Entries from February 2010 ↓

The Great ShamWow Experiment

I’ve been getting water in the basement now, on and off, for several years.  It’s a rather annoying problem, as I cannot point to any single location where it comes in.  There’s a crack in the foundation wall which we have Drylok-patched multiple times, that sometimes springs a new leak.  Lately it’s come in, dripping, down a water pipe.  But what I can’t live with is the stuff that must be coming up from the bottom, because some mornings after a rain storm, even after doing my best to block/trap the known leaks at the wall, I’ll have a puddle running across my basement, all the way to the wall.  So either it leaked so badly from those spots, around my blockades, that it crossed the basement, or else it’s coming up from the floor.  But at this point there’s too much water to identify where it might have started.

Over the last few days in this area we’ve had some serious flooding issues, and I knew I was in for an uphill battle.  I was keeping the water contained, but slowly losing ground – it was now seeping under the stairs for the first time.  And though I had a bucket under the known drip, and had thrown my work towel down in another spot I knew to be pooling, I knew that to be inefficient as I’d have to go swap it out periodically.  The more towels I used, now moving the wife’s stash of real bath towels, the more I’d potentially ruin.

So off I go to the hardware store with the plan being to score a some kitty litter as a last defense against the water going under the stairs.  While there I figure I’ll grab some more work towels to throw around.  Know what I find?  A box of “ShamWow” towels, those little miracle thingies that are supposed to be oh so super absorbent.  “What the heck,” I think, eyeing a box of 8, “I’ll give it a shot.  They’ll take up less space when I’m not using them.”

Got home, set up kitty litter barricade, then set to work laying ShamWows out on all the known pooling areas.   Posted on Twitter and Facebook about what I was up to, and had somebody tell me that ShamWows are actually “soaked in dehydrated water to make it look like the guy is squeezing more out”.  I don’t even know what that means.

The results?  Came down a few hours later and it was clear that some of them were completely saturated, some were almost completely dry.  So I moved the dry ones to more unsure locations, and wrung out the wet ones.  Those things wring out great!  One or two good twists and all the water comes right out of them – can’t do that with a bath towel, you can wring those out a dozen times and you’ve still got a mostly wet towel in your hands.  I wrung these things out three times over the span of the evening, and each time they returned to doing their job.  They didn’t seem to lose their absorbancy or become super saturated or anything.

Next morning? Water safely contained.  No new flooding.  One or two ShamWows saturated, wrung out, set down again. Area under the stairs safely drying out.

It dawns on me now, with time to think, that should there be a next time I’ll be ready for it — Get everything up off the floor, and line floor with ShamWows.  By watching to see which towels saturate first, I’ll be able to identify my leaks.  Sure you could do it with paper towels – but they’d saturate too fast, and if you missed the start of things you could come downstairs to nothing but mushy paper.  Similarly you could do it with regular bath towels, but they’re the opposite problem, they won’t show the leak fast enough and you’d have to be peaking under them to see which are getting wet.  These ShamWow thingies do a good job of reflecting their status in color, and at least in theory the one that shows a change in color the fastest would be the source of my biggest leak.

Then again that’s just the scientist in me talking — I’ve got the experts coming it on Monday to tell me how to fix the damned leaks in the first place, as there’s much greater peace of mind in “no water” than in “I know where the water is coming from”.