Preventive maintenance is the key to avoiding serious plumbing problems.

Large-scale plumbing issues should always be handled by a professional, but there are plenty of simple techniques and procedures you can use to perform basic preventive maintenance. Consider the following tips for ensuring your plumbing system is functioning to its full capacity:

• Routinely check under sinks and around toilets for moisture or small leaks. Test your toilet for leakage by adding a small amount of red food coloring to the tank and returning in a few hours to check it. If the water is colored red, water is seeping through from the tank, which usually means you need to replace the tank ball.
• Remove and clean your faucet aerators annually to ensure an even flow of water.
• Drain about a gallon of water from your water heater tank every three months to help remove the sediment that accumulates on the bottom. Also, periodically inspect your water heater burner—the flame should be colored blue with yellow tips. If it’s mostly yellow or the area is sooty, your flue may be clogged, which is a dangerous situation.
• To help prevent clogged bathtub drains, fit them with a strainer that catches hair and soap chips. Clean these strainers regularly.
• Don’t rinse fats or cooking oils down your kitchen sink. Liquid fats can solidify in the cold pipes and create clogs.
• Always try to manually clear drains using a pipe snake or other instrument. Chemical cleaning agents should only be used as a last resort. If you have to use them, make sure you follow the directions carefully to avoid potential hazards.
• You can maximize the lifespan of your garbage disposal by using cold water when running it, making sure not to overload it, never disposing of things like bones or corn husks, and avoiding using caustic drain cleaners.
• Have stainless steel braided hoses installed on your washing machine. The traditional black rubber hoses found on washing machines are notorious for unexpectedly bursting—usually when no one is at home—and causing massive leaks of up to five gallons per minute.

Know the basics of your main water shut-off valve
In an emergency situation, this valve will shut off the water to your entire house. Make sure you close and open your shut-off valve periodically to ensure it’s not stuck in the “open” position. If you’re leaving your home for a few days or more, shut off your water main to prevent any damage if a leak occurs while you’re away.