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What to Do When Your Toilet Overflows

It would be nice to think that you would never have to deal with toilet water leaking out onto your floor, but the chances are likely that it will happen to you eventually.  Clogs are a normal thing, and it’s good to know what you should do when it happens.  Panicking won’t help, and you need to be able to take action right away.

First, find the shut off valve for your toilet.  If you look behind and below the tank, you’ll see a small water line with a valve that you should be able to turn by hand.  If you can’t find it, the valve may be hidden behind the wall or under the floor, in which case you should talk to a plumber about having it moved.  Know where the valve is ahead of time, so you won’t be searching for it in an emergency.  Over the years, the valve may have become hard to turn or even rusted open.  This is another reason you should locate it now and make sure you can turn it off in a dire situation.

If you can’t turn off the water with the shut off valve, you have two other options.  One is to turn off the water at the main shutoff valve.  This will stop water from flowing to all parts of your house.  It will stop the overflow from the toilet, but it can be inconvenient not to have service anywhere else.

Another option is to open the back of the toilet tank and look for the flapper.  This is a rubber disk on a hinge that normally covers a hole in the bottom of the tank when the toilet has finished cycling.  Gently push it down.  Depending on the type of toilet you have, you may also be able to turn off the water by lifting the float ball.  This is what stops the tank from filling once it reaches a certain level.  Be careful, because the water may start up again if you release it.  Make sure you have someone around to assist you.

Once the water has stopped, you need to address the clog. Most of the time, your plunger should do the trick.  If not, you may need to call A&W Plumbing. Once the clog is fixed, you can turn the water back on.

Remember to get familiar with the parts of your toilet ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about what to do in an emergency.  Do what you can on your own, but always leave the big jobs to the professionals.  Here at A&W Plumbing, we’re happy to help!

Make Your Bathroom a Safe Place

It’s all fun and games until someone slips and falls in the shower!  The bathroom is often one of the smallest rooms in the house, and yet it can be a dangerous place.  The CDC estimates that over 200,000 people go to the emergency room every year for bathroom-related accidents.  It’s no surprise given the small floor space, hard appliances, and possibility of water on the floor.  There are, however, several easy steps you can take to ensure your restroom is a safe space.

Grab Bars:  You see them in the handicap stalls at public restrooms, but these grab bars may just have a place in your home as well.  They can be purchased at most home improvement stores and installed near the toilet or even in the shower.  It’s a quick and easy way to ensure you have something to hold onto if you slip.

Get a Little Traction:  The bottom of the tub or shower can be slippery, especially when covered in soapy water.  Consider a shower mat with suction cups to make bathing a little safer.  Measure the size of your tub to ensure a proper fit.  Smaller clings that add texture without taking up the entire shower floor are another possibility.

Fancy Up your Floor:  You don’t have to stop with a shower mat! Rugs with a non-slip backing are an excellent way to prevent slips and falls on the bathroom floor itself.  They absorb water, so you don’t have to stand on a wet surface while you’re brushing your teeth.  As an added bonus, you can change out the rugs and switch up your décor!

Have a Seat:  A shower chair can be a great addition to any tub.  While these are often used to assist those with mobility issues or injuries, they can also be helpful for regular bathing.  Get a good chair made for the purpose with non-slip feet.  If it’s something you think you would enjoy permanently, consider having a contractor install a permanent seat as part of the shower.

Check the Temp:  Although we usually think of falling as the main risk in the bathroom, scalding can be a danger as well.  Make sure your water heater is set no higher than 120 degrees to prevent burns.

Ditch the Doors:  Showers doors can be dangerous if you fall against them.  Consider trading them out for a shower curtain and rod.  If you prefer the look of doors, ensure that the glass is shatterproof and that the tracks are well-maintained.

Many of these changes can be made quickly and easily.  If you decide to do an entire remodel of your bathroom, keep these points in mind to ensure the health and safety of your family.  As always, if you need help with the plumbing in your bathroom, just call A&W Plumbing!


Is It Time to Replace your Water Heater?

A water heater is a crucial appliance in any modern home.  It makes our showers comfortable, keeps our hands clean, and helps us scrub our dishes to a shine.  But it’s not always a device that we think about on a regular basis unless it stops working.  Usually, water heaters let you know they’re getting ready to go out.

  • If your water is not heating up like it used to, or if you run out of hot water at a noticeably faster rate than previously, there may be an issue.  It could be something as simple as a heating element that has gone out and that can be replaced by your plumber.  However, it can also be an indicator of mineral sediment that has coated and hardened on the bottom of your tank.
  • Rusty water is another sign of a problem.  You’ll see this when you turn on the tap and the water that comes out is an orangey color.  While the problem could be in your pipes themselves, you can flush your water heater to find out if it is the source of the rust.  Water heaters have an anode rod, which is basically a sacrificial piece of metal that attracts corrosive materials and keeps them away from the tank itself.  If it hasn’t been replaced regularly, then the tank itself may be rusting.
  • Water heaters should be pretty quiet while they work away down in the basement or in your utility closet.  If you hear a loud banging noise, then the heater is working far harder than it should.  This is usually due to the presence of settlement in the tank, and is a sure sign that something should be done.
  • Check your water heater regularly for any leaks or rusting.  This is another warning of corrosion, which will only lead to heater failure.
  • How old is your unit?  Most water heaters last eight to twelve years, which varies depending on maintenance and design.  If you don’t know, you can usually figure out the age of the heater by using the model and serial numbers and the manufacturer’s website.

Have your water heater professionally maintained by a local plumber, such as A&W Plumbing.  Good maintenance is key to extending the life of the appliance and saving you money in the long run.  Never do any maintenance or replacements that you don’t feel comfortable with, and leave it to the experts.  Keep your eyes open for these signs and symptoms that it may be time to have it replaced. Before you replace anything, give A&W a call for a thorough diagnosis.


Keep the Mosquito Population Down by Monitoring the Water around Your Home

When you think about summer, you probably imagine picnics in the park, sleeping in, and sipping lemonade on the porch.  But there are also some rather unpleasant aspects of the season, including mosquitos.   The pests cause itchy sores when they bite, and they carry the risk of transmitting potentially dangerous diseases.  Fortunately, there are steps you can take right now to reduce the number of mosquitos living around your home.

Most of these involve making sure you don’t have any standing water around your home.  Mosquitos need still water for every stage of their life cycle. Eliminating such areas reduces their habitat.


  • Check for anything that might hold rainwater, including buckets, barrels, old tires, and empty flower pots. If possible, store them someplace where they won’t fill up again.  If you must leave an item out, make sure you check and dump it regularly.
  • Make sure any trash cans or recycling bins have drainage holes.  If they don’t, make some with a drill.  This will allow rainwater to flow out instead of accumulating.
  • If you have pet water dishes outside, empty and refill them regularly and don’t leave them full overnight.  If your pets are outside full time, consider getting dishes that cycle the water.  Birdbaths should also have cycling water.
  • Clean your gutters and downspouts regularly.  It’s a good idea to keep up this kind of maintenance anyway, but clogs can cause small pools of water to build up in your gutters.
  • Look for any areas of your yard that are particularly low-lying, where puddles generally form during heavy rains.  Consider having them filled in or regraded.
  • Don’t neglect your swimming pool.  This is a large amount of water that can quickly be turned into a mosquito breeding ground.  Make sure it has the proper amount of chlorine and is cleaned regularly.  Ensure that the cover fits properly, and dump out any water that accumulates on top of it.
  • Kiddie pools and water toys should be emptied and dried out when your children are done playing with them.
  • Yard debris should be removed or burned as quickly as possible.  Even the small amount of water trapped on leaves or around glass clippings can be enough for a mosquito to lay its eggs.


While you won’t be able to eliminate the mosquito population completely, it can make a big difference to go through these steps regularly.  Make your yard a prettier and more pleasant place by removing mosquito habitats.  Remember that if you see unexplained pudding in your yard, it could be a sign of a leak and it’s time to call A&W!

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!