Keeping Your Rental Property’s Drains in Great Shape: What to Do (and Not Do)


It doesn’t matter if you own your house or rent an apartment—drain care is important. It’s not the most fun topic to talk about, but unless you want to deal with calling a plumber at the least opportune time (because, as we all know, nothing ever breaks when it’s convenient), it’s essential to make sure you’re doing everything you can to make sure your drains keep doing their job. As a property management company in Chicago, we have discovered quite a few pro-tricks when it comes to drain maintenance. Here are our top tips for keeping drains healthy no matter where you live.

How to Prevent Drain Clogs

You might not think that drain care and sports have much in common, but you’d be wrong. As the old sports saying goes, the same can be said for your drains: the best offense is a good defense. In other words, it’s easier to prevent drain issues from happening than it is to remedy them after there’s already a problem. Preventing drains from becoming clogged is relatively simple. Keep a drain protector or drain screen over your drains in the shower to prevent hair from going down the drain and collecting, and in your sinks, be sure not to pour down anything that could be considered damaging down them.

What Not to Pour Down Drains

Sometimes, people think that even without a garbage disposal, some products are fine to rinse down the drain. That’s unfortunately untrue, and if you continually rinse certain things down the drains in your home, it’s only a matter of time before you run into a problem. Sewer pipes can become clogged with grease and cause overflows and backups, which can be very expensive—not to mention a big hassle—to remedy. In the kitchen, make sure not to rinse these products down the drain, as they can cause grease clogs:

  • Cooking oils
  • Used frying oil
  • Shortening or lard
  • Dairy products
  • Sauces
  • Meat fats


Additional products that can cause big problems with drains include:

  • Motor oil
  • Coffee grounds
  • Eggshells
  • Stickers from produce
  • Paper towels
  • Cat litter

Overall, if you can put something in the garbage instead of rinsing it down the drain, do that—erring on the side of caution is never a bad thing when it comes to drain health.

How to Fix Slow Drains

Unfortunately, you may sometime have to deal with slow-draining sinks or showers. Before you call your landlord or a plumber, you can try some at-home remedies. The first one isn’t pretty, but it’s a lot cheaper and quicker than calling in a professional. You’ll need some tweezers and rubber gloves, and you’ll want to try and pull whatever is causing the slow drainage out—usually, it’s stray hairs and dust buildup with soap scum mixed in—like we said, it’s not a pretty job. If that’s not helping, you can try doing a natural “drain volcano,” which uses a chemical reaction to break up forming clogs. To do this, you first pour one cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by one cup of white vinegar (slowly—if you pour too quickly, you’ll just rinse the baking soda down the drain. Then, let the mixture of baking soda and vinegar sit and bubble for about five minutes, then rinse it all down with one gallon of boiling water. The boiling water helps flush out anything that might have been collecting in the drain. If this doesn’t work the first time, you can try it again.

It’s important to note that if you’ve already used a commercial drain cleaner, you shouldn’t use the vinegar-baking soda method, as commercial drain cleaners can contain certain chemicals that, when mixed with baking soda and vinegar, can create toxic fumes.

While we’re talking about it—should you even be using commercial drain cleaners?

The Case For (and Against) Commercial Drain Cleaners?

While many drain cleaners at the hardware store do in fact clean out your drains pretty well, there can be big downsides, and these downsides can cause major, major problems in your building. Especially if the building is older, using commercial drain cleaners can completely ruin your home’s pipes. That’s because the main ingredient in many commercial drain cleaners is hydrochloric acid, and when left sitting inside drains, it can eat away at not only the pipes, but other finishes in your bathroom and kitchen, such as enamel or metal sinks. Additionally, the fumes from these products can be irritating to toxic—they’re not something you and your family should be breathing in. Worst of all, they may not even work, despite being made of very harsh chemicals. Then, you’re stuck with damaged pipes, toxic fumes, and a drain that’s still clogged.

Instead, you can try a drain snake or a drain plunger first. If these don’t work, it’s time to move onto more intensive repair options.  

When It’s Time to Call Your Landlord or a Plumber

Plumbing in homes and apartments are like the roots of a tree. There’s one main line, and each room’s plumbing can be considered a “branch.” If, for example, your sink is slow to drain, but everything else is fine, it’s just the sink’s pipes that are clogged. However, if the sink is clogged, but nothing else will drain either, it’s likely a main line that’s clogged. In either instance, if you can’t solve the problem with a gentle drain cleaner (vinegar and baking soda) or some simple tools, it’s best to contact a professional plumber. They’ll be able to solve the problem quickly and safely, and you’ll be rid of the problem in no time.

If you’re a renter, you should call your landlord if there’s drain trouble plaguing you. You may be held liable if you cause any damage to the pipes with do-it-yourself methods, and keeping healthy plumbing systems is part of what a landlord’s requirements are.


Don’t Want to Deal With Plumbing Issues at Your Tenants’ Homes?

While ignoring your tenants’ requests about fixing plumbing problems is the easy option, it’s not exactly ethical or legal. If you own a lot of investment properties, or you live out of the city your properties are in, dealing with plumbing issues can wind up taking you a lot of time. If you’re tired of spending your time making phone calls to plumbing companies at all hours of the day, night, and weekend, and traveling to your properties to meet with plumbers and tenants, it might be time to look into getting some help from a property management company. They have the time, availability, and desire to take the small tasks off of your plate so that you can do more important things.

At Lofty, we believe that owning investment properties should be satisfying, not frustrating, and we’re committed to doing everything we can to ensure you get to live the life you deserve. To find out more about how we can help you with plumbing issues at your properties, contact us today.  

Speak with one of our experts to find out how we can supercharge your investment.