What should I do if my toilet overflows?

Everyone’s worst nightmare—your toilet becomes backed up, the contents overflow onto what seems like every surface, and you’re so panicked you don’t even know where to start to try to fix the problem! If it’s any comfort, this is a relatively common problem that most people go through at least once in their lifetime. It’s usually an easy fix, and once you have cleaned and sanitized all the items that were saturated by toilet water, your bathroom will be back to normal; as if the incident never happened.

If your toilet begins to overflow, the first step should be to lift up the cover on the back of the toilet and push the flapper down. Many people think that shutting off the water should be your initial reaction, but that will only stop water from flowing into the tank, and any water still in the tank will continue to flow into the bowl and increase the overflow. Pushing the flapper down will immediately stop water from flowing from the tank into the bowl. Once you’ve done this, then you can shut off the water to the toilet. Look on the wall to the left of the toilet, and turn the water valve clockwise. It’s common to want to start cleaning up the mess as soon as it happens, but these first steps are very important to limit the amount of damage done by the overflowing toilet.

Now that your water is shut off and there is no danger of the toilet overflowing more than it has, you can survey the damage. It’s a good idea to pick up any rugs or towels that might have been victims to the onslaught of toilet water, and while you do this the hope is that the water in the bowl will start to go down. If it doesn’t, you will want to try to bail some out so that when you begin attempting to unclog the toilet, no more will splash out and ruin what you’ve cleaned up. It’s also important to try to identify what the cause of the clogged toilet could be. If you suspect that it’s just a wad of toilet paper, you will need to try to plunge the toilet until the clog is removed. Some people say that using a solution of hot water and dish detergent will automatically break down the toilet paper, but the reality is that this almost never works—not to mention the fact that hot water can damage the

porcelain. Instead, use a plunger that is meant for toilets, not sinks. A toilet plunger has a cone on the bottom of it, instead of just a flat edge. Remember to start plunging slowly and work up the intensity so that you don’t risk creating a bigger mess. You can also use a toilet auger or snake, but make sure it’s one specifically meant for the toilet. Once you have successfully unclogged the toilet, the water in the bowl will go down and you can turn the water back on.

If you know that a foreign object fell into the toilet and is causing the clog, plunging it is a bad idea. Instead, get a pair of rubber gloves and try to reach into the toilet and get it out. Don’t force your hand too far in—if you can’t reach the item but the space around your hand is getting tight, it’s time to give up and move on to a new course of action: call the plumber. The clog might be farther into the pipes than you can reach, and a plumber will easily diagnose the problem and solve it.

Cleaning up after a toilet overflow will be unpleasant, but it’s important that you do it as soon as possible to keep the spread of bacteria to a minimum and therefore make the cleaning job easier. Use old towels to mop up the mess, and throw them and any other fabrics that have been saturated into the washing machine on a hot cycle with a few tablespoons of bleach added to the water. Cleaning up the tile around the toilet is relatively easy—you can mop it using hot water and soap, or spray disinfectant on the surfaces and wipe it up after letting it sit for about 10 minutes.

Remember, if your toilet starts to overflow, try not to panic! Keep a clear head and remember that it’s almost always an easy fix. Even if you do end up requiring the services of a plumber, the damage in most cases should be minimal and your toilet and bathroom will be back to normal in no time.

Posted in Water Damage | Comments Off on What should I do if my toilet overflows?

How do I get rid of odors in my house?

Removing unpleasant odors from your house can be done using several different methods, depending on the source of the smell. Some are more time-consuming than others, but it’s always worth the effort to keep your home smelling clean and fresh.

The first step towards removing any odors is to first identify and remove the source of the smell. Put the smelly food into a secure container, take out the trash, wash any clothing or linens, clean out the fridge—there are a million potential sources of bad smells, and there’s no way you can make any room smell good again if you don’t locate and remove the source of the stink.

After you have gotten rid of the source of the smell, there are several simple things you can do to improve the room’s overall fragrance. Opening windows to let the room air out will aid in further removing any unpleasant smells. There are also several natural, odor- absorbing products you can use to soak up any leftover smells. Baking soda is one such product that you can sprinkle on carpet or furniture, mix with water to pour down a drain, or put in a sachet to leave inside a trash can or Diaper Genie. Activated charcoal or coffee grounds are also great alternatives to baking soda. White vinegar is effective at absorbing and neutralizing smells, but it does give off a strong—albeit temporary—smell of its own. If you’re looking to fill a room with sweet smells after removing the bad odor, there are several methods which are chemical-free and highly effective.

Burning all-natural soy candles is an awesome way to infuse a room with sweet scents that are free of harsh chemicals. Soy candles also give off a stronger and more pleasant scent than regular paraffin candles, and they burn cleaner; meaning that they won’t leave soot behind.

Going back to the sachet idea, you can create a small packet which will absorb unpleasant odors and replace them with a good smell. You can do this by filling a coffee filter with products such as baking soda, coffee grounds, or activated charcoal—to remove the bad smell—and adding a cotton balls infused with essential oil. It’s up to you to pick the particular oil, but some good options are peppermint, orange, lemon, or lavender. After you’ve filled the coffee filter with these products, simply tie it off and place it in a small, enclosed space such as a trash can, cabinet, or drawer.

Again, removing unpleasant smells from your home is a process which depends highly on the potency and source of the smell. Some smells are going to be more complicated to remove than others, but these methods are a general guideline to make your house smell clean and fresh again.

If you have exhausted your efforts to remove the odor, but the smell persists, call Lotus Contracting Services today.

Posted in Smoke/Odor Damage | Comments Off on How do I get rid of odors in my house?

How do I prevent a house fire?

The harsh reality of house fires is that, while everyone believes it won’t happen to them, no one is safe. There is no guaranteed way to completely fireproof your home, but taking preventative measures can greatly reduce your risk of a house fire.

Cooking fires

Most commonly, a house fire starts because of an accident in the kitchen; so it’s important to educate yourself on safe kitchen practices and to understand what to do if a fire does break out.

  • Keep your stove clean and free of grease and other flammable materials, as this will greatly reduce the chances of a fire starting and/or spreading.
  • Always keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, and make sure that you and the members of your household know how to use it.
  • Know what to do if the fire is a grease fire. Whatever you do, don’t douse it with water—the superheated water and oil will spray everywhere, and the fire will spread with it. Smother a grease fire with baking soda, a pan lid, or a fire blanket.

Electrical fires

Often, a house fire is triggered by a fault in the house’s electrical system. However, through regular maintenance and being able to recognize and repair damaged electrical parts, you can lower the risk of an electrical fire to almost zero.

  • Look for signs of faulty or damaged wiring. This can manifest itself in ways such as flickering lights, power surges, tripping breakers, or frequently blowing fuses. When you see any of these problems, chances are that your house’s electrical system is impaired. Fixing these problems as soon as possible will both prevent an electrical fire and allow you to maintain good usage of electricity in your home.
  • Be aware of damaged cords or wires and the ways in which they can become damaged. Never let your pets or small children chew on cords, and if you do see a cord in which the plastic has been chewed through or damaged, remove and replace it as soon as possible. The wires in your attic are also at great risk of being damaged, because insects or rats can chew through the plastic coating. Remember to regularly check and maintain these wires.
  • Unplug appliances when not in use. Commonly, hair products such as curling irons and straighteners are left plugged in—sometimes still on. Simply unplugging an unused appliance, especially ones that produce great amounts of heat, is a simple way to help reduce the risk of an electrical fire.

Additional Preventative Measures

Thanks to modern technology, the risk of a house fire is significantly lower than in the past— but we often forget to maintain or properly store household items, leading to a tragically preventable fire.

  • Always make sure that the smoke detectors in your house are in good condition, as well as adequately numbered. There should be one outside each bedroom, and at least one for each level in your house.
  • Always store flammable products in a cool, dark place, or dispose of them properly. Paint thinner is a highly combustible material, and may ignite if not taken care of properly. Don’t let it sit in the sun, even if it is indoors and the sunlight is coming through a window. Never store rags saturated with paint thinner, as they are at a high risk of spontaneously combusting.
  • Consider investing in a home sprinkler system. They can be costly, but it’s important to keep in mind that sometimes the benefits outweigh the costs—and in this case, the cost can be your home, or the life of someone in it.
Posted in Emergency Prevention | Comments Off on How do I prevent a house fire?