Last Saturday night I was going to take my usual shower in the evening. My shower is on the second story of my house, and it takes a few minutes for the hot water to reach the shower head. I turned the water on and.… nothing. Not a stream, not a trickle, not even a single drop of water fell.
At first I thought about frozen pipes since this is January in Iowa, but it had not been overly cold nor had the wind been coming from the east to freeze any pipes. I tried the faucet in the sink, and the water came rushing from the spigot fast as usual. OK, now I knew that the problem was in the plumbing of the shower.
This did not overly concern me, because it had happened several years earlier. All I had to do was get the “innards” out, clean out the rust, pop it back together, and — whoosh - the water is running.
So I took the handle off the shower to get to the “innards.” (A paint can opener worked really good to pop things open.) I remembered to turn the water to the upstairs off before I started, so I remained dry, at least initially. I shook the “innards” and could hear only a faint rattle. When the piece is working properly, it sounds like a baby’s rattle. So I worked to clean the piece of rust. Three times I tried the shower after working on the “innards” Saturday night, but the water still would not flow, not even a trickle. I decided that I was going to have to soak the “innards” in vinegar overnight to get rid of whatever was still jamming things up.
Sunday morning I once again tried the shower. Still no soap, er, water. So back into the vinegar it went for a few more hours. After lunch the “innards” rattled quite loudly, so I tried it one more time, and, YEA! the water flowed. However, when I tried to turn the shower off, it didn’t. The water continued to flow with only slightly diminished speed. Back down into the basement I went to turn the water off — again! How many times was that now, five or six trips up and down two flights of steps? (I considered calling a plumber, but the weather was rather nasty Sunday to call someone out, and I didn’t want to pay an emergency charge.)
No, I didn’t get angry, just a bit flustered. I looked AGAIN at the “innards” to try to figure out the problem. For the life of me, I could not see where the problem was. So, back into the vinegar it went. This happened two more times. Finally I saw that on the one end of the “innards” were two rubber “thingys” that pressed in and sprang back out. They seemed to work okay, so once again I traipsed upstairs, put the shower back together, and went back to the basement to turn the water back on.
Arrgh!!!! the water still would not turn off! Now the frustration was becoming overbearing. I still held my temper and went down to the basement AGAIN to turn the water off. When I got back upstairs, I had another shock. There were several inches of water standing in the base of the shower with no sign that it was going to drain out. AARGH!!! What else could go wrong! — NO! forget I asked that. I didn’t want fate to show me.
Down the stairs I went to see if I had any drain opener. Waaaay back in the corner I had some liquid drain cleaner. Whew! Back up the stairs to the shower. Fortunately, the drain opener worked quickly, and the water drained out. I once again removed the shower’s “innards”. By this time, I was beginning to get wet feet and wet sleeves and a hot temper.
I took yet ANOTHER close look at the “innards”. The rubber “thingys” now seemed to stick in the “innards”. I was able to work them loose. I tried moving them multiple times, and they seemed to get stuck about 30 percent of the time. OK, now how do I get them to work freely? I didn’t really want to use WD40 in my shower. I finally remembered that I had some petroleum jelly hanging around somewhere. I found it in my Halloween pumpkin carving kit. I used it to lubricate the rubber “thingys”. They seemed to work when I pressed them in with my fingers, so I trudged my way up the stairs once again to put the shower back together.
After turning the water back on in the basement, I was almost afraid to go back upstairs to check out the shower. Slowly I crept up the stairs, straining to hear the water flowing when it shouldn’t. Wait a minute! It still sounds quiet. Dare I actually go into the bathroom? Tentatively I looked into the bathroom with one eye, and then the other. Slowly I entered the room, and, lo and behold! the water was not running! I cautiously reached out to turn the handle. The water turned on and turned off just like it is supposed to. Boy, did I let out a sigh of relief!
My shower is working normally now, and it only took twenty-four hours, several cups of vinegar, petroleum jelly, and about 15 trips up and down two flights of old house, narrow stairs. Did my legs hurt the next day! But I take pride in knowing that I fixed the shower myself! I can also tell you that running up and down two flights of stairs that many times is pretty good exercise, just in case you are looking for a way to augment your exercise routine.