Sunday, January 30, 2011

FML: Bathroom Issues

About a week ago, our bathroom sink started to drain more and more slowly. At first, it didn’t seem like anything to be too concerned about, but eventually the toothpaste-y water left over in the sink was taking so long to drain that the porcelain was left coated with white film, which I of course had to scrub off later, after it had dried.

So I decided to take my first tried-and-true step in home repairs: I poured boiling water down the drain. Alas, to no avail.

Step two involved using a mysterious flaky white substance labeled “glug” that my father gave to me when I moved into my apartment. This substance worked reasonably well when my kitchen sink had been draining slowly, so I was hoping for similar results in the bathroom. Unfortunately, the cleared drain only lasted one night; by the next morning, the toothpaste-y water was back.

My next idea was to combine the two aforementioned solutions. The directions on the glug indicated using “hot water” to flush it down the drain, so boiling water might actually work better. Unfortunately, this did not produce any different results: after one night of a clear drain, the sink was back to remaining full of water.

Finally, on Thursday, I decided to get serious and go to Home Depot. In the meantime, I asked R___ to find some other possible methods for unclogging the sink drain. He found a method that suggested using an entire box of baking soda and salt, but this unfortunately did not work, either, and so I returned home with two additional solutions: a Zip-It and a bottle of Pequa.

A Zip-It is essentially a long strip of plastic with little hooked notches running up each side. You shove it down a drain and then use the little handle at the top to pull it back up, along with whatever debris it snags.

This video shows how a Zip-It is supposed to work. In my case, the thing simply got stuck on the notches in the drainpipe and, once R___ finally managed to get it out, pulled up a whole lot of nothing.

Thus, we embarked upon our final solution: the Pequa. Pequa touts itself as “industrial strength drain opener,” and I chose it over Draino only because a Home Depot employee pointed it out while I was in the store. It works exactly the same way as Draino: pour some liquid down the drain, wait a few hours, and then flush the drain with warm water. We followed the instructions, only when we went to “flush out” the drain, the water backed all the way up into the sink . . . and sat there.

Finally, I was forced to resort to my final solution: calling the landlord. We had exhausted all other possibilities and were still left with a sink full of dirty water. So I rang T___, my landlord, and explained the situation. He informed me that he was out of town but that he would come over on Saturday. So for the rest of Thursday and all of Friday, R___ and I resorted to brushing our teeth in the kitchen sink and taking out our contacts over a closed toilet lid rather than the bathroom sink.

Finally, Saturday arrived. I have a standing “swim date” on Saturday mornings, so I woke up early to get ready and catch the PATH train to NYC. I was set to leave, dressed in a swim suit, sweatpants, hoodie, winter coat, and sneakers, and stepped into the bathroom to grab my toothpaste and toothbrush when I glanced at the sink and stopped cold. There was no water in it. Frantically, I turned on the spigot and watched in shock as the water poured straight down our now-perfectly-clear drain. How had this happened?

Before leaving, I scribbled a note to R___, informing him about the magically unblocked drain and also about the newly malfunctioning toilet, which insisted on filling to the brim with water before flushing, and then only giving a tepid “gulp” at the waste in the toilet bowl. I figured that T___ may as well still come over and take a look at that, rather than my calling and telling him the sink had been a false alarm. I also figured that I would call him once I reached the city and ask if he could come to our apartment a little later in the afternoon so that R___ wouldn’t have to contend with everything alone. However, not thirty seconds after I stepped off of the PATH train in NYC, my cell phone rang. T___ was calling to inform me that he was on his way over. Panicked, I called R___ to a) wake him up and b) make sure he would let T___ into the apartment.

Five minutes later, R___ texted me to inform me that the landlord had tried to clear the sink drain but that it was already clear. “Yeah, I know,” I texted back. “Have him check the toilet.” By that time, however, T___ had left, meaning that I was left not only looking like an irresponsible tenant (essentially “the girl who cried wolf”) but also with a malfunctioning toilet.

Of course, malfunctioning appliances (is a toilet considered an appliance?) will only put up with so much before they retaliate. R___ had the pleasure of experiencing our toilet’s vengeance that afternoon, when he flushed the toilet promptly regurgitated its contents all over the bathroom floor. Consequently, I was awoken from my afternoon nap by various curse words and a shout of, “Hey, can you come help me with this?”

How to salvage the remains of your bathroom after a toilet attack:
  1. First, make sure to finish plunging the toilet so that it will be certain to work properly the next time you use it. There’s already plenty of smelly water on the floor, so a little more won’t hurt.
  2. Next, take off your socks and throw them out. Wipe off your feet with some wet soapy paper towels and then change into shorts and flip flops. You are about to get dirty.
  3. If you don’t have a mop and there are two or more people in the apartment/house, have one person go out and buy a mop while the other person carefully removes everything from the bathroom that rests on the floor. Person #2: be careful to wipe off the bottom of everything with cleaning wipes or, at the very least, a warm soapy dish cloth. Depending what you store on your floors—as opposed to in cabinets, closets, etc—you may be forced to throw out a number of unsalvageable items such as anything stored in a cardboard box, floor rugs, etc.
  4. Now gather two buckets. Person #1 should use the mop to soak up as much of the water on the floor as possible and squeeze this water out of the mop and into the first bucket. Person #2 should, meanwhile, make a solution out of water and Chlorox.
  5. When all of the dirty water has been removed from the bathroom floor, mop the floor with the Chlorox solution. Wait ten minutes, and mop with the solution again.
  6. When the floor has dried, test the toilet several times before returning all of your possessions to the bathroom. The last thing you want to do is to put everything back, flush the toilet, and go through this process again!

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