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ASK THE HANDYMAN / JOHN MORELL

Running Water Can Dry Up Drain Problems

June 27, 1992|JOHN MORELL

Question: We're going to be on vacation the entire month of August. Is there anything I should do to my house before I leave so that everything will be OK when we get back?

H.B., Santa Ana

Answer: "It would probably be a good idea to have someone stop by occasionally and run some water down the drains," says Rod Albright of Albright Plumbing & Heating in Los Alamitos. "When no water goes through the drains the sludge that builds up over the years tends to harden, especially in the warmer summer months. When you get home, you may find that the drains are clogged.

"Running water will also keep the drain traps filled. Over a long period of non-use during a dry month, the water could evaporate, and while that doesn't pose any problems, it will make the house smell bad since sewer gases can escape. You also might want to turn off the main water valve to the house, but check to see if this will affect your automatic sprinklers. This way, should a line break or a toilet leak, you won't have water damage through the house."

Q: About six months ago my wife began buying a number of dried flower arrangements to decorate the house. Since that time, we've noticed these annoying, small brown months that fly around the ceiling. Do these breed in the flowers? And how do we get rid of them?

R.N., Fountain Valley

A: "They could be meal moths, which often breed in grains and spices, and they may have infested some of the dried flowers," says Ken McDaniel of Terminix Pest Control in Santa Ana. "You have to find out where they're breeding. If the moths are mainly around the dried flowers, you'll need to inspect the arrangements to see if you can find any of the larvae, and get rid of those that are infested."

Q: We just bought a home with a two-year-old white carpet, which is in almost perfect condition. I'd like to keep it that way, and I'd like to find out if there's anything I can apply to it that will keep stains off of it.

C.M., Cypress

A: "There's really not much you can do to prevent staining," says Phil Tockey of Mike's Carpet Emporium in Costa Mesa. "Spraying a protectant like Scotchgard on the rug is like spraying old-fashioned lacquer hair spray; it will attract soiling. The best way to keep it white is to keep an eye out for stains and spot clean it as soon as you see the stain.

"Cleaning the stain early before it sets will help you avoid problems. Take a piece of the carpet to a dealer to find out what it's made of and to get recommendations on what kind of cleaners you should have on hand."

Q: We have a filthy asphalt driveway caused by a couple of cars that leaked oil and transmission fluid for a few years. It's in good condition otherwise, but what can I use on it to keep people from tracking oil and grease into the house?

M.C., Buena Park

A: "Your best bet would be to scrub it with a heavy detergent, like TSP and water," says Mike Delaney of Fullerton Hardware. "That should get a good portion of the grease stains off, but it probably won't make it perfect.

"If you're unsatisfied after cleaning it, you may need to apply a new coating over the asphalt. I'd be wary about using acids or solvents to remove the grease, simply because they can eat into the surface and damage it."

Q: For some reason, the water level in one of our toilet bowls has gone down about four inches. I've checked the float level in the tank, and it flushes fine, but I'm wondering if a problem isn't building in the drain. What could be causing this?

D.L., Santa Ana

A: "There are a number of possible causes," says Ted Blanke of Central Plumbing & Heating Co. in La Habra. "There could be a defect in the fixture that's allowing water to seep down the drain. It could also be caused by some change in the atmospheric pressure in the vent system that allows a siphonage of water from the bowl. There could also be a partial stoppage in the drain that's not letting it complete the flush."

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