Plumbing hacks for tenants are vital DIY measures to learn. Plumbing issues can happen at the most inopportune time when renting a home. Of course, you can always call your landlord or the handyperson, but what if they’re unavailable because it’s New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, or Thanksgiving weekend?
You’re having guests come over, and suddenly the bathroom sink or toilet clogs up. Or a leaky faucet gets out of hand. Some of these issues can have you at your wit’s end, leaving you with no choice but finding a temporary solution yourself.
Below, we have put together a few plumbing hacks for tenants to use when faced with these minor plumbing mishaps and the landlord or plumber is nowhere in sight. Just click on any of the links below to jump to a particular section.
Fix a leaky faucet in 5 easy steps.
You don’t have to be a certified plumber to fix a leaky faucet. That constant drip can be annoying, but it’s pretty easy to repair with just a few tools:
- Adjustable crescent wrench
- Screwdrivers (having both flathead and Phillips is recommended)
- WD-40 (or any other penetrating oil)
- New washers and O-rings (every home should stock up on these)
Once you have your tools together, here’s how to fix that leak:
- Cut off the water supply. Sinks have knobs underneath for turning off the water. Just turn it to the right (remember righty-tighty, lefty-loosey?) until no water comes out of the open tap.
- The handle knobs on your faucet likely have decorative covers. Take these off to get to the stem. If you have trouble popping the handles off, use your flathead for some leverage. The handle is attached to the stem with a small screw. When you unscrew the handle from the stem, use penetrating oil to loosen it up if it’s too tight.
- Next, remove the faucet’s stem. Use a wrench to loosen the packing nuts holding it in place. Not all sinks are the same, however. Some have a twist-off valve, while others can pop off by pulling or using something like your flathead as a lever. Once you’ve removed the stem, check to ensure the various pieces aren’t damaged.
- Assuming you haven’t seen any damage to this point, you’ve finally come to what is likely the root of the problem—the valve seat. Inside the valve seat is an O-ring and washer, which probably need to be replaced. Ensure the replacement O-ring and washer are the exact sizes as the original. That makes up the watertight seal, and the wrong size will allow water to keep slipping through.
- Once you’ve replaced the O-ring and washer, put back the stem, the packing nut, and the handles. Turn on the water supply and the tap. You can put the decorative handles back on if there’s no leak. That’s it!
Declog a sink in 10 minutes or less.
Everyone gets a clogged bathroom sink from time to time. It’s inevitable, as things like hair, soap, shaving cream, and makeup get rinsed down daily. Fortunately, declogging is pretty straightforward, and everything starts with the same first step—removing the stopper.
You can easily lift most stoppers; however, some will need a little work under the sink to release. A pivot rod holds the plug in place and is typically secured with a nut. Remove the nut, and you should be able to slide the stopper off the pivot rod.
The bottom of the stopper will be nasty, so a wad of paper towels or a plastic bag will come in handy for all the gunk you pull out!
Now let’s talk about the various methods to unclog the sink:
METHOD #1: Bent Wire Hanger
Chances are you have a wire clothes hanger you don’t need. However, it is a perfect tool to maneuver down the drain and hook the gunk.
Cut along one section of the hanger with a wire cutter and straighten out the bent angles. Next, bend one end into a tiny loop or hook. You want it to be small enough not to get caught in the drain but sufficient to capture the gunk.
Holding the handle, stick the hook into the drain and start fishing around. Use a flashlight to find the clog quickly. Once you’ve secured the obstruction, pull up and dispose of the gunk in a small plastic bag or paper towel. Dive back in a few more times until the hook comes out clean. Then, flush some hot water down to clear out any remaining gunk.
(Note: You may want to put the stopper/pivot rod back in place first to ensure you don’t splash water out of the drain pipe.)
METHOD #2: Vinegar and Baking Soda
Some people love this method, while others have yet to have as much success. It mainly depends on what is clogging up your sink. This method may work if hair strands are the culprit, but the bent wire hanger will probably work better.
If you decide to give it a try, here’s what you’ll need:
- 1/2 cup of baking soda
- 2 cups of white vinegar (heated up)
- 2 cups of boiling water
Pour the baking soda down the drain, followed by the vinegar. It will fizzle and bubble up, indicating that it’s eating away whatever is causing the obstruction. Wait 1-2 minutes, then pour the hot water down the drain.
If a horrible smell comes out, squeeze a few drops of lemon juice down the drain after you’ve rinsed out the baking soda and vinegar.
METHOD #3: Plunger
Most people only think of using a plunger for the toilet, but it can work wonders on a clogged bathroom sink. The important thing is to plug the overflow drain at the top of the sink with a wet washcloth. Then, put some petroleum jelly on the bottom of the plunger, where it touches the sink. These will help create an airtight seal so the plunger can do its job.
Run some water down the drain and place the plunger over the hole. Use the plunger several times quickly to suck up the clog, then grab the clog with a pair of pliers. Next, try rerunning the water—if it’s still slow to drain, repeat the process.
Unclog a toilet without a plunger.
Undoubtedly, a plunger is the best way to clear a clogged toilet. But you may not have one on hand, or your old plunger just gave up. You cannot rush to the store since it’s Friday night and you’re hosting a party. Here are several ways to get that toilet bowl flushing seamlessly in no time.
Note, however, that these methods are mainly for removing clogs due to toilet paper or human waste. If a toy or any foreign object is causing the problem, you may need to call your plumber or wait until you can get that plunger after all!
METHOD #1: Hot Water and Liquid Soap
Heat some water. It doesn’t need to be boiling— just about as hot as you’d like your coffee or tea. Once it’s ready, squirt some soap (or dishwasher detergent) into the bowl. Then pour in hot water and let it sit for a few minutes. Try flushing, and everything should go right down!
That works because the hot water primarily breaks up the toilet paper. The soap then helps everything slide down without clumping together again. In general, this is the best way to go. It’s clean, uses stuff you should have around the house, and works well.
METHOD #2: Vinegar and Baking Soda
Since these are also items you should have around the home, this may be another good option. And if it works on the sink, it should also work on the toilet.
First, pour a cup of baking soda into the bowl. Follow it with a cup of vinegar, and let it sit for a few minutes. Finally, pour some hot water and try to flush the toilet. Just make sure you leave that bathroom fan on! The vinegar may smell worse than what caused the clog in the first place.
METHOD #3: Wire Hanger
If you have a wire hanger, break it up as you did for the clogged toilet sink. Bendable aluminum or metal rods will also work. This time, however, wrap an old rag around one end and secure it with a rubber band. It can help to make a small hook at the tip and tie the end of the rag around it to ensure it doesn’t slip off.
Next, throw on some rubber gloves and insert the end with the rag into the bowl. Push, pull, and twist around until the clog clears.
So there you have it—quick and easy tricks that can solve common plumbing issues in the home. If none of these work, your best bet is to wait it out and call your landlord or the plumber. Good luck!