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Staying Hydrated this Summer

Water is incredibly important to your health.  Your body uses water to remove waste, lubricate joints, and to maintain its temperature.  Every single part of your body needs it, down to the tiniest of cells.  It even composes over half of your body weight.  For all of these reasons, it is very important that you stay hydrated, especially through the summer months when you lose water more quickly.

Where does the water go?  Water leaves your body on a regular basis, even when you aren’t sweating.  Of course you lose water when you go to the bathroom, but you also lose it when you breathe.  Hot weather and physical activity make you sweat more and therefore lose more water than you normally do through your regular daily functions.  Illness, fever, and diarrhea can make more water leave your body than usual.

What is dehydration?  When your body doesn’t have enough water, it becomes dehydrated.  Symptoms include dark urine, dry mouth, stomach pains, fatigue, headache, confusion, and dizziness.  In more extreme cases, it can also cause you to not be able to urinate or to have no tears when you cry.  While everyone is susceptible to dehydration, you are more at risk if you are ill, pregnant or breastfeeding, elderly, or if you spend a lot of time outdoors.

How much water do I need?  The old adage is that you should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, but this may vary from person to person.  The best way to check is to look at the color of your urine.  If it is colorless or light yellow, then you are probably drinking enough.  If it is dark yellow or amber-colored, you aren’t.  Keep in mind that vitamins and medications can affect the color of your urine regardless of how much you consume.

What counts?  While water is the only thing you truly need to stay hydrated, many people like to mix it up with other drinks as well.  Milk, tea, juices and sports drinks do count toward your water intake, but be wary of sugars and extra calories that come along with them.  Caffeinated drinks also bring water into your system, but the caffeine can flush it out just as quickly.  Keep your coffee intake to a minimum, and stay away from energy drinks.

How can I make sure I’m getting enough?  Staying hydrated doesn’t have to take a ton of effort.  Try keeping a refillable water bottle with you throughout the day so you never have to stop what you’re doing to get a drink.  Take a sip anytime you’re thirsty; you shouldn’t wait until you’re desperate for a drink.  Make sure you drink plenty of water before, during, and after a workout, when dehydration can hit fast.  If you’re getting bored with plain water, try adding slices of fruit or a squeeze of lemon juice to change up the flavor.  Fruit and sports drinks can help you replace electrolytes when you’ve been working out.

While there are many reasons to make sure you’re getting enough liquids, there’s no reason that it has to be a big challenge.  Watch your body for signs of dehydration, and make sure you don’t go long periods of time without a drink.  You’ll love the way you feel when you’re hydrated!

Toilet Troubleshooting

The average person flushes the toilet about five times per day.  This means that a family of four flushes the toilet around 7,300 times per year.  That’s a whole lot of flushing, and it means that the toilet is a very important fixture.  When the commode stops working or isn’t working properly, it can cause a lot of trouble.  Here are a few common problems and how to address them.

 

Water Trickling into the Bowl:  Plumbers often call this “phantom flushing,” because it sounds as though someone has recently flushed the toilet even though they haven’t.  What’s actually happening is that there is a small leak from the tank into the bowl.  Usually, this means there is a problem with the flapper or the flapper seat, the parts that allow the water from the tank to flush into the bowl.  Drain the tank so you can inspect and clean the flapper and flapper seat.  Replace them if they’re worn or damaged.

Water Trickling into the Tank:  If you hear a hissing sound, this may be your problem.  Water is constantly coming into the tank and isn’t being shut off by the float.  Make sure the float arm isn’t sticking, and adjust it if necessary.  Also make sure the refill tube is only about a quarter of an inch below the rim of the overflow tube.  If you’re still having trouble, you may need to replace the ballcock assembly.

Bad Seals:  There are several seals on a toilet, and each of them could cause a problem if they go bad.  Your seals may need replacing if you find water leaking outside the toilet, such as between the toilet and the bowl.  In this instance, the tank will need to be removed and the seal replaced.  There is also a wax seal that goes underneath the toilet base and sits on a plastic flange.  If this leaks, it can cause major damage to the floor around the toilet.  The entire toilet will need to be removed and the seal replaced.  This is a task that may require the help of a professional plumber, especially if the plastic flange is broken or cracked.

Won’t Flush:  If you push the handle and nothing happens, you could have one of several issues.  Check the lift chain on the flapper to make sure it is still attached to the lever on the back side of the handle.  You may need to tighten or even replace the handle if the lever is corroded.  Also, make sure the water supply valve is on and allowing water to fill the tank.

 

Remember never to get in over your head when it comes to plumbing issues.  A&W Plumbing is happy to help with our fast, friendly service.  Just give us a call at 618-687-5862.

Kitchen Cleaning Tips

The kitchen is a high-traffic area of your home.  Meals and messes are made, and you may spend so much time in the kitchen that you don’t want to spend any more time in there cleaning it.  Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be difficult or even take that long.  Check out these helpful tips for keeping your kitchen clean:

 

-Give your kitchen cabinets a good cleaning at least once a year to keep grime from building up.  Try using liquid dish soap to attack greasy spots.

-Get stains out of solid surfacing with baking soda.  Mix it with just enough water to form a paste and apply with a sponge.

-Make cleaning the microwave easy.  Put a solution of one cup of vinegar and one cup of water into a microwave safe dish and heat it for three to five minutes.  The steam will loosen the dirt so you can simply wipe it out.

-Get a shiny, clean floor by mopping it with one part white vinegar to nine parts water. 

-Use ketchup to remove tarnish from brass and copper fixtures.  Apply it with a soft cloth, rub gently, and rinse with warm water.

-Let the blender clean itself.  As soon as you’re done pouring your smoothie or shake, fill the blender pitcher with warm water and a drop of dish soap.  Put it back on the blender base and turn it on for about thirty seconds, then rinse and dry.

-To clean cast iron pans, use a paper towel to scrub them with salt and a little bit of oil.

-Put your coffee maker carafe in the dishwasher weekly to keep brown stains from accumulating.  Run a mixture of equal parts of vinegar and water through the maker to clean the inside of the machine.

 

Sometimes, appliances and fixtures may simply be so old or worn out that they won’t come clean anymore.  A&W Plumbing is happy to help you replace them and get the kitchen of your dreams.  Just give us a call at 618-687-5862.

Bathroom Cleaning Tips

The bathroom is probably everyone’s least favorite room to clean.  It’s used heavily, and there’s always evidence of that in toilet rings, tub rings, soap scum, deposits, and mildew.  It may not always be fun to clean the bathroom, but it can at least be a little easier.  Here are some tips for tackling those stubborn spots:

 -Wipe shower walls and doors with a microfiber cloth after each use to prevent soap scum build up.

 -Spread a light coating of lemon oil to frosted glass doors and tile walls to keep soap from sticking to them.

 -Use vinegar to remove white lime deposits on your faucet.  Soak a paper towel in vinegar and wrap it around the affected area.  Remove and buff dry after ten minutes.  This method may discolor brass or colored fixtures.

 -If you have a porcelain tub, apply car or boat wax to the sides.  This will make all the dirt and soap run right off of it.  Never use this method on the bottom of the tub.

 -Use a wet pumice stone to remove stubborn toilet bowl rings.  Only use this method on porcelain toilets, as it will harm the surface of colored, enamel, or plastic fixtures.

 -Pull the shower curtain closed when it isn’t in use.  This will keep water from stagnating in the folds.

 -Unclog a showerhead by submersing it in a plastic bag filled with undiluted white vinegar.  Seal it with a rubber band and let it soak overnight. 

 -Clean and disinfect tub toys with a solution of half a cup of vinegar to one gallon of water.  Let the toys soak for ten minutes, then rub with a sponge.

 -Use a bleach mixture to clean grout.  Spray a combination of 1 cup of bleach to 3 cups of water onto the grout and use an old toothbrush to scrub.  Rinse with cool, clean water.

 You’re now well on your way to a shiny, clean bathroom!  Remember that leaks or bathroom plumbing that doesn’t work correctly can cause even more cleaning problems.  Be sure to call A&W Plumbing at 618-687-5862.

Spring Cleaning for Your Plumbing

Spring is a beautiful time of the year. The flowers are blooming, the birds are singing, and it’s time to check over your plumbing system! It might not sound very glorious, but it’s a good idea to make sure your water pipes and drains are functioning well. The winter chill has left the air, making it easier and more convenient to get a good look at all your pipes. Also, those spring showers we’re all expecting could introduce extra water into your drains.

If you have a sump pump, make sure it’s working properly. Pour water into the sump pit until the pump kicks on. Make sure it turns on and off easily and at the correct water level. Ensure no foreign objects are blocking the float switch.

-Clear any debris out of your gutters and downspouts. Clogged gutters don’t allow for the proper drainage of rainwater, instead making it accumulate next to your foundation.

-Check outdoor faucets and spigots and ensure they work properly. These fixtures could have frozen and broken over the cold months if they weren’t winterized.

-Examine your vent pipes. Birds and wasps like to make their homes here.

-Pour a gallon of water into any floor drains. This fills the trap and keeps bad smells from the sewage system from entering your home.

-Flooding can cause sewage systems to back up into homes. Have a backflow valve installed to prevent this issue.

-Install flood alarms in areas of your home that are susceptible to leaks or overflows, such as bathrooms and basements.

-Inspect any water lines that run outside your home, such as in crawl spaces or garages, to make sure they didn’t freeze and crack over the winter.

Checking over your plumbing system on a regular basis, such as when the seasons change, is a great way to prevent leaks and other disasters. If you find that you have problems or if you need help with an inspection, just call A&W Plumbing!

Hard Water vs. Soft Water

You’ve probably heard the terms hard water and soft water before.  Obviously this doesn’t have anything to do with how the water feels.  Knowing what kind of water you have can help you make decisions about your plumbing, and it can also give you an idea as to what kind of maintenance your pipes and appliances may need.

 Hard water is water that contains high levels of dissolved minerals.  As rain water (which is naturally soft) soaks into the ground, it picks up minerals such as magnesium and calcium along the way.  The Pros:  The minerals in hard water can be good for you.  They also make the water very flavorful, so it is this type of water that is preferred as drinking water.  The Cons:  While hard water might go nicely in a glass, it isn’t kind to the household in general.  Clothes that have been washed in hard water look dingy, and dishes have spots.  It causes buildup in bathtubs and encrusts the elements in water heaters.  The elements in hard water keep soap from lathering well.

Soft water only contains sodium ions.  Rainwater is naturally soft, and isn’t hardened until it reaches the Earth’s surface.  The Pros:  Soft water is much easier to clean with.  It doesn’t inhibit the function of soaps and cleansers, providing lots of lather.  It leaves hair shiny and skin feeling soft.  The Cons:  Water that is too soft can taste salty.  It isn’t recommended for people on low sodium diets due to health concerns such as heart conditions.

Whether you have hard or soft water largely depends on where you live and where your water comes from.  The U.S. Geological Survey notes that the hardest waters are found in the Southwest and the softest in New England and the Pacific Northwest, but these aren’t definitive boundaries.  Your water is likely hard if it comes from a well, since it has had a chance to seep deep underground and soak up lots of minerals along the way.

Some folks decide to have their water softened, either with a water softener that uses sodium or a reverse osmosis system.  Whether you decide to have your water softened or not depends on your needs and lifestyle.  Some folks prefer to have it softened so that they reduce the buildup on their appliances and in their pipes, which can cause malfunctions and cost money.  Others aren’t interested in softening because they like the taste of the water or they want to avoid the health risks of the extra salt.

If  you think your hard water may be affecting your plumbing system, be sure to call A&W!

 

More Fun Plumbing Facts

Awhile back, we shared some Fun Plumbing Facts with you. It’s time for another round!

  • Plumbing has been around for a long time! As early as 3000 BC, the inhabitants of the Indus River Valley were using clay pipes for both fresh water and waste water.
  • John Harrington invented the flushing toilet back in 1596. This is why the toilet is sometimes referred to as “the John.”
  • The Latin word for lead is plumbum, which is where the modern word plumber comes from.
  • An average family uses the faucet 70 times per day!
  • Albert Einstein was an honorary member of the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union after he stated he would be a plumber if he could start his life again.
  • There are more toilet flushes during the halftime of the Super Bowl than at any other time during the year.
  • The average person spends over three years on the toilet during their lifetime.
  • More than 28 billion feet of copper piping have been installed in the U.S. since 1963. That’s enough to wrap around the Earth 200 times!
  • The first faucet ball valve was designed in the 1940’s, mixing hot and cold water in the same tap. It was further developed in the 1950’s as the Delta Faucet and began the Delta Faucet Company.

We hope you enjoyed these plumbing facts and maybe even learned a little! If your pipes need help, be sure to call A&W Plumbing!

indoor pool

 

Fast and Easy Ways to Remodel Your Bathroom

Does your bathroom make you sigh and roll your eyes every time you walk into it? Are you tired of staring at the same boring wallpaper? Is it becoming impossible to make your bathroom really look clean, no matter how hard you try? Your bathroom is one of the busiest rooms in your house, and it makes sense for it to start showing some wear and tear pretty quickly. Fortunately, you don’t have to suffer with an ugly bathroom, even if your budget is tight. Here are some quick fixes for your bathroom blues.

A Coat of Paint: Any room is quickly revived simply by a new paint job. A normal-sized bathroom will probably not require much paint, and you can save even more money on it by checking the “Oops” section of your local home improvement store. Make sure you completely remove any old wallpaper and clean your walls thoroughly for the best results. You can also repaint your vanity to continue the new look.

New Faucets: Once the finish starts to wear down on your faucet, you may find it harder and harder to clean. Or perhaps your faucets are just not the style or color you would like, or don’t function the way you’d like them to. They can be easily replaced in an afternoon and will give your bathroom a whole new look. Replace the towel bars while you’re at it to make sure everything matches.

Different Décor: How long has it been since you picked out your bathroom’s theme? Refresh your restroom with a new shower curtain, trashcan, and rug. Try to pick a set that will match the current color of your walls if you aren’t up to repainting them just yet.

Light it Up: Does the light fixture really do its duty? A light in the center of the ceiling will probably be enough most of the time, but do you have good light over the mirror? Can you see in the shower? Changing out or even adding light fixtures can not only transform the look of your bathroom, but make it easier to use as well.

Flip Your Floor: If your floor covering is getting old, ugly, or damaged, it just might be time for a new one! Replacing scuffed or stained floors can go a long way toward pumping up your powder room. Make sure when you’re picking out new flooring that you understand how to install it and you have all the right tools.

vintage bathtub in grunge interior (photo compilation)

Just because you aren’t ready to knock out the walls and start all over again doesn’t mean you can’t revamp your bathroom. Most of these options are relatively inexpensive and don’t take a whole lot of time. They’re great for getting your house ready for guests or spring cleaning. If you need help, or decide you want to start replacing your fixtures, be sure to give A&W Plumbing a call!

4 Things to Know Before You Buy Bottled Water

Maybe you buy bottled water and keep it in the fridge for guests. Maybe you only drink it occasionally, when you make a quick stop at a convenience store. Or perhaps you keep it regularly stocked because you don’t like the taste of your tap water. It’s certainly a popular beverage, with twelve billion gallons bottled and sold in the United States in 2012. But have you ever thought about where your bottled water comes from? Bottled water has been touted as being cleaner, healthier, and generally better than tap water, but is it really?

Bottled Water Isn’t Necessarily Better Water. Some brands, such as Arrowhead and Crystal Geyser, source their water from natural springs, but that isn’t always the case. Both Dasani and Aquafina are simply selling treated tap water. While that may be a more environmentally friendly method since natural springs aren’t being affected, it means that you’re paying a high dollar amount for the same thing you could be getting out of your kitchen sink. The statistics seem to fluctuate depending on the source, but somewhere between 25 and 45 per cent of bottled water comes from municipal resources.

Watch the Labeling. If the label says “spring water,” the EPA requires that the water does actually come from either a natural spring or one with a manmade access. Other terms that are commonly used, such as “mountain water” or “glacier water”, are not regulated. They’re used as advertisement but are not a guarantee as to the source.

Know Your Plastics. While there has been considerable controversy about the safety of plastic water bottles, most of them are made of PET (polyethylene terephtalate) plastic. It’s labeled with a number 1 surrounded by a recycling symbol on the bottom or side of the bottle. It’s generally considered safe for one-time use, but some research has shown that all plastics leach chemicals in one form or another. The safest bet is to only use these bottles once and don’t allow them to be exposed to heat.

Two water bottles. Isolated on white background

What about the Waste? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, only about 20% of water bottles are recycled in the United States. Considering the billions that are used, that still leaves a large volume of recyclable plastic heading for the landfills on a regular basis. Drinking local tap water is also more environmentally friendly considering the energy and resources required for manufacturing and shipping bottled water.

The bottom line on bottled water is that the information available is not always as clear as the water itself. If you have concerns about where your water comes from, what impact it has on the environment, and what chemicals might be present in the container, it might be best to avoid bottled water in general. Water filtration systems can easily be installed right in your own home, providing good taste and removing chemicals. If you think your home needs better water, call A&W Plumbing!

Maintaining Your Septic System

Septic systems are very common for those who live in rural areas where access to municipal sewer systems is impossible or uneconomical. These systems are like personal sewage treatment facilities. A delicate biological balance of bacteria keeps the system going. Though they work night and day, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about it until there’s a problem. It’s important to maintain your septic system regularly and to know the right way to use it. A failing septic system can contaminate groundwater, stink up your yard, and cost you lots of money. Here are some tips to keep in mind to keep your system running smoothly:

Cement septic tank for waste water.

Have your septic tank pumped out. This might be needed every few years or even annually, depending on the size of the tank and the amount of usage it gets. You’ll need a professional to help you with this, and they can do a thorough inspection while they are there. This involves not just seeing how full the tank is, but checking all of the parts of the system for cracks or other damage.

Keep the drain field in mind. Make sure not to plant any trees or bushes near the drain field or the septic tank itself. The roots can cause major damage. Don’t build anything on top of the system or let anyone drive any heavy machinery over it in order to keep the cover and the pipes in good shape.

Your septic tank is not a garbage disposal. As is always a general rule in plumbing, don’t flush or wash down anything that can’t just as easily go in the trash can. Anything you put down the drain will go into the septic tank, and it will have to be pumped out more often if you aren’t conservative with it. Grease, cooking oils, food scraps, and hygiene products do not belong in your septic tank.

Maintain the bacteria. The bacteria in your septic system is vital to its operation. There are many additives on the market that claim to boost or fix the bacteria, but most professionals agree that it’s best not to use them. Some of them may simply be useless and therefore a waste of money, while others could actually upset the bacterial balance. Make sure not to use your septic to dispose of any hazardous chemicals, as these could have the same effect. Most household cleaners are safe to use, but be sure not to overdo it.

Hot Tubs, Water Softeners, and Garbage Disposals: While many modern appliances strive for water conservation, there are others that could create a problem for your septic system. Both hot tubs and water softeners release great amounts of water into the system at one time. This can stir the sludge in the bottom of the tank and wash it out into the drain field, or even cause the system to fail. Using a garbage disposal will contribute to the solids in the tank and demand extra maintenance.

Overall, a septic system is a wonderful device to have when sewer access is not available. It can last 25 to 30 years if properly managed and operated, and will rarely cause problems with just a little bit of regular maintenance and thoughtfulness. If you have any questions or concerns about your plumbing, be sure to call A&W!