A friend just called me asking for the name of a good plumber. He needed someone to help fix a small plumbing leak under his kitchen sink. So I asked him “Do you have gum and string?” He thought I was kidding, but I most definitely was not!
When I was young, I used to watch my dad fix things around the house. He rarely told us what he was working on at any given time. But when I saw him chewing gum, I knew there was probably a leaky pipe somewhere. And I knew he was not spending money on a plumber!
Why my dad fixed a plumbing leak this way
Well, the simplest reason is that it worked. And it was a lot cheaper than calling in a plumber. But also, dad just loved to solve puzzles. And he loved taking care of us. So for him fixing things himself was extremely satisfying. I can proudly say his tradition (and memory) live on.
Despite my friend thinking I was making a joke, this method has worked well for me over the years. To be clear, it has to be abc gum (already been chewed). And the string or cord should at least be thick enough to be able to wrap tightly around the pipe.
The best thing is that this only takes a few minutes, if that long. And, if done well, it lasts. Even after dad was gone, we had pipes for many years with dad’s tell-tale string remedy still in place.
Not for every leak
Not to be too obvious, but the leak has to be on a pipe, rather than, for example, underneath the sink basin. If it is on the bottom of the sink basin, then gum and electrical or plumber’s tape may work. Depends on how large the hole /crack is.
But if the crack looks like it might keep cracking (and on ceramic this may be the case), don’t risk any do-it-yourself measures. Especially if you intend to keep using the sink. Instead, this might be a good time for a plumber and / or a new sink basin.
CAUTION: Even if you are dealing with a pipe, please check the condition of the pipe carefully. You want to make sure that the rest of the pipe is in good (solid) shape. If the pipe looks like it’s crumbling, this method will not give you the solution you need. And it may just give you a big puddle to clean up!
So exactly how do you fix that leak?
As long as the worn part causing the leak is small enough to be able to get the wad(s) of gum on it for a good seal, you can use this method:
- First, make sure you identify exactly where the leak is.
- Dry the area carefully.
- Then prepare your gum and string, cutting the string to a length of a couple of feet for convenience. (You may wind up shortening it if turns out to be too long.)
- Next, take the wad(s) of soft abc gum and push it onto the hole / point of leaking. You want to make a good tight seal. If needed, hold one finger over the gum to keep it in place.
- Now wrap the string / cord around and around the area of the leak, encasing the gum within. Again, keep this tight. You may want to use a double layer of the string if it’s too thin.
- Close off the procedure by knotting the string through itself. Again, pull tight. Having a good, tight wrap is very important.
- Now test by running the water slowly. Keep your hand on the string. It should stay dry.
- If you feel the string getting wet even a little (and you should test again later), then turn off the water, dry the area, and start the process all over again, This time make sure you get the gum right in and covering the hole and wrap that string snugly, like a protective cocoon.
Good luck. Hope you find this method as useful as I do. Also hope this saves you a costly visit from a plumber next time you need to fix a plumbing leak!
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