Anode Rods / Snaking a Drain for the D.I.Y. / Removing Graffiti

In Plumbing, Q&A on August 14, 2012 at 12:38 pm

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Everyone knows what a sacrificial lamb is but did you ever hear of a sacrificial rod in your hot water tank?

In your hot water tank is an “anode rod”. Water heater anodes are often called sacrificial anodes for a good reason. The glass lining that protects the steel tanks of most water heaters is not perfect (unlike us). Electrolytic reactions with minerals in the water can cause the steel tank to corrode. The anode rod, which is usually made from magnesium, is the least noble metal in the tank. As a result, it’s the first to corrode, sparing the steel tank from a similar fate.

Your water heater’s anode should be replaced when it is substantially depleted. Manufacturers suggest it should be checked every six months when other routine water heater maintenance tasks are performed. Just how many of you out there do six month maintenance check-ups on your water tank: such as testing the T&P valve, draining the sediment, cleaning the burner compartment, adjusting the flame if needed and checking for gas leaks. In some heaters the anode rod can be accessed through a port on the top of the tank. Other manufacturers suspend the anode rod from the water outlet. Check the manufacturers instructions for complete details.

Anode rods are not always made from magnesium. In some areas, the water contains minerals that release foul smelling gases when they react with magnesium (I had that problem at my lake house). Usually, it’s sulfur that’s the most troublesome and in these areas anode rods made from aluminum are substituted. If you experience that problem, check with the heater’s manufacturer to obtain the correct anode rod.


When my sink or toilet gets stopped up will snaking it out be an easy do-it-yourself, money-saving project or do I have to call the plumber again?


If plunging fails, it’s time to use and auger or snake. There are various fancy snakes that attach to electrical drills or have tidy cases, but you’ll get no better results than with an ordinary bent-handled snake. It’ll cost around ten dollars at hardware and home centers. The operating principle of a snake is this: You push it into the pipe until it hits the clog, then screw the spiral tip into the obstruction and pull back toward you. Take the trap off first. The trap is the U-shaped section of the pipe directly below the sink or the tub. Unfortunately, some older tubs have those traps shaped like a drum. Sometimes the obstruction will be in that trap; try pushing it out or snagging it with a coat hanger. As soon as you take the trap off under your sink, buy a new slip nut gasket (that’s the plastic or rubber seal). Take the old one with you for reference. I’ve been told I have a loose gasket but in this case the old gasket will probably not seal tightly a second time. If the nut is worn, replace it as well.

You use a special snake called a closet auger for toilets. The rubber sleeve at the end protects the porcelain from scratches, and the long handle certainly makes the job more pleasant. Closet augers cost about twenty-five dollars.


Some kids sprayed graffiti on my garage. What can I use to remove it?


Aren’t kids just the cutest little things and they write just about the cutest little expressions on the side of your garage. Well if you’re not as amused as I am, and I am sure you’re not, there are removers for that graffiti. There are removers for those kids too, but it’s illegal.

You can remove the graffiti using a product called Zip-Strip Paint Remover from the Star-Bronze Company. It costs about $12.99 for 32-ounces. You brush it on, let it sit for about 15 minutes and scrub it off using a stiff brush. But wait! If you still can read the handwriting on the wall, you can also try Motsenbocker’s “Lift Off” Graffiti Remover. It costs about eight dollars for a 22-ounce spray bottle and is safe to use on any surface, is biodegradable and can be used indoor or outdoor.

Check your local hardware or paint stores for these products.


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