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Plugged Drain

     I recently returned from the Clean Show in Atlanta and stopped by one of my stores to see how things went while I was gone.
           I checked a few things and talked to a few customers and my attendant.
Everything was looking good and I was just about to leave when a customer came over and said one of the washers was leaking badly.
         I went to check as sometimes a string from a hoodie will get caught in the door seal but instead I found a decent amount of water coming from under some of the small front loaders.
This particular bulkhead of washers contained seven 20# Speed Queen washers, a 40# Speed Queen and a 60# Dexter and they were all full and running.

           I climbed on top of the washers to move the cover off the bulkhead and found the 4″ drain pipe that the 20# pump into overflowing.

           As they were all running there was not much I could do but get the attendant to grab a mop and I went to get the Wet/Dry Vac.

      As the machines stopped we had it somewhat contained and I was able to move one of the 20# washers and get closer to the drain.

       This 4″ drain pipe is straight up from the P-Trap located below the floor. The other washers are connected to a  4″ drain that T’s in just above the floor.

         My tool trailer was out behind the store so I was able to get a simple drain snake and, once the washers stopped running, and I had used the vacuum to transfer all of the water from the drain pipe, including all of the water that was still in the 40# and 60# washers I tried to clean out the drain.

        No luck with this method.

        I headed for the phone and started calling plumbers to see if I could get the pipe cleaned out. Of course this did not happen on a Tuesday about 9am but instead it was Sunday around 12:30. The first four plumbers said it would be at least a few hours with no guarantee they could make it or they just weren’t able to come until Monday. The next one answered the phone with the statement that all Sunday calls were $100 plus the normal charge  and How can I help you?.

         At least they had someone available, right after he finished Sunday lunch with his family, went home and changed and then got his truck. But at least he was committed to come.

         Once he arrived I explained the situation and the general layout of the drain piping . As much as I have determined over the last few years.
The first step was to use a power auger. The difficulty in this is that the cable had to be raised up about three feet to go over the top and down the drain pipe. Doing this makes it difficult to control the cable and get it to feed around any corners.

         After a few attempts he was not able to get past the P-Trap below the floor.

             Next was a diaphragm that is connected to a garden hose and inserted into the pipe. The diaphragm expands and  plugs the pipe and the water continues through to flush the pipe.

         This did not seem to be making any headway so I pulled a test cap out of an unused drain in the center of the floor and was welcomed by some sludge that was pushed out of the drain by the pressure of the garden hose.

         At this point the plumber said he would need to get a water jet and that there would be an extra charge. As we were in this deep and half of the store was down I told him to go and get it while I cleaned up the mess we had so far.

           He returned with the water jet trailer and parked it behind the store near my tool trailer.

               Next door to the Laundromat is another unit that I use for storage and as an office. This unit used to be part of the Laundromat and has a drain pipe in the floor as well. The plumber flushed out this drain with the water jet first, mainly to make sure it would make it around the P-Trap before he pulled it in to the store.

 

             Everything seemed to be working so he pulled the hose into the store and flushed out the original drain pipe and the one in the center of the floor.

 

            After about 8 hours and $640 in plumber charges the drains were cleaned out, all the washers had been run and the store was cleaned up.

           The plumber on the other hand got his truck stuck behind the building and had to pull it out the next day.

 

            On Tuesday I received a call that the 40# washer was counting down to about 16 minutes and then dropping to zero and stopping. I was tied up on another project so I sent a text to a local service tech to see if he would be in the area. He said he would be there the next day so I left it with him.

       My attendants said that he pulled out a lot of trash from the drain valve and it was working again.

             When I stopped by on Friday there was still an occasional issue with the 40# washer dropping to zero so I checked with the Tech and he said it may stall have some drain valve problems.

              There was also a note from the night before complaining about how the washers by the front of the store left the clothes with a soiled smell and it took a long time to dry. I called the number on the note but the lady was not in. I left my name a number for her to call back.

              After a couple of hours I had not heard back so I drove over to the business where the number was to and asked to speak to her.

            She explained which washers she had used and the problems. Also that it was almost midnight the night before and she was very frustrated that it was going to turn into “one of those Laundromats” that are not maintained and take people’s money.

            I assured her that was not the case and we had had some drain problems and I was concerned we may still have some issues.
She accepted my offer of $40 in Drop Off Gift Cards so she could take the items back to the store and my attendants  could clean them and provide the finished product she was looking for.

          After this I headed back to the store and found a customer had loaded the 60#,40# and three 20# machines and was ready to start them. I asked if he could wait for about 10 minutes so I could check the drain pipe.

             He had no problem and said “Maybe I’ll get a free wash out of it”. This customer happened to be the first customer to ever use one of my Laundromats  so some free washes were not going to be a problem.

           I pulled the rubber connector from the back of the 40# washer and found there was some water in the pipe. I lifted the pipe as much as I could to see if it would go down the drain but it didn’t empty the pipe.

            I put it back together and started the washers for my #1 customer or customer #1 however you want to look at it.

            Next stop was to the big box store for some parts. I picked up a hand snake, 4″ Y connection and a test plug.

          When I returned to the store the washers were all done so I blocked them off and started into the drain pipe. Once I made the first cut I fund what the problem was. The pipe had about 1 1/2″ of coins, chains and sludge built up. The problem with the coins is that they corrode together and start to hold back other pieces of sand and debris.

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            I continued to cut out enough of the drain pipe to be able to install the Y connection. I used the wet/dry vac to clean out the 6 foot length of drain pipe. By pushing the hose in and out the spiral edges of the hose do a pretty good job loosening the debris from the pipe.

          Once it was cleaned out I glued in the Y connector on a 45degree angle. I considered installing it pointed down so it would catch the future debris but it would have been difficult to run a power auger into if if needed.

 

           The test plug is easily installed by putting it in the pipe and tightening up a wing nut by hand.

           The 60# washer was then run on a hot cycle to flush out the pipe and after some mopping and cleanup the store was operating again.

 So in summary here are a few takeaways:

– You will only have big issues show up on Sunday when the store is busy.

– This drain line is connected to two large washers that get used 5+ times per day so I will have to shorten the drain cleaning intervals to keep the pipes clean.

– On a Speed Queen 40# washer if the time suddenly drops from around 15 minutes to zero it’s could be a drain valve problem.

– And lastly always go out of your way to find the cause of a customer’s concern as it may be a bigger problem that only shows up with the right combination of equipment being used.

 

Ken

 

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