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Part 1: Preventive Drain Cleaning Prevents Major Plumbing Problems
By Thomas A. Westerkamp
July 2012 -
Plumbing & Restrooms
Drain cleaning in institutional and commercial facilities presents maintenance and engineering managers with challenges that are especially tough in health care and education.
The challenges in health care facilities include the need for preventive maintenance to head off clogged drains, as well as ensuring a sterile environment for patient health and safety. Perhaps the biggest challenge in education facilities is the need to stay one step ahead of students who create major headaches for departments' efforts to keep sinks, urinals and toilets clog-free and operational.
By understanding the most pressing drain-cleaning challenges related to both equipment and processes, managers and front-line technicians can develop solutions to prevent and detect these problems.
Problems related to drain cleaning in health care and education facilities start at the entry points for drain systems.
Using toilets for wastebaskets creates recurring problems. Children drop toys in them, and adults use them to dispose of all manner of solid objects that end up caught in traps, causing overflows.
Floor drains are another entry point that is often abused. Rather than sweep up solid trash before washing down garage and kitchen floors, cleaners often just hose down the floors, letting solid debris enter the sewer system and clog lines, overload settling basins and cause backups.
Commercial kitchens in health care and education facilities are especially hard on drains because of waste water that contains fats, oil and grease, which includes petroleum-based products and lotions. Foul odors are a nasty problem that results when decomposing food accumulates on top of hardened grease in grease traps. Ineffective grease trap pumping does not remove grease buildup but instead leaves crusted grease on trap walls.
Many drain cleaning challenges in health care are related to staff and patients who flush leftover medications, bloodborne pathogens, personal-care items, sharp objects, and red-bag waste down drains, as well as housekeepers who overuse chemical cleaners.
Part 2: Evaluating Preventive Plumbing Maintenance Results
Part 3: Educational Programs Help Minimize the Need for Drain Cleaning