If you've recently begun a regimen of chemotherapy or radiation to treat cancer, lupus, or another serious illness, plumbing maintenance is likely to be very low on your list of priorities or concerns. However, the hair loss that can often come as a side effect of these treatments can have a significant (and sometimes unexpected) impact on your household plumbing, and taking a few quick preventive measures can go a long way toward keeping your pipes clear during a time when you have much else on your mind. Read on to learn more about preventing hair clogs in your sink and shower drains, as well as what you can do to loosen clogs if they should occur.
What should you do to prevent drain clogs during a period of excessive hair loss?
The average human loses between 50 and 100 hairs from his or her head each day, in addition to the hairs that can shed from one's eyebrows, eyelashes, and other hirsute parts of the body. Most homes' plumbing systems are designed to accommodate this level of shedding without issue; this hair will usually enter the drain along with multiple gallons of water that are sufficient to flush it through the pipe and into your sewer system or septic tank.
However, homeowners with sharply-curved drainage pipes or long-haired family members, as well as those who are temporarily losing a large amount of hair due to their medical treatment, can sometimes find themselves dealing with a sink or shower that is draining slowly. To prevent your lost hair from clogging your home's drains and leading to more expensive plumbing issues, there are a few items and habits you can immediately put into place.
There are a variety of different inexpensive gadgets and gizmos that can be used to prevent hair from entering your drain -- or catch it once it has made its way through the grate. One hair trapping device designed for shower drains looks like a long bungee cord with a hook at the end and affixes to the pipe side of your shower drain so that it's invisible from above. As hair makes its way into the drain, it catches on this hook, where it can be easily pulled up and removed at any time. Installing a shower or sink grate that has several layers of fine wire mesh can also allow water to flow into the drain at normal speed without taking hair or other debris with it.
The foaming action of baking soda combined with the acidity of vinegar can create a concoction that powers through all but the toughest drain clogs. By placing a few tablespoons of baking soda in your sinks and shower drains and then flushing with apple cider vinegar, you'll be able to remove any clogs that have begun to form and leave the sides of your pipe smooth, making it more difficult for hair to stick.
What can you do to clear out a drain clog you believe is primarily caused by hair?
If, despite your best efforts, you've wound up with a clogged drain that you are sure is filled with your own hair, you'll want to try a few things before calling the plumber.
First, you'll want to try the vinegar and baking soda method again, being sure to rinse the mixture with hot water, as this can dissolve some of the grease that may be causing your hair to stick to the sides of the pipe or catch in corners.
If this is unsuccessful, you may want to look into a commercial drain cleaner, which uses high-powered chemicals to break up the clog and flush it into the sewer. (This type of drain cleaner usually isn't recommended for homes with septic tanks, as the chemicals used can throw off the delicate bacteria and enzyme balance in the septic tank.) You may also want to purchase a plumbing snake at a hardware or home supply store to see if the clog is close enough to the drain that it can be easily retrieved and thrown away.
If none of these methods seem to be improving the speed with which your pipes are draining, professional drain cleaning help may be necessary. Most plumbing companies have high-powered hoses and borers that can machine their way through just about any pipe to remove blockages or other problems.
Keeping your home's plumbing system in good working order is a family job. Have you taught your kids what should never be flushed down the toilets or poured down the drains? Do your kids know what to watch for to know that there is a plumbing problem that needs to be addressed? If your kids know what to look for, they will be less likely to contribute to making a minor plumbing problem more serious. This blog will show you things that you should teach your kids so that everyone can work together to protect the entire plumbing system in your home.