The Serial Tourist's Guide to Living in Jerusalem
Hebrew Kindle eBooks
Israel is built on plastic plumbing. I'm sure there was a time when they
used metal, but that time was so long ago that I've never seen it in a building.
Jerusalem's walls are full of plastic tubing, I wouldn't dignify it by calling
it pipe, but I will admit that plastic tubing is coming into vogue in the
U.S., especially with heating systems. Due to the possible long term health
hazards some people worry about with plastic, I know counties in the U.S.
that ban different types for drinking water, also called potable or sanitary,
depending on your local lingo. In any case, the drainage piping here is all
plastic as well, with a major downside in that it's noisier than iron pipe,
especially in taller buildings when people flush toilets. All that said,
this page is about cleaning the trap of a clogged drain. The trap is guaranteed
to be the problem, and this particular plumbing system has some other issues
as well, but the trap is a logical place to start. Once upon a time traps
were "U" shaped tubes that may or may not have included a clean-out, but
the plastic plumbing does in with a single large tub.
The drain worked very slowly when I moved in, occasionally backing up with
water just sitting in the sink. I could always get it going good with the
old "use your palm as a plunger:" trick, but the fact it would back up again
a day later told me that there was a constriction pretty close to the sink.
Plastic plumbing has a lot of flexibility in it, and because this particular
system had an obvious leakage point a little further downstream, I wanted
to be as gentle with it as possible. So, I held the rest of the piping firm
with my left hand and slowly unscrewed the trap with my right. My assistant
is responsible for the blurry photograph. I also put a pot below the trap
for in case there was extra water still backed up in the few inches of drain
pipe coming down from the sink. People who rush into snakes to unclog drains
are making a mistake, and you would never be able to snake a drainage system
with this type of trap in any case.
A lot of people mistakenly believe that the purpose of the trap is to catch
your wedding ring if it falls of your hand while you're doing dishes. Nothing
could be further from the truth, that's what garbage disposals are for. The
purpose of the trap is to create a barrier between the open drain in your
sink and the sewer system, into which the drain piping eventually exits.
The trap creates that barrier by remaining full of water all the time, so
that the drainage flow goes down from the sink into the trap, then rises
up around the drain pipe until it reaches the exit point in the "T" to the
left. The trap and "T" fixture is made special this way, with the interior
pipe a much smaller diameter than the outer fitting. The system works pretty
good, but because the large amount of surface area around the internal pipe,
it may be more subject to build-up than the old fashioned "U" traps. You're
usually going to get a little spillage when you unscrew the trap bottom because
the water backs up as high as the bottom of the grey drain pipe exiting to
the left,and boy does it stink!
The trap cup itself was pretty clean, but when I wiped down the inside tube
of the fitting with a paper towel, all sorts of gunk came out. I suspect
that a girl lived here previously and washed her hair in the sink from time
to time (no sink in the bathroom) because there was a lot of long hair all
wrapped around in there. You can also see that the center drain pipe in the
trap fixture is white after the grey gunk you see on it in the picture above
gets towelled off. I did the best I could cleaning the thing up without taking
the system apart further, the rubber seal on the top of the trap thread looked
fine, so I screwed it back together and intentionally dumped a full pot of
water in the sink get some pressure and see if there were any leaks. Held
up fine, but I'll be curious to see if the odor problem that comes from under
the sink at odd times will clear up now. As I mentioned, the drain pipe a
little further down the line obviously leaked, there were stains all down
the side, and I was able to tighten up that joint be a full turn or so, so
it was never put together right to start with.
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