Kitchen Sink Advice From the Plumber King

By Steven V. Philips –

plumb3Our kids married well. I’d say this to guarantee their future visits to me at the Home even if not true, but they really did. Our designer son has a wife who is his lethal sales manager and a fantastic Vietnamese cook. Our daughter’s husband fosters her belief that she’s a Princess, though her subjects are small and diaper-wearing.

The Princess does has a perk. Her father-in-law is a plumber. Who lives four miles away. This on-call 24/7 relative has re-piped three new bathroom faucets/sinks, probably installed three new toilets, I think a new sump pump, and in the kitchen: a new gas line, new sink/faucet, and dishwasher lines. Plus frozen lines and the outside irrigation system and that’s at this address. Wonder if he has time for paying customers?

DSCN0030Never one to free-load advice myself, oh no, we got onto his “should be banned forever” subject – food disposals. Oh true, yes. And when Ron becomes The Plumber King of the world we’ll all revert to a garbage pail under the sink. Everything but the tiniest bits, that you can’t pick up anyway, go into a closed-top can under the sink. And onward to the compost bin outside. I already do this; I’m a loyal subject.

OK, you non-gardening condo owners on the seventh floor, maybe composting ain’t gonna happen, but Ron wishes you to own that can anyway. Limit donating to your mechanical piggy, the little soft mushy stuff that virtually melts. Cotton candy, Nutella covered crusts, marshmallows and a smathering of mashed potato.

More no-no-noses? Slip-sliding fat away down the drain will create a slathering slip-coating of your pipes to the street!. (Paper-towel wipe the olive oil out of the pan, post-cooking, and into the trash.) Wanna mess up your disposal’s bearings? Flop in coffee grounds! Try bones. Or even worse, egg shells. Then these slowly linger along in the pipes showing totally bad behavior, punishable by the Plugdrain Police. And no, ice cubes do not sharpen disposal blades.

DSCN0026More advice?: “You might think that if your sink gets plugged, or the drain runs slowly, running the disposal would help clear it. Nope. This will compact your semi-blockage into a mega-blockage.” Since I thought otherwise, you now know why I’d flunk the plumbers exam.

And even more: “If the kitchen sink drains slowly, please, please don’t fill it up again to demonstrate it for me when I arrive, unless you like paying me to watch reruns.” Really, he is going to believe your eye-witness report of the earlier misery. Seldom are plugged drains feigned just to chat up the plumber.

Ron’s absolute favorite scenario, after four hundred and twenty-one months of clogged drains, goes as follows: “I arrive on schedule and find a this missive taped to the door: “Had to run out. Will be back soon to let you in”. Soon? Today? This week? Alternate note: “Something came up last minute. Will call to reschedule.” How do you spell inconsiderate?

Then we really got down to the sillies after I asked: “What else might have caused you to consider becoming an electrician?” Here’s a bit more wisdom based on years of always being downstream of problems and a lifetime supply of plungers.

DSCN0032“Coins are good for vending machines. Maybe still good at toll booths. But disposals really don’t work with coins.” Side advice: When you run your food-piggy, keep your finger on the switch so when you hear crunching utensils, bottle caps, chunks of bone, rings, etc. you can STOP IT instantly so maybe, maybe, avoid compounding your felony. Then pull the disposal’s plug (duh) and only THEN try to fish out the offender. Failing retrieval, you call the plumber. If you don’t unplug, dial 911 first for your wounds-to-be, then call the plumber.

Finally. “Please, please don’t stop me in the supermarket saying, ‘the next time you’re in my neighborhood, stop by. I need you to (fill in the blank)___________”.  My bet is there are zero plans of his randomly zipping by that house.

My debriefing of Ron will continue next month. Expect a quiz.

Thanks to Ron Kushner who has been a master plumber in Eastern Massachusetts for 420 months. He also has the patience of Job.


12 thoughts on “Kitchen Sink Advice From the Plumber King”

  1. I have stopped mis-using the garbage disposal! Sounds like a lucky girl to have such a great father-in-law. Great article too!

  2. Sounds like a laundry list of freebies for your son-in-law, but I’m guessing he didn’t go into the business…probably became a desk jockey. Ever stuffed a diaper into the in-sink-erator?

  3. What about disposal odor? Our grind-it-up machine has a smell and even after using the lemon scented balls it still smells. I’ve tried hot water and even boiling water to flush it out. Any suggestions from your pal-in-law Ron?

  4. Would probably be handy married to the plumber or is it like the shoemaker’s children! Always enjoy your articles.

  5. I certainly can attest to the fact that an ‘in house’ plumber is far more valuable then any in house doctor,lawyer or computer geek, although possibly trumped by living next to the Barefoot Contessa.
    420 months, that must add up to a lot of ‘dreck’
    Sir Thomas Crapper would be proud of Professor Philips.
    Prof, nailed it again!

  6. Finally Mr Philips has tackled a subject I can totally relate to. In 2002 we remodeled our house and needless to say, The kitchen provided us with more roadblocks then the rest of the house combined. I was insistent that the disposal be of sufficient power to handle all kitchen waste as well as outdoor yard waste,grandchildrens toys left behind and any other trash left lying around. We bought the biggest and toughest that was available.Unfortunately,the discharge line is on the opposite side of the house from the waste pipe discharge. As a result,The drop on the pipe run is very slight. The outcome of this is I can no longer put the things in the disposal I thought I could.Never a one to be out flumoxed by a simple machine, I remover the brute, had it bronzed, and it now sits on the mantle in the family room. My wife thinks it’s cute and she puts plastic flowers in it. It’s amazing how well we live without it. Thank you Mr Philips

  7. Dorothy Somerville

    The timing of your article on garbage disposals hits the nail on the head! That is, our head, not yours, btw. We are selling our villa and of course something had to go before that closing arrives, and it was the unsinkable, but not unstoppable Insinkerator which is only 4 years old. Too late we are learning that coffee grounds are not the best way to “clear” the stubborn, noisy machine, nor are eggshells.( I have a wonderful recipe for eggs which we favor if anyone would like to have it.) And coffee is a must most mornings. So here we’ve been, stubborn couple, trying to get the darn thing going,by pressing the resart., hearing a hum, sometimes a buzz, nary a tune)! Is your daughter’s father in law coming to visit soon?

    Great piece….Mr….you know who

  8. Dear Perky:

    Once knew an art teacher, oddly with your surname, who summered in the Berkshires.
    Wonder if that’s in your neighborhood?
    She also had a mega-disposal but she had it installed in her garden bench to pulverize her garbage into a mush that would compost quickly.

  9. Above comment got cut short before my last line…which was:

    Had you done this, you would have saved much aggregation but then, you’d never have that unique vase….

  10. Ann Rhodes. London.

    An interesting read as usual. As you can see we live in London and do NOT have a waste disposal (our plumber has enough work dealing with “loos” and bathrooms etc.) but when we are in the USA, and we were warned early on not to put coffee grounds or egg shells into the disposal, we stopped using it
    altogether, except for the odd ice cubes, to keep things moving.
    Thank you Mr. Philips, do I know you?

  11. Elmer:

    In answer to your problem, the odor could be due to a build-up of yucky stuff on the outlet side of the disposal, a crime obviously committed prior to reading this enlightening article. Elimination requires dismantling, cleaning and then reassembling the piping between the disposal outlet and plumbing trap (which is the “U” shaped thing in the drain line).

    No, I did not make this up. However this professional advice arrived written in the Massachusetts dialect, which I’ve attempted to translate. Your bill in English is in the mail.

    Thank you for your reading and comment.


  12. Oh SVP you are preaching to the choir! As a condo Board member I have learned from several plumbers that those disposals are trouble with a capital “T”! Great advice and I hope the word spreads.
    Seems to me that somewhere in modern times of plumbing the users of sinks and toilets have decided that everything goes! Truth is it shouldn’t and it doesn’t flow.
    After having been on a sailboat in the Caribbean recently it is a common practice to not flush toilet paper on the boat or on land in public facilities. Good practice to avoid clogs.
    As for the smelly sink. I use a diluted mixture of bleach water. Fill the sink with the mixture then pull the plug. If that doesn’t do it spray the combo in the disposal and let it sit before flushing with water.
    Love my compost bin too!
    Thanks Mr Greater Advice Philips

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