How to Unclog Your Toilet Without a Plunger

man fixing toiletAlthough plunging is the usual technique for clogged toilets, you may be wondering what to do if you find yourself with a clog on your hands and no plunger in the house. Fortunately, our plumbers in Laguna Niguel have some helpful tips you can try to eliminate the problem until you can visit the hardware store. The following are some ways to unclog a toilet without a plunger:

Stop the Water Flow

Before implementing any of the tips outlined below, you must stop the water flow to the toilet. This is easily accomplished by removing the lid and pulling up the float. After you have done this, turn the water off completely by using the shut off valve, which is typically located at the base of the toilet.

Slowly Pour Hot Water Into the Bowl

A few cups at a time, pour hot water into the toilet bowl to coax clogs to dissipate. When using this method, however, our plumbers in Laguna Niguel caution that the water should only be hot, rather than boiling, as boiling water may cause damage. If the toilet bowl is approaching its capacity, you should first find a cup, bucket or other device to lower the water level to avoid the risk of an overflow. After this is accomplished, fill a cup with very hot water and slowly pour it into the bowl. Wait a few minutes and repeat this action and the water should eventually help to eliminate the clog.

Add Shampoo or Dish Soap to the Hot Water

Adding a surfactant, such as dish soap, shampoo, or even small pieces of bar soap to the hot water can enhance its ability to break up the clog. First, remove as much water as possible from the toilet bowl, then add a generous amount of soap or dish detergent. Next, pour in the hot water in the manner described above. This combination usually helps lubricate the pipes and the clog itself so that the water can once again move freely. 

Remove the Clog Manually With a Wire Hanger

Similar to the way a plumber Laguna Niguel “snakes” a toilet, you can physically remove a clog by bending a wire hanger into the appropriate shape and pushing it through the clog to break it up and get it moving. You may wish to follow up this step with the use of a toilet brush. Use the brush to “plunge” the toilet with a few forceful pumps, similar to the way you would use a traditional plunger. If the other remedies had a positive effect, this may be all the pressure you need to completely break up the clog and move it through the pipes. 

Once the clog is eliminated and water is draining freely, turn the valve back on and flush the toilet. If soaps or shampoos were used, flush it a few more times to remove any remaining residue.  Do not forget to invest in a plunger or two so that you are prepared if you face a clog in the future. Finally, do not hesitate to contact one of our expert plumbers in Laguna Niguel for a regular service call to ensure your entire plumbing system is in good working order.

Seven Ways to Pet Proof Your Plumbing

If you have any pets, whether large or small, you know they can damage various things in your home if you’re not careful. Our master plumbers in Laguna Niguel will tell you that pipes and fixtures are no exceptions to this rule. However, many homeowners are unaware of how to “pet proof” their plumbing. Fortunately, it is not as difficult as it may at first seem. The following are seven ways to protect your plumbing and avoid costly repairs:

Take Bath Time Precautions 

Fur and mud are a deadly combination for your plumbing system. For this reason, when it is time to bathe your dog, “pre-rinse” your furry friend while you are still outdoors in order to eliminate the worst of the muck. If washing your dog outside is not a viable option, at least wipe or rinse your pooch prior to placing him or her in the bathtub. You can also use a strainer or drain stopper to catch leftover grime, mud and hair. 

Cover Exposed Pipes

Similar to children, pets are very curious. Dogs and cats love to pry open cabinet doors to find new and interesting things to chew on. Because you do not want their newest toy to be your plumbing system, cover up any exposed pipes or wires to prevent a costly trip to the vet or an expensive service call from a professional.

Store Chemicals out of Reach

If you have children, you likely have all your cleaning formulas already stored out of reach. If not, it is time to think of your pets as children, as they could make themselves extremely sick if they partake of these non-food substances. For instance, cats have a tendency to scrape their faces against inflexible items, and they could inadvertently get cleaner residue near their eyes if they push their face along the top of a bottle of bleach or other cleaning agent. Always keep these substances on high shelves or locked away in a cabinet.

Cover Floor Drains

If you have small animals, such as hamsters or a tiny puppy or kitten, be aware that they can easily fall into floor drains. If this happens, retrieving your pet unharmed can be a costly undertaking. Make sure all drains in your home are securely covered to avoid such an accident. Our plumbers in Laguna Niguel can give you tips on how to do this effectively if you are unsure.

Hazards of Digging

Even though dogs are born to dig, this habit can lead to problems in your underground piping system, as certain water and sewer lines are a mere 18 inches beneath the ground. Any large dog can eventually tackle such a digging excursion and quickly find exposed pipes. At this point, damage can quickly occur, and costly repairs may be necessary. For this reason, it is wise to contact the appropriate person or office to determine exactly where your pipes are, and subsequently make sure Rover is trained not to dig in those areas.

Never Flush Cat Litter

Although numerous cat litter commercials claim their products are flushable, many companies also made those claims about “flushable wipes,” the latter of which caused many homeowners problems in the past. Never flush cat litter, as it builds up over time and can clog and clump and eventually damage your plumbing system. Flush only waste and toilet paper and you shouldn’t have any problems.

Sometimes, despite all your preventative planning, your family pet may cause a plumbing problem. If this is the case, contact one of our plumbers in Laguna Niguel who can quickly remedy the situation and get your system back in top-notch working order.

Helpful Tips on Maintaining Your Water Heater

man working on a water heaterOur plumbers can verify that your water heater is an essential part of your home, and needs specific care to ensure it performs properly on a regular basis. Even though the average lifespan of a water heater is a little over ten years, there is a good possibility it will not make it that long if proper maintenance is neglected. Below are some helpful tips you can easily implement to keep your water heater functioning at peak efficiency for as long as possible:

Check the Temperature

Paying attention to your water heater’s thermostat is a simple action that can pay off significantly in the future. This is because certain manufacturers preset the water heater’s temperature to 140°F and consumers never change this initial setting. However, our plumbers recommend setting the temperature at approximately 120°F, as this temperature is sufficient for virtually any household. On the other hand, elevated temperatures can result in corrosion in the pipes, accelerated mineral buildup, and even scalding. Additionally, the lower temperature of 120°F goes a long way toward helping you save money on your energy bills and may also prevent tank damage over time.

Flush the Tank on a Regular Basis

You may experience water line clogs and a reduction in the energy efficiency of your water heater if sediment and debris are allowed to build up in the tank. Therefore, you should flush the unit twice a year to prevent these problems. However, it is only necessary to flush out approximately 25% of the tank. This is easily accomplished by shutting off the cold water supply, attaching a garden hose to the drain valve and then allowing the water to flow until it runs clear.

Test the Pressure Relief Valve

You should conduct a pressure relief valve test regularly in order to clear out debris and check the unit’s pressure. This is done by simply raising and lowering the heater’s test lever. When the lever is raised and lowered, a burst of hot water is dispensed into the drain pipe unless the valve is not functioning properly. If the valve is not releasing a substantial burst each time it is tested, call one of our professional plumbers who can give you an estimate on having a new one installed. 

Insulate the Heater and the Pipes

Insulating the pipes and the heater itself is also a good way to protect the unit and increase its lifespan. However, you should never cover the tops of gas or oil heaters. If you are unsure about how to complete this task or any of the others mentioned above, always contact an expert  plumber.

Knowing When to Call a Professional

A water heater is a somewhat complex appliance that requires regular maintenance and attention to keep it running properly. If you discover an issue you know you cannot solve on your own, reach out to one of our licensed plumbers and enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing the task is in the hands of a professional.


How Do I Replace A Showerhead?

removable shower headThere is no reason to keep showering under an old, unattractive showerhead. If you want to save on your monthly water bill and improve the look of your bathroom, consider replacing your current showerhead with an energy efficient, low flow model or other new fixture of your choice. However, even though showerhead replacement is not a difficult process, mistakes are always a possibility. Therefore, following the advice of a professional is important. Below is a step-by-step procedure recommended by our expert plumbers in Laguna Niguel:

Removing the Old Showerhead

Your old showerhead should be removed with a wrench, but in order to avoid twisting the fixture and breaking it off the wall, keep a tight grip on the shower arm while completing this task. Inspect the shower arm threads and remove any old plumber’s tape, defective gaskets, and all dirt and debris that may have built up over time. After this, you should use Teflon or plumber’s tape to wrap the threads of the pipe.

Replacing the Shower Arm

If, upon removing the old showerhead, you discover that the shower arm is leaking or damaged, our plumbers in Laguna Niguel recommend following these steps to replace it:

Take a firm grip on the shower arm and unscrew it in a counterclockwise direction. Find the female fitting within the wall and clean out any debris or dust that may have coagulated in or around the opening. After this, wrap plumbing tape around the male end of the shower arm and screw in the new arm using a clockwise motion. Do not overtighten the arm, as this may cause it to break. 

Installing the New Showerhead

If the model you selected is a fixed-mount, it can typically be screwed on by hand. Simply position the new showerhead on the arm and turn it clockwise until it is secure. If you plan to install a hand-held model, screw the new shower head mount to the shower arm in a clockwise direction and then attach the shower hose to the mount. Regardless of which model you choose, you should closely follow the manufacturer’s instructions, which will provide additional details.

Our plumbers recommend checking for seal leaks at this time. If leaks are discovered, wrap the area with Teflon tape and tighten it carefully with an adjustable wrench until the leak stops.

Rain Showerheads

If you are considering a rain showerhead, make sure you find out in advance if your shower is large enough to accommodate its dimensions. You must also angle it appropriately when mounting it onto the arm. This is because water will only come out on one side if it is installed incorrectly. If you have concerns or questions with regard to showerhead replacement or want to have the job completed by a professional, contact one of our plumbers in Laguna Niguel who will be happy to assist you with this project or any other plumbing task.

Ten Tips to Help You Avoid Expensive Plumbing Repairs

Man tightening pipe with wrenchLike most homeowners, you probably need the services of a professional plumber from time to time. However, there are several things you can do to head off plumbing problems in advance. Below are 10 tips to help you avoid costly repairs: 

  1. Never Place Garbage in Drains

You should never put vegetable or fruit peelings, bacon grease, coffee grounds, starchy foods like potatoes and rice, or any type of food debris down your kitchen sink. Substances of this kind are virtually guaranteed to clog your pipes. When in doubt, refer to the manufacturer’s manual for your disposal to know exactly what the unit can and cannot handle.

  1. Keep a Plunger on Hand

Having a high-quality plunger on hand is one of the best things you can do to avoid clogs in sinks, toilets and drains. Well worth the investment, such plungers can save the day and head off a serious clog in virtually any drain in your home.

  1. Never Ignore Leaks

Although it is tempting to take the approach of “ignore it and it will go away,” you should never turn a blind eye toward leaks. As many as eight gallons of water may be wasted per day due to a leaky faucet, while a leaky toilet can waste as much as 200 gallons of water each day. It is much less expensive to call a professional plumber in Laguna Niguel and have the problem resolved.

  1. Beware of Pipe Damage When Doing DIY Projects

If you’re making renovations and subsequently planning to pound nails or drill holes in the floors, walls or ceilings, you must first make sure there are no drainage or supply pipes close to your work area. If there are, it is easy to puncture them accidentally, resulting in a hefty repair bill.

  1. Beware of “Flushable” Items

Never use your toilet bowl as a garbage can. Your system can easily become backed up if you flush items such as baby wipes or feminine products, even if they are advertised as “flushable.” To be on the safe side, flush only toilet paper. 

  1. Unclog Your Sink with a Vacuum 

Use a wet dry vacuum to dislodge clogs caused by objects such as a small child’s toy or a toothbrush. This is because a plunger will work against you with regard to this problem: it will simply push the object deeper into the drain. For this reason, it is much more effective to suck the object out with a vacuum.

  1. Learn How to Use Plumber’s Tape

Also referred to as Teflon tape, plumber’s tape is primarily used to seal pipe threads around fittings and joints, and ultimately prevent leaks until repairs can be made. As a general rule, wrap three layers of plumber’s tape around the pipe to seal it properly. 

  1. Avoid the Urge to Over-Tighten Fittings

Over-tightening fittings and connections is a common mistake made by many homeowners. It eventually leads to stripped screws and broken bolts. Hand-tight is sufficient for virtually any type of plumbing fitting, so avoid putting unnecessary pressure on bolts and screws.

  1. How to Check for Leaks

Even professional plumbers in Laguna Niguel occasionally overlook small leaks. Therefore, after completing any type of plumbing project, run water through the system to check for leaks. 

  1. Locate Shut-Off Valves

Finally, always locate the main shut-off valve for your home. Getting acquainted with sewer line access points is also a good idea. If you need help with finding these locations, professional plumbers can assist you. 


Why Sewer Lateral Inspection is Essential Before Buying a House

Sewer Pipes with Root ClogInspections are commonplace when someone is planning to purchase a home. However, the sewer line is often overlooked by prospective buyers, even though sewer repair is one of the most expensive projects you may encounter as homeowner.

Obviously, the best time to discover if a sewer line has been damaged or needs replacement is before you purchase a home, not after the fact when it is too late to negotiate. Fortunately, there is a foolproof way to have the sewer system properly evaluated, and that is to schedule a sewer camera inspection with a plumber in Laguna Niguel.

Benefits of Sewer Lateral Inspection

There are numerous benefits associated with a sewer lateral inspection, especially if you are considering a dwelling that is over 20 years old. Such an inspection gives the plumber a substantial amount of information about the condition of your sewer line. This information includes:

  • The kind of material from which the pipe is made
  • The pipe’s overall condition
  • The presence of mineral deposit buildup or sludge in the pipe
  • Root intrusions
  • Failed connections
  • Breaks or cracks in the pipe
  • The length and depth of your sewer line

Knowing if the aforementioned problems or other issues are present is imperative before purchasing your new home. Imagine buying a house only to discover weeks later that sewer system problems have been present all along and now you are stuck with the repair bill.

You should also avoid falling into the trap of assuming that just because a home is relatively new, sewer issues will not be present.  A camera inspection may expose the fact that even a sewer line that is only ten years old may already be damaged by roots or clogged with debris. This may be due to the builder using cheap materials or the result of faulty installation. However, it is never wise to assume that any home is immune from sewer line problems.

How a Sewer Line Inspection is Performed

A sewer camera is an innovative piece of technology. Such a device operates with fiber-optic technology, similar to that of a closed-circuit TV. In most cases, pipes must have a minimum diameter of three inches in order for the camera to safely pass through to the other end.

When it is determined that the pipe is the appropriate diameter, the plumbing technician inserts a snake attached to a small video camera and pushes it through the pipe. The preferred starting point for the process is your sewer line’s clean-out, which is usually four inches in height and sticks up through the ground in the front or at the side of the home. It typically has a cap on the top, which is obviously removed for the inspection. From there, the camera travels all the way to the septic tank or baffle and the images can be watched on the monitor.

As the camera travels along, the plumbing technician comments on a variety of things, such as the condition of the pipe itself and whether the sewer line is clogged or clear. It is a simple process that can uncover a wealth of information that is imperative to you as a prospective home buyer.

A house is a significant investment. For this reason, we urge you to listen to our plumbers in Laguna Niguel, and take the time to schedule a sewer camera inspection can assist you to make an informed decision and ultimately help you spend your money wisely.

Helpful Tips to Avoid Clogged Drains

Man repairing sinkDrain clogs are quite common and can occur in your home every now and then, depending on a variety of factors. We realize that preventing or planning in advance for plumbing issues is not always possible. However, because drains are such a crucial part of daily life, you typically notice it immediately when one begins to clog. Our plumbers in Laguna Niguel have responded to several prevalent questions that numerous homeowners have asked about drain cleaning:

What is that “gurgling” sound when I flush the toilet?

We’ve covered this topic before in our blog regarding common plumbing noises and their meaning.

A gurgling noise is a telltale sign that a clog or plumbing ventilation problem may be occurring before the drain is vented. Once you hear this particular sound or notice water beginning to bubble in the shower when the toilet is flushed, call a plumber in Laguna Niguel without delay, as you likely have a drain problem underway.

How do I get rid of that foul odor coming from my garbage disposal?

Fortunately, you can implement an effective home remedy to resolve this problem. Simply place ice cubes in the disposal and turn it on for approximately 30 seconds. This helps eliminate debris and buildup on your disposal’s blades. After the ice cubes have been run through the system, flush it with cold water to remove any left over debris.

You may also find it helpful to cut small pieces of a lemon to run through your disposal as well.

Should I use a liquid drain cleaner for a clogged sink or slow drain?

Our plumbers in Laguna NIguel have cautioned property owners before about the dangers of chemical drain cleaners. We know that it’s tempting to buy a $5 solution to your clogged drain — but using these types of drain cleaners could potentially cost you a fortune in the future. The chemicals contained in the formula cannot effectively remove the clog in its entirety. In addition, your pipes may sustain damage from these same chemicals. In certain cases, the lining of your pipes may erode if you overuse liquid drain cleaner.

What are some day to day measures I can take to prevent drain clogs?

Garbage Disposal

Minimizing the amount of food particles that go into your garbage disposal is a good place to begin to prevent the unit from becoming clogged. Our plumbers advise our clients to avoid putting starchy foods, grease, and fibrous or stringy vegetables down the disposal.

Sink and Bathtub

The easiest way to prevent clogs in a bathtub or sink is to make sure you always have strainers in place. The latter stop unwanted materials, such as hair, from traveling into and clogging the drain.


Always follow the golden rule of flushing only human waste and toilet tissue down the commode. You should even avoid placing “flushable” wipes in the toilet bowl, as many are not actually flushable after all.

If you have a question that you would like us to answer on our blog, reach out to our plumbers in Laguna Niguel at info@murphyandsonsplumbing.com.

How to Prevent Mold Growth in Your Home

microscopic moldMold is one of the most common problems homeowners face each year, particularly those who live in warm climates. Most plumbers would agree that mold is also a frequent issue in homes that have suffered water damage, whether the latter was major or minor. This defacing substance is not only unsightly, it is also associated with health hazards.

Common Mold Hosts

Many materials provide a breeding ground for mold, such as the cellulose found in drywall. However, moisture of some kind must be present for such growth to occur. Often, this irksome substance begins growing in damp areas, such as bathrooms, laundry rooms, cellars and kitchens. Homes that have sustained moisture damage are especially susceptible to mold as well.

The Importance of Preventing Mold Growth

Preventing mold growth is a vital task for any homeowner. There are several reasons for this, including the following:

Damage to the Home

Mold is ugly and can ruin almost any surface through discoloration. Although some people resort to painting over mold, this does nothing to remedy the situation. If you try this, you will quickly find that it eventually resurfaces, resulting in the same problems as before.

Health Hazards Associated with Mold

Mold can also lead to health problems, whether mild or severe. Symptoms of mold exposure can include sneezing, itchy eyes, and a runny nose, or more severe problems, such as laborious breathing or continuous coughing. Even memory impairment, headaches and chronic fatigue are now attributed to mold exposure. Although not all individuals are sensitive to mold spores, those suffering from diseases such as asthma or COPD may experience serious exacerbations of their symptoms when mold is present.

A Difficult Problem to Remedy

If mold growth is left unchecked, it proliferates at a very rapid pace and nothing stops the process until the source of moisture is removed. This means that you should pay special attention to leaking pipes or other problems that may create a constant source of moisture in your dwelling. Contact a plumber in Placentia immediately if you suspect such issues are present.

Recognizing Mold

It is essential to understand that not all mold can be seen with the naked eye, but the following signs are good indicators that mold is present:

  • Wall or paneling discoloration
  • Smell of mildew coming from walls or other areas
  • Warped wood
  • Peeling or cracked paint
  • Loosening of drywall tape
  • Ceiling stains
  • Black stains on bathroom or kitchen tiles
  • Presence of respiratory problems allergies among those living in the home

When To Seek Professional Assistance

With the exception of mild problems, attempting to handle mold remediation without professional help is usually a bad idea. In doing so, you may inadvertently make the problem worse. For instance, you may disturb dormant spores, which will subsequently spread the mold to new areas of your home.

Additionally, it is unlikely that you have access to the appropriate protective gear, and therefore may expose yourself to potential health hazards. Because of these and other factors, mold remediation is best placed in the hands of a professional. If you suspect a moisture or mold problem in your home, contact a licensed plumber in Placentia as soon as possible to evaluate the situation.

How to Avoid Common Plumbing Problems

Man works on pipe with wrenchLearning how to prevent plumbing problems such as leaks, clogged drains, and burst pipes is the easiest way to avoid costly repairs. Below are some tips to help you identify plumbing issues before they become major problems:

Identifying Toilet Leaks

Leaking toilets are not uncommon. However, identifying a leak early can save you a substantial amount of money on repairs. If you think a leak may be underway, pour a bit of food coloring into the tank and if it shows up the next morning in the bowl, the flush valve should be replaced. If you cannot identify the leak, call a local plumber as soon as possible.

Kitchen Sink Clogs

Grease, cooking oil and food particles can quickly clog the pipes under your kitchen sink, leading to potentially serious problems. Fortunately, using strainers to catch waste and regularly flushing the drain with boiling water and dish detergent are great ways to prevent clogs of this kind.

Clogged Bathroom Drains

Bathroom drains can easily become stopped up, but there are ways to prevent a major backup. For example, try clearing the drain with a wet-dry vacuum. This is a handy trick that is much more effective and less time-consuming than using an auger–also referred to as a “snake.”

Plumbing Problems in the Laundry Room

The rubber connection hoses on your washing machine sometimes become damaged and burst. This obviously creates a flooded laundry room, which can lead to serious damage, especially if you do not notice it immediately. Thankfully, this problem can be avoided by regularly checking hoses for blisters and cracks. You may also want to consider replacing the hoses with steel models, the latter of which are not susceptible to the aforementioned problems.

Water Heater Breakdowns

A water heater typically has a life expectancy of up to 20 years. Nevertheless, such units do eventually wear out and major damage can occur if serious leaks take place unexpectedly. Checking the water heater at regular intervals for signs of leakage or rust is the best way to spot potential trouble areas and give you time to contact a plumber in Placentia before a major disaster occurs.

Replacing Old Pipes

Pipes made from obsolete materials are major trouble sources. This is because they can crack or become invaded by roots. Even steel pipes are prone to internal rusting, which presents another set of problems. Instead of waiting for a leak to occur, consider having a professional evaluate the condition of your old pipes to determine whether or not they need to be replaced.

Locating Your Main Water Valve

The best way to avoid serious flooding during a plumbing emergency is to locate your main water valve in advance. It is typically situated at the lowest level of your house, close to the street. Once you have located the valve, test it to make sure it is in proper working order. If you are planning a lengthy trip, it is a good idea to turn this valve off prior to your departure.

All homes are susceptible to plumbing problems, but following the tips outlined above can help you head off issues before they become serious. Always contact a professional plumber to complete repairs, as this is the best way to ensure a satisfactory outcome.

Five Signs That You Should Replace Your Toilet

man repairing toiletAlthough it is something that most people do not want to face, even the highest quality toilet eventually requires replacement. However, unless your toilet literally falls to pieces–which is highly unlikely–it can be challenging to know when the time is right to invest in a new model. Below are five of the most overt signs that you need to call a professional to replace your toilet:

Continuous Clogging

Clogged toilets quickly lead to headaches for most people, and you are probably among the ranks of those who do not have time to constantly plunge your commode. Although you should not be alarmed at a random clog here and there, consistently clogged toilets should be considered a red flag. Older models or low-flush toilets often experience frequent blockages when their interiors become worn due to age or other issues.


There are several reasons a toilet may wobble when you sit down. For example, loose screws at the base may cause this to happen. If this is the case, you can simply tighten them and the problem is solved. Unfortunately, wobbling may be a sign of a more serious situation, such as water damage under the floor preventing the screws from staying tight. This does not automatically mean the unit must be replaced, but it does indicate that a larger problem is underway.

Constant Running

If your toilet runs continuously no matter what you do, it may be a sign that the rubber flapper at the tank’s bottom has become damaged or worn. It may indicate a broken fill valve in the tank as well. Although both situations are sometimes fixable, they can also mean that a new toilet is your only viable remedy.

Cracks in the Porcelain

Toilets are typically built from porcelain because it is a highly durable material. Nevertheless, similar to other substances, porcelain eventually wears out. Cracks in the toilet’s base can result in leaking and frequent puddling, and this constant flow of water needlessly increases your sewer bill. It can also do serious damage to your bathroom floor.

The Benefits of Replacing a Worn Toilet

Replacing a faulty toilet is important, but you may also want to exchange your current model for one that is more efficient. In 1992, The Energy Policy Act was created when the EPA discovered just how much water is wasted by conventional toilets. This Act mandates that residential toilets use a maximum of 1.6 gallons of water for each flush. Today, you have numerous low-flow options that use even less water. Therefore, consider changing to such a model if you want lower water bills or if you are simply an environmentally-conscious homeowner.

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