Next time you’re faced with a stubborn apartment problem in China, think twice before calling the landlord or repairman. No need to deal with the hassle, waiting time and frustration when you might be able to tackle the problem yourself using items that are readily available wherever you live in China. The list below offers practical DIY solutions to four common apartment problems.
1) Slow or Clogged Drains
Regardless of where you’re living, it’s easy for hair, soap scum or other debris to build up in pipes and cause slow draining or total blockage. For China expats, the prototypical Chinese apartments (even the newer ones) suffer from antiquated plumbing systems that tend to exacerbate such problems. Fortunately, there are several methods to remedy a clogged drain using common household items.
Boil a pot of water and carefully pour it down the drain starting from three to four feet above the drain. The combination of pressure and warm water should release the clog; you may need to repeat the process several times. Or you could pour one cup of baking soda, one cup of salt and 3/4 cup of white vinegar down the slow drain. After letting this solution work for a few minutes, rinse the drain with one gallon of water. If that doesn’t work, mix 1/2 cup of powdered laundry detergent with 1/2 cup of baking soda and pour it into the drain. Follow this with one cup of white vinegar and let sit for a few minutes before rinsing. You could also try pouring one cup of degreasing dishwashing liquid down the drain and rinsing with one gallon of very hot water. As a last resort, use a commercial drain-cleaning product to eat away clogs. A common brand in China is Mr. Muscle; look for the orange bottle at any supermarket. It’s sold for around 15 RMB and can be poured into the drain and rinsed with hot water after sitting for one hour.
2) Repairing Shower Heads and Faucets
Build up of mineral deposits is a common problem when it comes to shower heads and faucets. If you notice a change in water pressure over time, this is likely the cause. Try the following easy remedies:
Shower Head: First, examine your shower head to see if the holes are clogged and use a toothpick to remove as much as possible. To get rid of the remaining debris, remove the shower head from the wall and soak it in vinegar. If the shower head cannot be removed, fill a plastic bag with vinegar and submerge the head in the bag (held in place with a rubber band). After one day of soaking, the vinegar will dissolve the mineral deposits and your shower head will be like new. Run the water for some time after soaking it in the vinegar to clear the holes.
Faucets: If you’ve noticed water spraying out in odd directions, chances are the faucet aerator needs to be cleaned. Cleaning the aerator is a simple project, taking less than 30 minutes. First, unscrew the tip of the faucet by turning it counterclockwise. There are several components making up the aerator, so you’ll want to remember the order in which you remove them. Wash each piece with warm water, dish detergent and a sponge. A wire brush might be necessary for hard-to-remove grime. After everything is clean, reassemble the parts in reverse order and the faucet should run smoothly.
3) Toilet Issues
While dealing with toilet issues is not often a welcomed task, it is necessary nonetheless. The good news is there may be a relatively simple solution that you can do yourself.
Bathroom Odor: When routine cleaning doesn’t eliminate foul odors for which Chinese bathrooms are notorious, try adding a bowl of cat litter or a bowl of distilled white vinegar to a high shelf in the bathroom to help absorb bad smells. Create your own air freshener by dissolving one teaspoon of baking soda in two cups of hot water and one teaspoon of lemon juice. Pour it into a spray bottle for freshening up the room. Likewise, you can rub a lemon on hard bathroom surfaces and let it air dry to add a crisp citrus aroma to the air. For toilet odor, pour two cups of white vinegar into the toilet and let sit for one hour before flushing. Baking soda can also be used to clean the toilet by adding two cups to the toilet bowl, scrubbing and letting it sit for several hours. If things still smell a bit funky, chances are your plumbing is the culprit. Chinese plumbing doesn’t normally use “plumbing traps” — the small amount of water that sits in the S-bend part of the pipe — which allows for foul odors to freely seep into your bathroom. The easiest ways to fight this are to keep your sink drain closed between uses and to cover your shower drain with a cap when you’re not using it. If your apartment didn’t come furnished with a cap, head over to your local hardware store to pick one up for a few RMB, or, simpler yet, fill a bag with a small amount of water, tie it off and place it over the drain.
Clogged Toilet: The first thing to reach for when dealing with a clogged toilet is, of course, the plunger. In cases where this isn’t an option or doesn’t remedy the problem, simply pick up a bucket of warm water. As with clogged drains, warm water can be dumped from three to four feet above the toilet to clear the blockage. If water doesn't clear the clog, put two tablespoons of dishwashing liquid in the toilet and allow it to sit for 15 minutes. After flushing the toilet, the clog should be gone. A commercial drain cleaning product can also be used to eat away clogs. Purchase a 15 RMB bottle of Mr. Muscle at any supermarket and let it do all the hard work.
4) Mold, Mildew, Musty Odors
If your home has high humidity or you live in one of China’s wet climate regions, it is not uncommon for mold and mildew to grow (even in winter). The sooner you can identify and remove these types of problems in your home, the better off you will be as mold and mildew can cause serious health risks.
Mold and Mildew: Make use of the ventilation fans in the bathroom and kitchen to control moisture in the home. Occasionally opening the windows can allow air to circulate and reduce humidity. Avoid storing things near the walls to allow for air circulation and leave the closet doors open for proper ventilation. In apartments where mold is a particular problem, be sure to wipe down the shower and surrounding floor area after use to prevent growth.
Inexpensive Dehumidifiers: At most Chinese supermarkets, you can purchase a container of dehumidifying pellets (除湿盒) for under 10 RMB. They absorb water and will need to be replaced every month or two. You can also purchase a large pouch of bamboo charcoal (竹炭) for around 20 RMB. Pouches can be placed around your home to absorb water. The bamboo charcoal pouches can be dried in the sun every month and then reused. You can also make your own dehumidifier using table salt placed in shallow containers around the home. Check the salt every few days, once the salt becomes damp to the touch, replace it. Additionally, most wall air conditioners in China have a dehumidifying option to help reduce moisture.
Musty Odors: If you find a musty smell when running your air conditioning unit, you may need to clean the filter (Gone into in further detail in Do-It-Yourself Solutions for Common Apartment Problems Part 2). Use a damp cloth to wipe down the other surfaces of the air conditioner to remove any debris or mildew that has built up. To remove musty odors from drapery or linens, soak them in the washing machine with one cup of vinegar for 30 minutes, then wash as normal using detergent. Kitchen appliances can be wiped down with a mixture of baking soda and water and let sit for 24 hours before being rinsed with water. Baking soda can also be used as a deodorizer in the refrigerator, closets, or cupboards. If you have unused luggage sitting around, let it air out in the sunshine every once in awhile to prevent odors or moisture buildup.
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Keywords: Do-It-Yourself Solutions for Common Apartment Problems Common Apartment problems; apartment problems in China
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Actually a good way to unblock a toilet is to get a plastic bag and stick it on the end of the toilet brush. Then push it down the toilet and push it forwards and back like a plunger. the suction should dislodge the blockage. Ive used a showet cap ib a similar fashion to unblock a sink too...
Jan 25, 2014 14:33 Report Abuse