12 Plumbing Myths Busted

Updated: May 18, 2024

Sorry to burst your bubble, but you need to stop believing these 10 plumbing myths ASAP!

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Toilet, Flushing Water, close up

Toilets Flush The Other Direction in Australia

Nope, the toilets do not flush in the other direction south of the equator. The idea kind of stems from something known as the Coriolis Effect, which is why cyclones rotate. Cyclones do rotate in opposite directions between the Northern and Southern hemispheres but there is not enough water in toilets to produce the effect. Plus, the direction toilets drain is determined by the jets.

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Ice Cubes Will Sharpen Garbage Disposal Blades

It’s hard to imagine ice could sharpen the “blades” of a garbage disposal but somehow that has gotten perpetuated. Perhaps that’s because people have recommended using ice cubes to clean a disposal. Garbage disposals don’t have blades, but instead have two teeth-like features called impellers that grind any solids into a liquid as the unit spins.

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FH02SEP_02732_003@141% fix a running toilet
Family Handyman

A Brick in the Tank of the Toilet Will Save Money

Some allege that putting a brick in the toilet tank can save water, but doing that can keep your toilet from flushing correctly.

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Hot Water Melts the Grease to Prevent Clogs

Sure, hot water melts the grease and washes it down the drain. But once the liquefied grease hits the pipes, it cools, solidifies and eventually builds up. The grease is a magnet for food bits, lint and hair, eventually clogging the pipe. And those clogs are so far away you can’t reach them with a household snake. Calling in a pro to clear the line will cost you about $150. Cold water, on the other hand, solidifies the grease before it hits the sewer line, so it can float all the way to the city sewer. Cold water also cools the disposer motor, making it last longer. Just hope it doesn’t become one of these 100 mind-boggling plumbing goofs people have done in real life.

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Baby Wipes for Small Messes
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‘Flushable’ Wipes

Those “flushable” baby wipes are one of the main culprits for clogging pipes. They don’t break down the way toilet paper does.

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drain clogged cleaner
Andrea Danti/Shutterstock

Drain Cleaners are Safe

Another plumbing tip, avoid liquid drain cleaners. Liquid drain cleaners are sometimes bad news—they eat away at the pipes. Try a plunger or, better yet, an auger. Don’t have either? Here’s how to unclog a toilet without a plunger.

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adjust water heater heat

A Water Heater Will Explode If You Hear it Rumbling

Your water heater is most likely not going to explode. More likely it needs some cleaning. A rumbling or gurgling sound is typically caused by an excessive build up in sediment inside the tank. The sound comes from steam bubbles rising through the sediment. Failure to address the issue could lead to premature failure of your water heater.

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clogged sink drains
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Where to Find Your Ring

Don’t panic if your ring goes down the sink, there’s a quick retrieval option. Set a bucket below the P-trap and remove the clean-out. It could save you a call to the plumber. But if it isn’t there, you might need to call the plumber to prevent compounding the problem by trying to fish it out.

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Flushing all the Toilets in a Skyscraper Will Destroy It

Well, engineers are one step ahead of you on this one and actually consider the possibility of all the toilets flushing at the same time. Because of that, buildings are designed to withstand such an event. There are typically several plumbing systems within a building, thus reducing the possibility of any failure.

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New ceramic toilet bowl near light wall
New Africa/Shutterstock

In-Tank Cleaners Aren’t Harmful

It’s a wonder why these are even around, maybe because they complement grandma’s hair so well. Some drop-ins can cause toilet parts to wear out.

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galvanized pipes
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A Dielectric Union is all I Need to Protect my Water Heater from Electrolysis/ Galvanic Action

Dielectric unions help, but don’t stop galvanic corrosion. Dielectric nipples do better.

Anytime you join two dissimilar metals (such as copper and galvanized pipe) and add water, you create a flow of electrons (electrolysis or galvanic action), that eventually destroys the galvanized pipe. For decades, plumbers have used an insulated dielectric union to prevent the damage. A dielectric union does provide a small measure of protection. But it’s not enough to prevent the complete failure of the galvanized pipe (top photo). Lab tests show that a 3-in. dielectric nipple reduces current flow by 85 percent over the use of a dielectric union alone. So, next time you install a water heater, install a dielectric nipple in addition to a dielectric union. Buy them at a plumbing supply store or contact the manufacturer (perfectioncorp.com) to find a local distributor.

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unclog kitchen sink
Family Handyman

Using a Plunger to Clear a Sink Clog

You can use a plunger to clear a sink clog but not if you’ve poured drain cleaners into the sink. Do not use a plunger on a clogged sink if you’ve poured drain cleaner down the drain because the chemicals can cause serious burns as they’re pushed back up through the sink by the plunger.