handle Everything

Garbage disposals are awesome for getting rid of the scraps of food left on the dinner plates, but be careful what you put in there. You should never put the following into your garbage disposal:

  • grease and oil. They solidify in your pipes and can build up, layer by layer, into a formidable clog.
  • bones, unless they're fish bones. Other bones are too heavy and will get caught in the disposal, breaking it.
  • stringy vegetables like celery and asparagus. They have fibrous cords that can wrap around the blade of your garbage disposal, making it stop.
  • potato peels. They turn into a thick, mushy mess that won't go down the pipes.
  • eggshells. They have a thin membrane on the inside of the shells that can gum up the disposal's blade and break it.
  • coffee grounds. They'll start to build up into a gritty silt, and combine with any fats that get into your drain for a super-clog.
  • rice and pasta. Pieces tend to gather below the blade in your disposal. They keep expanding over time with the water and can turn into a starchy blob that won't go down the drain and backs up on you.

As long as you know what's not safe to put down it, your disposal and drain should remain clear. Just be wary: guests will sometimes take it upon themselves to help clean up after a meal or a party. Steer them clear of the kitchen drain unless they know the rules.

2.) Too Much Toilet Paper Can Be A Problem

This is especially true if your plumbing is a septic system. Because of the way your septic tank works, breaking down waste materials through organic processes, it needs time to do its job. A houseful of guests usually means a lot of trips to the bathroom with more waste material and water flowing into the septic tank all at once.

If the toilet paper you use is too thick or heavy it's easy for layers to build up and cause a backup in your tank or pipes right in the middle of your party.

Stick with single-ply toilet paper or paper marked "septic safe." It will break down faster than its super-soft alternatives.

Even if you aren't on a septic system, single-ply toilet paper is safer for your toilet than multi-ply paper. Thick toilet paper, especially the kind that has lotion in the paper, can easily stick together and clog a drain.

It's hard to be delicate about the subject, but let your guests know if you need to them to be careful with how much toilet paper they use at once. They'd probably much rather be told in advance than to find out the hard way, by causing a clog!

3.) Clogged Drains Are Usually Not Do-It-Yourself Problems

If you get a clogged drain you can try to clear it with a plunger. If it works, and no clog reoccurs right away, the clog probably wasn't serious. However, if the clog doesn't quickly break up, consider calling professional plumbing contractors right away. You can cause yourself worse problems by trying to fix a stubborn clog on your own.

If you do attempt to clear the pipes yourself, don't make the mistake of using commercial drain cleaners. The chemicals are not only caustic to humans - they're destructive to pipes as well.

When you pour a commercial cleaner down a drain you are taking the chance that it won't undo the clog and will end up sitting in your pipes, eating at them, until you find another way to clear it out.

You can try to use a metal snake to tackle the clog, but you may just end up poking a temporary hole through it, not clear it out. It will quickly clog up again. Or, you can end up trying to force the snake through the pipes too hard and end up knocking a pipe loose, compounding your problems.

Hopefully, you'll avoid drain problems altogether. If you don't, a professional can handle your plumbing problem quicker than you can, by virtue of expert knowledge and professional tools. He or she can quickly get the clog cleared out and your sink or toilet working again, without doing lasting damage to your pipes.